Second-year Georgia Southern football coach Chris Hatcher didn't sign any players from the Augusta area this year, but he said it wasn't from a lack of trying.
"We have some good players from here," said Hatcher, the keynote speaker at Friday's meeting of the Augusta Eagle Club at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. "It just didn't work out this time."
Hatcher said he hears similar questions from everyone he's talked to since last season.
Who will be the Eagles' next quarterback?
Jayson Foster led the Eagles to a 7-4 record in 2007 and became the school's second winner of the Walter Payton Award, given each year to the best player in the College Football Subdivision.
The Eagles started spring practice Monday, and filling Foster's spot will be a top priority.
"We have to have one guy step up," Hatcher told the Eagle Club. "Hopefully, we can figure that out sooner rather than later."
Hatcher talked Friday night to a local fan base full of barbecue and hope after an encouraging 2007 campaign. The Eagles' 7-4 record last year followed a 3-8 season the year before.
The turnaround led to a recruiting spike and energized the Eagles' fan base, according to those involved with the program.
"They were pretty excited last year, because they knew it couldn't get much worse." said Alex Grovenstein, Georgia Southern's assistant director of alumni relations. "It's crazy now."
The pavilion was bustling an hour before Hatcher spoke. Workers wearing Georgia Southern golf shirts set up a makeshift Eagles store in one corner, and another corner clanged with beer and wine bottles as a folding table was converted into a cash bar.
Eagles fans were treated to a panoramic view of the Savannah River.
The barbecue quickly disappeared from buffet serving pans.
Hatcher provided the biggest draw, with his talk of the excitement surrounding the Eagles program.
The biggest applause was saved for talk of GSU's win at Appalachian State in October, which snapped the Mountaineers' 30-game home win streak.
"That was the highlight of our year right there, and it put us in the driver's seat," Hatcher said.
The signees poured in during February, and Hatcher's final haul was 32 scholarship players, meaning half of the Eagles' 64 scholarship players in 2008 will be freshmen.
Hatcher asked the crowd for patience with his young team in 2008.
"It's fun coaching young guys," he said jokingly. "They don't know anything."
The night ended with the Augusta Eagle Club presenting a $2,500 check to Southern Boosters, to be used by the football program.
The group also donated $500 to the GSU Foundation to open a scholarship fund, which will be used to help send an area student to Georgia Southern each year.
The Augusta Eagle Club raises most of its money with two area golf tournaments each year.
Events such as the one Friday are more informative than they are fundraising, said the club's president, Hartie Cliatt.
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