STATESBORO — Georgia Southern head football coach Chris Hatcher confirmed Tuesday that quarterback Antonio Henton is leaving the Eagles’ program.
Henton started nine games for Georgia Southern last fall after transferring during the summer from Ohio State where he spent two years. He was redshirted his first year, and played sparingly the following season.
When he left Ohio State, Henton stated he wanted to get back to Georgia, where he felt more comfortable and his family and friends could see him play.
Georgia Southern was an attractive alternative. He did not have to sit out a year as a transfer because to the Eagles’ FCS status, and his high school coach, Rance Gillespie, was the offensive coordinator.
Although rumors have Henton transferring to Division II Fort Valley State, no one at Georgia Southern could confirm that was the case.
“What I had to say in our release (that Henton was leaving) is all I have to say about him,” Hatcher said.
In not willing to discuss Henton, Hatcher was not expressing any anger or disappointment but rather following his established practice of not discussing players who were no longer a part of the Georgia Southern program.
Despite setting five single-season records at Georgia Southern and leading the Eagles to fourth-quarter comeback victories in four games, Henton barely got on the field in the final game of the season at Furman.
Needing a win to avoid his first losing season ever as a head coach, Hatcher changed his entire game plan for the game against the No. 14 Paladins. The decision was made to start freshman Lee Chapple, who had also drawn the start in the season opener at Georgia, against the No. 14 Paladins.
The result was a 17-10 upset win with Chapple completing 39-of-56 passes, both single-game records. Henton got in the game briefly, attempting one pass.
“We didn’t score a lot of points,” Hatcher said after that game, “but this is the first game I’ve coached at Georgia Southern where I felt I ran my offense.”
That offense, of course, is the Hatch Attack that produced a Division II national championship at Valdosta State in 2004 and an overall 76-12 record.
Chapple’s performance gave every indication he would be the leading candidate for the starter’s position going into spring practice, which begins March 2.
Hatcher confirmed that Tuesday.
“It won’t affect us one bit,” Hatcher said of Henton’s departure. “Chapple was our starter coming out (end of season), and he was going to be our starter going in. Last year was a transition year from doing what we had to do our first year here with Jayson Foster to what I was hired to do.”
In Hatcher’s first season with the Eagles, he adapted to the special talents of Foster, who won the Walter Payton Award as a running quarterback and guided the Eagles to within a missed field goal of a Southern Conference championship.
Backing up Chapple will be 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore Kyle Collins, who played at Lovett. Collins went to Georgia Southern as a preferred walk-on under former head coach Brian Van Gorder.
Collins completed 1-of-3 pass attempts last fall, but he impressed Hatcher, who continually referred to him as one of the top backup quarterbacks in the conference. Georgia Southern had one quarterback in this year’s recruiting class, signing Brent Osborn of Valley, Ala.