Georgia State coach says Panthers 'not coming up there to lay down' vs Tennessee football

Shawn Elliott received some advice during his years as an assistant coach on Jerry Moore’s football staff at Appalachian State.

Moore told Elliott to watch how and why a head coach makes decisions and think about what he would do differently if he were the coach. In other words, prepare to be in that seat someday.

“It was great advice,” Elliott told the News Sentinel in a phone interview.

It came in handy, too, when Elliott shifted from South Carolina’s offensive line coach to interim head coach after Steve Spurrier’s abrupt resignation amid the 2015 season.

Elliott is now entering his third season as Georgia State’s coach. His Panthers will open the season against Tennessee on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU) at Neyland Stadium.

“We’re going to come in there fighting with everything we’ve got,” Elliott said. “We’re going to bring everything and the kitchen sink. We’re going to bring it all. We’re not coming up there to lay down.”

Shawn Elliott’s program embraces Atlanta

Georgia State’s program is entering its 10th season. The first three were in the Football Championship Subdivision before a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt.

The program is looking to carve out an identity in Atlanta, which Georgia State is putting to use.

Georgia State’s media guide includes an image of the Atlanta skyline, and the team has 54 players on its roster from Georgia.

“It’s the capital of the South, Atlanta is, and that’s something that we can really recruit to,” Elliott said. “We embrace the city.”

The Panthers play at the old Turner Field, formerly home to the Atlanta Braves. It is now known as Georgia State Stadium. To Elliott, it’s a suitable football home rather than a hand-me-down baseball ballpark.

“Everything about it has been transformed into one incredible facility,” Elliott said.

Elliott’s task now is to transform the program.

Georgia State went 7-5 during his first season in 2017 — its first winning season at the FBS level — before regressing to 2-10 last season. The Panthers returned nine starters on offense and seven on defense. The returning starters include quarterback Dan Ellington, who threw for 2,119 yards last season in his first season as a junior college transfer.

“There’s an air of confidence about us,” Elliott said.

FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2018, file photo, Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott walks the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C. The NCAA’s new transfer rules, including the creation of the so-called portal, have changed the process by which athletes switch schools, loosening some restrictions and leading more players to explore options. Elliott said if the Panthers bring in a transfer he prefers it to be a player with which the staff is already familiar.  (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

What Shawn Elliott learned from Steve Spurrier

In a mobile industry, Elliott has made a mark with his longevity. He spent 13 years on Moore’s staff at Appalachian State. Elliott was in his sixth season on Spurrier’s staff when Spurrier retired in the middle of the season.

“It was a total surprise,” Elliott said.

While working for Spurrier, Elliott gained an appreciation for his creativity and willingness to throw an idea against the wall and see if it sticks.

Spurrier enjoyed needling Tennessee throughout his career coaching Florida and South Carolina. Elliott isn’t looking to re-enact that quality, but he did gain an appreciation for it.

“I don’t think he ever really meant anything personally to anyone that he jabbed,” Elliott said, “but that certainly got a kick out of a lot of people. Just to see the reactions and overreactions of people was something I enjoyed watching from afar.”

Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at blake.toppmeyer@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.