The Shrimp Tank - Charleston
The Shrimp Tank - Charleston
The Life of a College Football Head Coach

Shawn Elliott / Head Football Coach at Georgia State University

In 25 seasons as a Division I coach, Shawn Elliott has been part of 22 winning seasons and 20 postseason appearances, including four bowl games in his five years at Georgia State.

Shawn Elliott was introduced as Georgia State’s third head football coach by then-President Dr. Mark Becker and Director of Athletics Charlie Cobb on Dec. 9, 2016. A coaching veteran who brought 20 years of experience in winning programs, he came to GSU after highly successful stints at South Carolina, where he served as the co-offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and interim head coach, and Appalachian State, where he coached the offensive line.

In 25 seasons as a Division I coach, Elliott has been part of 22 winning seasons, 20 teams that reached the NCAA playoffs or a bowl game, and three consecutive NCAA FCS titles from 2005-07.

That success has continued at Georgia State, where Elliott has led the Panthers to bowl games and winning seasons in four of his five years in Atlanta, including the first three bowl victories in program history.

Elliott’s 2021 squad won seven of its last eight games to a set the program record with eight victories. The Panthers achieved their third straight winning season at 8-5 while earning Georgia State’s third straight bowl berth, also firsts in program history. GSU capped the season with a resounding 51-20 victory over Ball State in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time.

After facing one of the toughest schedules in the Group of Five, Georgia State fought back from a 1-4 start to set the school-record for wins and establish a program record for Sun Belt Conference victories with a 6-2 mark, good for second place in the East Division.

The 2021 team achieved another milestone with the program’s first win over a nationally-ranked opponent as the Panthers knocked off No. 21 Coastal Carolina 42-20 on the road.

The Panthers featured one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, averaging 226.4 yards per game to rank No. 8 in FBS, along with an aggressive defense that set school records 38 sacks and with 92 tackles for loss. Thirteen Panthers were named to the 2021 All-Sun Belt Conference team.

Elliott and his staff navigated the unique challenges of 2020 to steer the Panthers to a winning season, capped by a victory in the LendingTree Bowl, marking the first back-to-back winning records and bowl berths in school history.

The 2020 Panthers featured another prolific offense that averaged a school-record 33.3 points per game and an opportunistic defense that ranked in the top 10 in the nation in sacks with 35, the school record at the time, and turnovers forced with 21. Along the way, a program-record 14 individuals earned All-Sun Belt honors.

Other highlights of Elliott’s first five years at GSU include the first bowl victory in school history, Georgia State’s first winning season as an FBS program, and then-school record seven-win campaigns in both 2017 and 2019.

The 2019 season began with another major first for the Georgia State program as Elliott’s Panthers earned a dominating 38-30 victory over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium for the school’s first win over a Power 5 opponent.

Elliott was named the Dodd Trophy National Coach of the Week, and his Panthers were recognized as the FWAA Reveal Suits National Team of the Week. That is the third time that Elliott has been part of the National Team of the Week; his Appalachian State team was recognized for its 2007 victory at Michigan and his South Carolina squad for its 2010 win over No. 1 Alabama.

The win over Tennessee launched a record-setting 2019 season as the Panthers won seven games in the regular season for the first time and achieved their best home record with a 5-1 mark.

Bolstered by one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, the 2019 team set numerous team and individual records, most notably establishing new season standards for points, touchdowns, rushing yards and total offense. Following the regular-season, 10 Panthers were named to the 2019 All-Sun Belt Conference squad, and the team earned a berth in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.

Despite taking over a Georgia State program playing just its eighth season of football in 2017, Elliott not only guided GSU to a bowl game in his first year at the helm, but he led the Panthers to their first bowl victory, 27-17 over Western Kentucky in the AutoNation Cure Bowl. That win gave the program a then-school record seven victories in Elliott’s first season.

Under Elliott’s watch, the Panthers achieved benchmark performances on both sides of the ball. The 2017 GSU defense set season records for fewest points allowed per game, and fewest rushing yards allowed per game (136.4). The defense also recorded the first shutout in school history. On offense, the Panthers established new marks, since broken, for highest completion percentage (64.2) and fewest interceptions (9) in a season, as well as most total yards in a game (670) and most points vs. an FBS opponent (47).

Nine Panthers earned All-Sun Belt honors in 2017. Senior cornerback Chandon Sullivan shined in the classroom and on the field as Georgia State’s first football Academic All-American and the first Panther to be invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. One of three 2017 seniors to sign NFL free agent contracts, Sullivan is now with the Minnesota Vikings.

After inheriting a senior-dominated roster for his first season, Elliott’s second campaign proved to be a rebuilding year as the Panthers were forced to play numerous freshmen.

Still, there were many positives during the 2018 season. First-year quarterback Dan Ellington passed for more than 2,000 yards, led the team in rushing and set a school record for fewest interceptions.

Punter Brandon Wright ranked No. 3 in FBS in punting average and net while setting the Sun Belt record at 48.3 yards per kick. The Ray Guy Award semifinalist is GSU’s first semifinalist for a major college football award.

Standout receiver Penny Hart finished his career ranked fourth in Sun Belt history in receiving yards and eighth in receptions. He signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, as did linebacker Chase Middleton. Hart is now with the Seattle Seahawks.

Individual honors in Elliott’s first four seasons include 40 All-Sun Belt Conference honorees, Georgia State’s first two players selected to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, seven former players signed to NFL free agent contracts and a first-round selection in the CFL draft.

The accolades extend to the classroom with GSU’s first Academic All-American® as well as five Academic All-District® selections. The Panthers posted a program-record 3.03 GPA in Elliott’s first semester and nearly matched that with a 3.0 for the spring 2020 term.

Before taking over the Georgia State program, Elliott worked seven seasons (2010-16) at South Carolina under Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier, highlighted by three consecutive 11-win seasons from 2011-13 during the most successful run in the Gamecocks’ history. In addition to coaching the offensive line, he was the running game coordinator in 2010 and 2011, was elevated to co-offensive coordinator in 2012, and then served as the interim head coach following Spurrier’s retirement midway through the 2015 season.

Elliott originally joined the South Carolina staff in 2010 and helped the Gamecocks reach five straight bowl games while coaching some of the most prolific and balanced offenses in school history. The Gamecocks turned in the program’s best offensive season, statistically, in 2013, averaging 34.1 points while rolling up a school-record 452.3 yards per game.

South Carolina’s 2014 unit scored nearly 33 points per game while averaging over 440 yards of offense as All-America and All-Southeastern Conference offensive guard A.J. Cann paved the way. In 2010, Elliott’s first season in Columbia, his offensive line blocked for record-setting running back Marcus Lattimore, the National Freshman of the Year.

In addition to Cann, a third-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015, Elliott developed future NFL linemen Corey Robinson, Ronald Patrick, Brandon Shell, T.J. Johnson and Rokevious Watkins.

Before going to South Carolina in 2010, Elliott coached his entire career at Appalachian State, his alma mater. In 13 seasons there, he was an integral part of App State’s three consecutive NCAA titles from 2005-07 as well as the Mountaineers’ historic upset at Michigan in 2007.

Beginning in 1997, he worked two seasons as a defensive assistant (1997-98) and then two seasons as the tight ends coach (1999-00) before taking over the offensive line in 2001.

In nine seasons as the Mountaineers’ offensive line coach, Elliott’s players earned All-America distinction on 12 occasions, including four different linemen who received first-team All-America accolades. He also coached All-American and future NFL tight end Daniel Wilcox in 2000. In 2003, offensive lineman Wayne Smith was the first pick in the Canadian Football League Draft. From 2005-07, Elliott coached three-consecutive Southern Conference Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipients.

Elliott helped lead the Mountaineers to 10 NCAA playoff berths in 13 seasons with two trips to the national semifinals and three appearances in the quarterfinals in addition to the three championships.

Elliott was one of three App State coaches to earn the NCAA’s Award of Valor for their efforts in rescuing two individuals from an automobile accident in 2000.

The two head coaches under whom Elliott spent the bulk of his time as an assistant coach, Spurrier at South Carolina and Jerry Moore at Appalachian State, are both enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Elliott was the first player in Mountaineer annals to appear in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs four separate seasons. He was a four-year letterwinner, helping the Mountaineers to two Southern Conference titles and a combined record of 36-16. He served as a co-captain of the 1995 Appalachian State squad that finished 12-1 while earning all-league distinction as a defensive end.

A native of Camden, S.C., Elliott earned his bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State in 1996. He is married to the former Summer Scruggs, also an App State grad and a standout tennis player for the Mountaineers, and the couple has two children, Maddyn and Max.



Eric Elkins / Double E Insurance & Financial Solutions

Shawn Elliott / Georgia State University