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Jaxmen expecting big things in 2011 season
The excitement is building around the Jacksonville State football program in anticipation of the 2011 season, which the Gamecocks kick off by playing host to UT Martin on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.
JSU returns 17 starters from last season’s 9-3 squad that finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference and lost to Wofford 17-14 in the opening round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Boaz’s Chase Williams is a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Gamecocks.
JSU head coach Jack Crowe, JSU director of football operations Kortne Gosha and a handful of Gamecock players visited Boaz on Friday morning for the JSU/Sarrell Dental Football Camp.
“We are excited,” Gosha said. “We open with Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 1. Last year we were 9-3. We beat Ole Miss last year.
“We’ve got a loaded team, and we’re excited for this coming season.”
The Gamecocks stunned the college football world by upsetting Ole Miss 49-48 in double overtime at Oxford in their 2010 season opener.
James Shaw, a senior wide receiver from Odenville, was one of the JSU players who took part in Friday’s event at L.F. Corley Jr. Stadium.
“We’re looking for a national championship and to win the conference. We want to win a ring for our conference,” Shaw said.
“We’ve been working hard since last year. We’ve got 23 seniors, so we’ve got a lot of experience on our team. There’s a senior at every position.”
Shaw is the Gamecocks’ leading returning receiver. He had 25 catches for 316 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.
JSU returns both of its quarterbacks in senior Marques Ivory and sophomore Coty Blanchard.
Ivory was 181-of-309 passing for 2,248 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Two key newcomers for the Gamecocks will be transfers Washaun Ealey from Georgia and Clarence Jackson from Ole Miss.
Ealey led Georgia in rushing the past two seasons, while Jackson was a linebacker at Ole Miss. Ealey has two years of eligibility remaining and Jackson has three years.
Ealey played in 21 games for Georgia with nine starts during his two seasons with the Bulldogs. He rushed for 1,528 yards and 14 touchdowns, including 811 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games as a sophomore.
Crowe, who signed a contract extension in June, begins his 12th season at JSU.
He has guided the Gamecocks to eight consecutive winning seasons, which is the longest such streak in almost 20 years.
The 2010 senior class left as the winningest four-year class since the Gamecocks departed the Division II ranks in 1993. The senior class finished with a four-year record of 31-13.
The Gamecocks enter 2011 preseason ranked in the football polls for 30 consecutive weeks, which is the longest such stretch in the school’s 108-year football history.
Jax State is the winningest team — by percentage — in the Ohio Valley Conference and in all of FCS football since joining the league in 2003.
The Gamecocks have won 76.6 percent of their conference games, posting a 48-15 record, while Eastern Kentucky is second with a 70.6 all-time winning percentage.
By Shannon J. Allen, Sand Mountain Reporter