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Barksdale arrest hampers otherwise depth-laden Jacksonville State squad
The Jacksonville State football team reports today for the start of preseason practice and the controlled cattle call of media day with the status of a key element to its offense in limbo.
Darius (Tig) Barksdale remains suspended pending the outcome of criminal charges in Batesville, Miss., stemming from his alleged involvement in an altercation in late May. Two other men also were charged.
The sophomore running back who was JSU’s third-leading rusher last season was expected to offer a strong complement to Washaun Ealey, the Georgia transfer who will be made available today for his first public comments since joining the Gamecocks in early June.
Now, it’s uncertain whether Barksdale will be able to rejoin the team.
Gamecocks head coach Jack Crowe, who enters his 11th season with a team heavily favored to win the Ohio Valley Conference title, has refrained from commenting on the case, but previously had expressed frustration over the lack of consistent and credible information.
Barksdale reportedly has no attorney and cases handled by the public defender are said to be backlogged for months. At the very least, Crowe would like some insight that could help lead the player to getting back into school — any school, if not JSU — in time for the start of classes Aug. 29. And then there’s the question of the shape he’d be in if he does return. The Gamecocks’ season opener is Sept. 1.
The file has been turned over to 17th District Attorney John Champion’s office to see if the case merits sending to the grand jury to determine if there’s enough evidence for trial, but Champion told The Star Tuesday it would be at least Aug. 22 before he could review it. The next scheduled grand jury seating in Batesville is Sept. 14-15.
As for the players who will be in camp gearing for the opener against OVC foe UT Martin, a list that includes quarterback Marques Ivory and five preseason All-OVC picks, they can expect a fast-moving first few days. Practice begins Friday.
With arguably more depth at more positions than ever in his tenure, Crowe intends to use the first week to pare the roster to a workable number.
“There’s more competition to play on this team by far than we’ve ever had,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a position that there’s not some degree to it. We’re going to make some pretty quick, but significant, decisions about who we’re working with – and there could be some real contests getting to them.
“Do we have a pecking order and assessments we work from? Yes, but it can change based on what happens in practice. We’re not going into this with our minds made up. That’s what this is about. We may be talking one way about one and Day Five it changes. There’s a lot I don’t know about some of those offensive people. Early on from an evaluation standpoint there will be some very critical assessments regarding the depth chart.”
The most critical decisions will come within the offensive line; it’s by far the most unsettled position on the team. Last year it was an uncertain position because injuries to their most experienced players made it a patchwork group all season. This year, it’s a rebuilding project.
“That’s where our August has to make a difference, in that offensive line,” Crowe said.
The quarterback spot that line must protect goes five deep with Ivory, Coty Blanchard, fifth-year senior Thomas Darrah, Steven Coates and newcomer Kyle West. It won’t be that crowded for long.
“It’ll be the two pretty quick, (but) it’s not a closed issue,” Crowe said. “They’ve been told what the situation is. It’s not like they were recruited with some unreal picture of their situation.”