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Barnett: Players' injuries gave Eubanks time to shine

Often, when a player gets injured you hear the coach say, "It gives someone an opportunity to step up."

In 2007 that happened for a young man named Darius Eubanks. It wasn't that Darius wasn't a major part of the Thomson Bulldog football team in his junior year.

As much as Curtis Williams, our secondary coach, and I might try, we couldn't get Coach Luther Welsh to allow our best receiver to play safety for us.

Then, another starter went down and I still remember Coach telling me, "Use Eubanks at safety next week. We don't have anyone else."

The rest, you might say, is history. In the final five games of the 2007 season, Darius intercepted five passes and was named not only to the first team Augusta Chronicle/WJBF All-Georgia CSRA team, but would be named Honorable Mention AAA All-State by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

His 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Washington County is a play that still stands out in my mind.

His senior year would see four more interceptions as teams chose not to throw over the middle where he normally defended.

At 6'2" and 185 pounds, he was, perhaps, the most physical defensive back I ever coached and his 55 tackles attest to that.

He also led the team with 15 receptions for 389 yards and two touchdowns. As a senior, he was named both first team All-CSRA and All-State by the AJC.

Darius had numerous scholarship offers, but chose to stay close to home and became a Georgia Southern Eagle.

Late in the recruiting process, Kentucky, an SEC school, wanted him badly, but Darius told them he had given his word to Southern.

That says a lot about the kind of young man he is.

Darius' career at Georgia Southern started well. After beefing up to 210 pounds, he was moved to outside linebacker. As a freshman, he started 10 of the Eagles' 11 games. He finished second on the team in tackles with 58, had four tackles for loss, a sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and an interception.

For his efforts, he was named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman team.

As a sophomore, Darius continued to grow and improve. Up to 220 pounds he became one of the most physical players on the team.

He started 13 of 14 games, missing one with an injury.

He was at his best in pressure situations as illustrated by his forced fumble in overtime to secure a huge win against Appalachian State, at the time the No. 1 team in the country in Division I of the Football Championship Series. Against Wofford, in the playoffs, he had a career-best 11 tackles.

As of now, Darius, in his junior year, is a member of the undefeated and No. 1 ranked team in its college division. Again starting at outside linebacker, he leads the team with 34 tackles.

He has an interception, a tackle for loss, and has forced a fumble. Barring injury or a major letdown by his team, the best is yet to come for this former Thomson Bulldog who is making us proud in Statesboro.

Now, deep into their tough conference schedule, every game is important, and it would be great to see a Bulldog be on a team that wins it all.

With his speed now at a very impressive 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, this sports management major might have some more playing to do at the next level before entering that field.

Go 'Dogs and go Eagles!

Web posted on Thursday, October 20, 2011

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