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Chad Lunsford Brings Energy to Eagles

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Chad Lunsford will now take control of a program he has long helped build.

It is a very important place to me. I was not expecting it, but the opportunity is here so we're going to go and try and get it."
~Chad Lunsford

Though there has been a coaching change at Georgia Southern, the new name is a familiar one. In his ninth season with the Eagles, in various capacities, Chad Lunsford steps in for Tyson Summers as Georgia Southern's interim head football coach. Named the team's assistant head coach prior to the start of the year, Lunsford has seen it all in Statesboro. From overseeing slotbacks, tight ends and wide receivers to being in charge of recruiting and special teams, Lunsford will now take control of a program he has long helped build.

Some coaches are hands-on, Lunsford, instead, is helmets-on. Intense and optimistic, the Georgia-native has hit the ground running. There is an authentic energy, not just true, but "true blue", to Lunsford's approach. Few can match the passion Lunsford has for the Eagles; the water in Beautiful Eagle Creek is boiling. 

"There is no question about it, I'm fired up," Lunsford smiled. "Georgia Southern is an unbelievable place, man, I really love it. I'm excited about this opportunity and I am excited about our kids."

To find Lunsford, just follow the trail of red clay. Lunsford has been on an all-out sprint in and around the Peach State, dating back to his days as a star linebacker for the Elbert County Blue Devils. Lunsford has worked extensively at JUCO power Georgia Military College and has spent time at Appalachian State and Auburn, in addition to his stints at Georgia Southern. Lunsford has seen every corner of his home state, pitching a product he deeply believes in to student-athletes he cares a lot about. 

Roads, sometimes winding, have always brought Lunsford back to Statesboro.  

"It is a surreal feeling, I didn't’t expect it," he explained of taking over the Eagles. "Honestly, I have been lucky to be on several different staffs here and have the ability to stay and just continue to learn about Georgia Southern. It is a very important place to me. I was not expecting it, but the opportunity is here so we're going to go and try and get it."

Lunsford has a diverse and impressive resume. In addition to emerging through the traditional channels, he was instrumental in developing the talent base at Auburn that resulted in the Tigers winning the 2010 BCS National Championship. Serving in numerous administrative roles, Lunsford was football's Director of Scouting and Player Personnel. His efforts helped cultivate a wide-ranging perspective on what makes teams successful, hindsight he can validate with hardware. 

Part of multiple championship teams at Georgia Southern, Lunsford is well-aware of the expectations of the Eagles as he has been one who has set them. Last fall, Lunsford was a nominee for the Broyles Award, an honor given to the nation's top assistant coach. Wherever Lunsford has gone and whatever his job has been, conviction has underlined it all. 

"We are starting every gamer positive. We are going to have a lot of juice, we are going to have a lot of energy, because what we’re not going to do around here is sulk," Lunsford exclaimed. "We’re going to get ready and we’re going to go play."

The circumstances surrounding this season, for the Eagles, have obviously been difficult and the challenge, taking over a team midway through the year, is obvious. Georgia Southern remains a young and inexperienced football team, a squad still searching for success. While attitude will undoubtedly be an asset for the Eagles, Lunsford understands the process of transition and is keeping his players first and foremost through it all. He, that in mind, is putting his fingerprints on his program already.      

"You have to be real careful, because you don’t want to change up routines, but I do think you can make subtle changes and do some things that maybe we haven’t been doing that breed excitement and brings a little bit of life to things," Lunsford detailed.

Team goals are in place and improvement is expected. Even in a disappointing season, progress can still be made. Georgia Southern will take the field against a number of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference moving forward. Lunsford's head-coaching debut will come on the road at Troy, an opponent at 5-2 that recently won at LSU and was nationally-ranked a year ago.

In terms of points of emphasis, Lunsford has identified a number of areas; some are physical, some are mental, some are somewhere in between.

"We have concentrated on ball security, we have concentrated on the penalties, especially the ones pre-and-post snap. Then playing off of one another: offense, defense, and special teams, helping one another, being able to bail each other out and then when something bad happens, trying to forget about it and drive on," Lunsford continued. "As the game goes on, there will be highs and lows and you can’t get too high and we can’t get too low and we have to make sure we stay constant."

Managing emotions will be key down the home stretch. Georgia Southern's first win of the season will also be the first of Lunsford's head coaching career. Who knows what the future holds, but the Eagles ready for the second-half run with an extra pep in their step. 

It's tough to get Lunsford to slow down, but the story of the school he loves still stops him in his tracks. 

"What is so cool about it is this program started in 1981 so it is still a relatively young program, but when you walk into it you feel like this place has been playing ball since 1895," Lunsford nodded. "Where Erk Russell started this stuff, for him to have that insight to build this type of thing and to get these players to buy into it, that is what makes this place special. I'm very proud to be a part of it."

A Lunsford introduction is a hearty handshake with a set of instructions. The name is one people know; so, too, is the narrative.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports