New Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher said all the right things about bringing back traditions, loving Statesboro, and admiring the Eagles' record. With those words, Hatcher had already won back all the fans that were lost during the one-year Brian VanGorder era.
Now all Hatcher has to do is win.
"We're coming off a 3-8 season and the biggest change I'm planning on making at Georgia Southern is winning a lot more football games."
A bold statement from the 33-year-old newcomer, and a breath of fresh air for Georgia Southern boosters and fans.
Hatcher is leaving the security of coach at his alma-mater, Valdosta State. He had set all the passing records at the school in the early 90's and then proceeded to coach the Blazers for 7 seasons, compiling a 76-12 record and winning an national title.
Athletic Director Sam Baker was thrilled with his new coach.
"Chris Hatcher is the only coach we called and the only one we interviewed and once meeting him and knowing his history and background, he was the person we went after."
When VanGorder surprised Georgia Southern and the Eagles' fans on Tuesday, announcing he was leaving to take the job as linebackers coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Hatcher was in Houston interviewing for the Rice job. Baker went into a hiring frenzy, found his man in Houston, and within 36 hours had locked him up.
One of the things that VanGorder had done was put the old yellow school busses out to pasture. They are coming back along with the tradition of using the powerful waters from "Beautiful Eagle Creek" when the team goes on the road.
Hatcher has a philosophy that could only be referred to as Erk Russellian, "it's very simple, don't let them score and then you score one more point than they do." The Father of Georgia Southern football used to say after a close game, for example, "28 is more than 27."
Georgia Southern is well-known for its triple option, but VanGorder scrapped it for a more traditional offense. Hatcher has a wide open offense that is as explosive as the option, "Our offense is very similar to the option, to the old hambone. but instead of pitching it backward, we just pitch it forward." Baker added, "Even though it's not the triple option, it'll be exciting."
Hatcher's coaching success comes from his ability to adjusts his offense to his personnel, "In 2004, the national championship season, we threw for 3,000 and rushed for 2,000. This season we led the conference and were among the top 10 teams in the nation of total offense but we didn't run the ball a lot because that wasn't a strong suit of our football team."