GOOD TO GREAT – Lunsford sets lofty goals for Eagles Football in 2019

The 2018 Georgia Southern football season seemed like a fairytale.

A team that won only two games the year before turned around and won 10 games in 2018, including a nail-biter bowl game decided by a walk-off field goal that will forever live in University lore. It was one of the most astounding turnarounds in Eagle sports history.

This year, however, Eagles Head Coach Chad Lunsford — who begins only his second full season as head coach — says the bar for success will be even higher, and the 2018 Cinderella season won’t furnish a glass slipper this time around.

“We’re not sneaking up on anybody this year,” he said. “It was very easy to do when we were 2-10, but now when we’re coming off of a 10-3 [season] — you know, everybody’s going to have that marked on their calendar. We’re going to get everybody’s best game and so we’ve got to improve and we’ve got to be able to be better.”

The team’s mantra this year is “Good to Great,” a theme based on the tenets of Jim Collins’ book of the same name, which sits prominently on Lunsford’s desk. In the book, Collins found that organizations made the transition from good to great by establishing tough benchmarks, creating a culture of discipline, and finding leaders who display a mixture of personal humility with unwavering ambition for a cause.

For the Eagles to become great, Lunsford is focused on what it means to be a “Georgia Southern Man,” an idea quickly becoming part of the team’s DNA. The coach says the Georgia Southern Man is “blue collar,” tough and disciplined — attributes he and the coaching staff have actively sought out in their recruits and leaders.

“We’re very honest in recruiting,” he said. “We don’t shy away from telling them exactly what we are here…. So when you get a guy that wants to be here and wants to be a part of that and wants to do that, there’s obviously a lot of excitement.”

More importantly, Lunsford wants to create a standard of excellence that takes last year’s achievements and makes them the benchmarks for what the Eagles do this year. In 2018, the Eagles set a new football bowl Subdivision (FBS) and school record for fewest turnovers with only five for the season and tied for eighth in takeaways. They were seventh in the FBS for rushing offense and sixth in team passing efficiency. It’s a high bar to reach again.

“But I think our guys, they need to look at that like that’s our identity,” said Lunsford. “We take care of the football and we go get the football and we have to continue to grow in that.”

The Eagles will have their hands full this season, facing stiff competition on the road. They open at LSU in Tiger Stadium, affectionately known as “Death Valley,” then host FCS semifinalist Maine at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. The Eagles then travel to frosty Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers, a team that beat Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl last year. On top of that, the Eagles will play Sun Belt powerhouses Troy, Arkansas State and Appalachian State on the road. It’s a season that promises to put the team, and its greatness, to the test.

“You know what? With our guys, I don’t think we’d want it any other way,” said Lunsford. “I mean, shoot, let’s put some things out there that are harder than last year and let’s see if we can rise to the occasion!

And I think being a Georgia Southern Man — that’s the whole point! “Anyone, any time, any place.”

– Doy  Cave

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