Embarking for his third season at the head of the Jaguar Baseball program, Jason Eller has instilled his philosophies and started the new era of Georgia Regents University baseball off right.
In his second year in 2015, the Jags ranked were third in the Peach Belt Conference in steals, were seventh in batting average, and seventh in triples. Sophomore Clint Hardy was named first team All-Conference, while junior Drew Taylor earned second-team honors. Hardy had the highest batting average in the league, Taylor had the sixth-most home runs, and junior Matthew Kuhlenberg had the sixth-best ERA in the PBC (3.12). Kuhlenberg was also named NCAA Southeast Region Pitcher of the Week.
Eller saw his first Jaguar squad in 2014 win nine more games than the previous team in 2013 and improve the offense and defense tremendously. With the eye of Eller and pitching coach Robbie Wachman, the GRU Augusta bullpen dealt 46 more strikeouts than the previous season, lowered the team ERA by one run, and posted 11 saves (one save in 2013). Freshman Tyler Brown recorded the lowest ERA in the Peach Belt Conference with a 2.23, while going 4-1 on the mound. Brown was named PBC Freshman of the Week on March 24th after he pitched 7.1 innings and allowed just one earned run as the Jaguars beat No. 7 Georgia College. Senior right-handed hurler Clint Echols tied for the fifth-most saves in the league after recording five in 2014.
The Jag bats provided a productive offense in Eller’s first year taking over. The team raised its batting average by 20 points from the previous year, while hitting .285 against Peach Belt pitching. The PBC ranked the Jaguars second with 90 extra-base hits, second for sacrifice flies and ninth in triples and stolen bases. Seven players improved their average from 2013, while sophomore Hunter Boose was named the Division II National Hitter of the Week and the PBC Player of the Week (2/20/14) for his performance in a three-game series at Armstrong where he hit .750.
Eller was introduced by GRU Augusta Director of Athletics Clint Bryant as the fifth head coach in the program’s 48-year history in a Monday, July 1 press conference in the JSAC (Jaguar Student Activities Center) ballroom on the university’s Summerville campus.
Eller, 40, spent the previous 11 seasons on the University of Georgia’s coaching staff, including the last seven years as a full-time assistant under head coach David Perno. In June, 2012, he was named pitching coach after assisting Perno with the hurlers during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Eller also coordinated UGA’s recruiting efforts from 2007-12.
“We had a tremendous amount of interest in our search,” Bryant said. “We brought five outstanding candidates to our campus, each of whom is more than capable of leading our program. I am confident, after much contemplation and deliberation, that we have found an excellent coach in Jason who is ready to make his own mark.”
A native of Kennesaw, Ga., Eller was charged with improving UGA’s mound fortunes. In 2011, the Bulldogs reduced their earned run average to 4.90 (down 3.61 runs per game from an 8.51 ERA in 2010). In 2012, Georgia’s ERA of 3.86 was its lowest in the aluminum bat era (dating back to 1974). Eller’s top pitcher in 2012 -- left-hander Alex Wood -- was a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves and made his major league debut for the Braves in May, 2013.
Eller was a part of three Georgia squads that advanced to the College World Series (CWS), including in 2008 when the Bulldogs were the national runner-up. Eller made his mark as a recruiter, setting a new Bulldog standard with 49 players selected in the past seven Major League Baseball (MLB) drafts, including a school-record 11 signees in 2011. Georgia’s 2011 recruiting class was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally by Perfect Game USA and finished in the top 20 after five draft picks enrolled at UGA. Five members of the 2012 signing class were drafted and seven members of the 2013 signing class were drafted, including Baseball America’s National High School Player of the Year for the second consecutive year (first round pick Clint Frazier, OF in 2013; first round pick Byron Buxton, OF in 2012).
Eller’s tenure with the Bulldogs also included stints working with outfielders and hitters in addition to serving as both a first base coach and third base coach. In 2003, he came to Georgia as a volunteer coach and was promoted to full-time assistant status in August, 2006.
Under Eller’s tutelage, Georgia hitters set a school record and SEC-best 109 home runs in 2009 as the Bulldogs made their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It was the first time Georgia made back-to-back trips to the NCAA postseason since 2001-02. Georgia’s 2008 recruiting class was ranked fifth nationally by Collegiate Baseball.
Eller helped steer the SEC Champion Bulldogs to within a victory of the 2008 national championship. Georgia captured another NCAA Athens Regional and Super Regional, and then the Bulldogs reached the CWS Finals. UGA earned a consensus No. 2 final national ranking, marking the second-best finish in school history. Georgia’s offense in 2008 set school records for hits, total bases, at bats and tied the mark for games played.
Eller came to the Bulldogs from Georgia State where he spent the 2002 season as an assistant on Mike Hurst’s staff. Eller served as hitting instructor, worked with outfielders and was the team’s strength training coordinator. He gained additional experience as a part of the East Cobb baseball program. He was the manager of the 2003 Perfect Game Junior Division champion East Cobb Braves. He served as manager of the 18 and under CABA World Series championship East Cobb Tigers squad in 2001 and assistant coach of the 2000 team that won the CABA World Series.
He has worked as an instructor at various summer baseball camps including at Georgia, Florida State, Griffey International and the Bucky Dent Baseball School.
A 1998 graduate of Georgia State with a B.A. in Sociology, Eller was a four-year letterman for the Panther Baseball program from 1992-95 and served as a student assistant coach in 1996.
Eller is married to the former Amy Jones of Sandersville, Ga.
The Jason Eller File
February 24, 1973 in Kennesaw, Ga.
Sprayberry High School, Marietta, Ga., 1991
Georgia State, B.A. in Sociology, May, 1998
Wife, Amy Jones Eller
Georgia State, four-year letterman, 1992-95
Athletes-In-Action (Africa and Ecuador), 1995-96
Tennessee Walkers (Big South Independent Association), 1997
Assistant Manager, New Jersey Diamonds (LPBL), 1998
Assistant Coach, Martin Methodist College, 1999-2000
Assistant Coach, Wofford College, 2000-01
Manager/Assistant Coach, East Cobb Tigers (18 & under), 2000-02
Assistant Coach, Georgia State, 2002
Volunteer Assistant Coach, University of Georgia, August, 2002-06
Assistant Coach, University of Georgia, August, 2006-13
Head Coach, Georgia Regents University, July, 2014-present
Howell came to Augusta and the CSRA after spending the 2015 season in the Peach Belt Conference as a top assistant at Young Harris College. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Howell enjoyed a stint at Middle Georgia State College as an assistant coach. Howell was the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Knights during those two seasons.
"Coach Howell brings a pitching plan that is one of the best in the state of Georgia," Head Coach Jason Eller said. "(Chris) is the ideal addition to the GRU baseball program as we continue to work our way onto the map".
Howell began his coaching career at his alma mater Tiftarea Academy – a private school in Chula, Ga. During his four-year stint with the Panthers baseball program, Tiftarea won the 2009 GISA Class AA State Championship and was runner-up the following year. Howell garnered state coach of the year accolades in 2009 and Region 3-AA Coach of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010 while at Tiftarea
"I'm excited to be a part of GRU Augusta and the direction of Coach Eller's baseball program," Howell said. "The unlimited resources and facilities brings passion to Augusta and that excites me."
A native of Fitzgerald, Ga., Howell was a three-time, all-state and four-time, all-region player at Tiftarea before starting his college career at Pensacola Junior College. He pitched two years in the Panhandle Conference and furthered his career to the University of Tennessee where he pitched two years for the Vols. His career with the Vols ended strong by helping his team advance to the 2005 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., as a senior.
After college, Howell pitched two years professionally for the Los Angels of Anaheim organization. He earned his bachelor's degree in education from Tennessee and an associate degree from Pensacola.