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Georgia State Not Lacking Confidence

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Despite going winless last season, Georgia State head coach Trent Miles is supremely confident and optimistic about his team in 2014 after a year in which he believes his players grew leaps and bounds.

As was to be expected, Georgia State’s first season at the FBS level proved to be quite the challenge for Panthers head coach Trent Miles.

Taking over control of a program that had three seasons at the FCS level as its only prior playing experience, Miles entered Atlanta with the advanced knowledge that the Panthers’ climb to contention would require a unique amount of patience and persistence.

Experience and quality depth are two common characteristics found in winning football teams. The Panthers, in Miles’ first season, had little of either.

The end result, naturally, was an 0-12 season which included losses to three current FCS teams. Although Georgia State would lose five games by a touchdown or less, including one contest in overtime, there were ultimately too many mistakes to overcome on the quest for an elusive victory.

The one unquestioned silver lining in the 2013 struggles is the fact that many of the Panthers’ youngest players gained significant experience due to the unique circumstances within the program.

And in spite of the fact that he has yet to win a game as a head coach at the FBS level, Miles is supremely confident and optimistic about his team in 2014 after a year in which he believes his players grew leaps and bounds.

“I know right now we are at a stage where we have a lot of confidence,” Miles recently commented on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “Hard to say that after an 0-12 season, but we played with a lot of young guys last year. We played 15 true freshmen, and we only have 11 senior on our team and six of them start. Our kids are young and eager, and they have a great attitude and work ethic. We are past the competition stage, meaning just teaching them how to compete. Now we are teaching them to compete and win games.”

Miles also feels like last season’s record is not indicative of the type of talent that the Panthers have on the roster.

Playing its football in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia State has slowly been able to capitalize on its enviable location in the midst of one of the nation’s biggest recruiting hotbeds. The results may not have yet translated to the field, but with the level of talent at its disposal in its own backyard, Georgia State should never have a huge issue with bringing in talented young prospects.

The future is certainly bright because of the recruiting location, but Miles firmly believes that his roster is already filled with some talented players who can become difference-makers in the Sun Belt.

“The thing that’s exciting is we have kids with talent to develop,” said the second-year head man. “It’s one thing to try develop, but if they don’t have the talent to do it, that’s a hard road. But we have kids that have the talent to do it. We have some kids that we feel have the talent to excel in the Sun Belt Conference; we just have to keep developing them and people have to a little bit of patience. You have to understand it takes a little time and we are looking for these guys to go out to compete to win.”

Interestingly enough, Miles’ number one concern heading into the season is not his overall youth from a physical standpoint. He knows that physical traits such as speed and strength will continue to develop as his player’s mature.

What he is most concerned about is how his team will respond mentally after going through a grueling regular season that ended without a win.

Expending tremendous effort on the gridiron and receiving no tangible reward can obviously be demoralizing as time passes along. It is Miles’ job to ensure that his players do not let last season’s experience affect the way they train and prepare for the 2014 campaign.

“Number one, it definitely is psychological,” Miles said of his biggest concern for this fall. “When you don’t go out and win a game, at some point it starts playing with you mentally. Physically, we just have to get older. We started 15 true freshmen. Shawayne Lawrence, our starting defensive lineman, started every game, and he didn’t turn 18 until after the season. They are naturally going to get bigger and stronger. Our starting tight end Keith Rucker came in at 205 and now he weighs 245. If you think about it, it’s kind of like taking a 15-year old kid and telling him to that he’s starting varsity playing 18-year olds.”

At the end of the day, the Panthers are still very much in the early stages of their building process. Winning programs, after all, don’t just materialize overnight.

The deck has been stacked against Georgia State up until this point in the history, but the program is finally starting to hold on to some of the cards which it wants. As the Panthers continue to elevate their recruiting efforts and gain more experience on the playing field, they just may finally find themselves with a hand capable of defeating the other players at the table.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.