CONYERS — The college football season begins across the nation later this month, and once again several former local players will be suiting up.
Five players from Heritage, Rockdale and Newton are on the rosters for three state teams — Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Georgia Tech — a pair of former area rivals will be playing less than two hours from their former hometown.
Georgia Southern, which a year ago went 10-4 and lost in the FCS playoffs to eventual national champion North Dakota State, will open the season against Savannah State on Aug. 31 at Paulson Stadium. Former local players Justice Ejike, a junior defensive tackle from Newton, and Heritage graduate and sophomore offensive lineman Cole Peeples will be a part of what the Statesboro school is hoping is another playoff team. Also on the defensive side of the ball for the Eagles will be Eastside graduate Blake Rouse.
Georgia State will be playing in its fourth season and first under head coach Trent Miles. The Atlanta school struggled mightily a season ago, finishing 1-10, but is hoping for a turnaround and with Rockdale graduate and redshirt-junior center Ronald Martin, who will open the season against Samford on Aug. 30 at the Georgia Dome.
The folks on the flats aren’t used to .500 seasons and though Georgia Tech went to the ACC Championship Game and defeated USC in the Sun Bowl, the Yellow Jackets and redshirt-senior offensive lineman Corey Alford (Heritage) will be hoping to improve on a 7-7 season.
The Atlanta school will open the season against Elon on Aug. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Just 120 miles northeast of Conyers, the Clemson football team is coming off its finest season in more than 30 years. In 2012, the Tigers went 11-2, the most wins the school has accumulated since the 1981 national title-winning team went 12-0. With Heritage graduate and redshirt junior cornerback Garry Peters and former all-state defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, a junior defensive tackle from Rockdale, the Tigers will get a firm test right away as they host Georgia on Aug. 31 at Memorial Stadium.
Two former local stand outs will be a bit further away from home for the 2013 season.
Newton graduate and junior Akeem Hunt will once again be at running back for Purdue when the Boilermakers open their season at Cincinnati on Aug. 31.
Louisville, fresh off an 11-win season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl, includes sophomore running back Sheldon Rankins (Eastside). The Cardinals will host Ohio on Sept. 1.