Savannah State opens fall football camp with grueling first practice
By Travis Jaudon
Posted at 5:17 PM Updated at 7:36 PM
Break something down to its very core to find out what it’s made of. On Friday, Aug. 9, at T.A. Wright Stadium, plenty of Savannah State football players found out what they were made of.
Savannah State opened its fall camp ahead of the 2019 season, the Tigers’ first in NCAA Division II within the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after competing as a DI FCS program. SSU, which was in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, was a member of the SIAC from 1969-98.
The practice was designed to rev up the squad with plenty of new and young faces, who were quickly made familiar with the ways of new head coach Shawn Quinn.
“It’s good to get out here today; it’s been a long process to get to this point,” said Quinn, who was named the full-time coach on March 7 after serving on an interim basis in the early off-season. “You know, as a head coach, you enjoy the on-field stuff. So I’m excited to finally get to some football. We’ve got a lot of new players, too, so I’m excited to see what they do.”
Savannah State opens football camp on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019
Friday’s football was not for the weak, as just over 100 players were pushed close to their limits physically in an effort to separate the men from the boys. At one point during the two-hour practice, the heat index registered at 101 degrees.
Quinn says its part of becoming a team, his team.
“There’s a whole lotta’ gelling that has to go on,” he said before using an analogy, one of his signatures with the media. “It’s like the Rolling Stones. You hit the high note and I’ll hit the low note. Somebody plays the bass and somebody is the drummer.
“It’s all in concert, and football is a sport where it takes a whole lot of people to win. It takes a community.”
— Projected starting quarterback D’Vonn Gibbons sat out the practice due to some minor clerical issues with his school paperwork, Quinn said after the session. “Just got an off-field thing, a clerical thing that they are waiting on,” he said before confirming Gibbons as the No. 1 signal caller on the depth chart heading into camp. “He should be good to go by (Friday) afternoon. I expect him back at practice tomorrow (Saturday), and he had earned that (starting job) right in the spring.”
— Without Gibbons taking snaps, Quinn and co-offensive coordinator Russell DeMasi turned to several new faces at QB for the opening practice. Most notably, a redshirt freshman transfer from the University of Georgia, Mason Wood, looked seasoned in the offensive system even on his first day taking reps with the first team. An Alexander High School (Douglasville, Ga.) product, Wood was a preferred walk-on at UGA in the class of 2017 and redshirted last season in Athens. He’s considered a dual-threat and Quinn confirmed his eligibility.
″(Wood) did a good job today, so we’re excited about him and what he’ll bring to the table,” Quinn aid. “He’s on the roster, immediately eligible. Mason is a great kid.”
Others at quarterback Friday included highly touted true freshman J.T. Hartage and an Islands High School product, true freshman Cole Donahue.
— Donahue was one of several locals to take the field at T.A. Wright for the first time Friday. Do-it-all running back Jordan Grant (Savannah Christian), Jaylon Thompson (linebacker, Bluffton High, S.C.), Namon Pointer (DB, Johnson), Jaylien Duncan (RB, Benedictine) and Julian Roberts (DE, Memorial Day) were seen getting reps, and Quinn said he liked what he saw from them.
“We have a lot of those local guys playing for us, and a lot of them have some length and can really run.”
Quinn was asked what role he envisions for Grant, a standout quarterback and running back at SCPS in his four years there.
“Without giving too much away to our opponents,” he began, “he’s going to do a lot. It’s a little like Tim Tebow, let’s put it that way. But he is a really good football player for us.”