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Jacksonville State defense 'stocked' for title run
Jacksonville State football coach Jack Crowe is so proud of the Gamecock defense he just has to brag.
“We’re good on defense,” Crowe said Thursday during the program’s annual preseason media day.
Just how good are the Gamecocks? Crowe feels the defense has the potential to be memorable.
“Nobody is going to be stocked any better than what we’re stocked in the FCS on defense,” he stressed.
For JSU, it all starts up front with three seniors and a junior.
Team captain and former Etowah standout Jamison Wadley, a preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, anchors the front four. Wadley and junior Dimetrio Tyson, the expected starter at nose guard, provide athleticism inside while being bookended by seniors Monte Lewis and Rodney Garrott.
“If you can’t come off the edge and create pressure on the quarterback, and get vertical and still stop the run, you’re not going to be special,” Crowe said.
Behind all that experience up front sits some more experience and talent at linebacker with sophomore Clarence Jackson, a transfer who played as a true freshman for Ole Miss last season. Jackson is expected to make an immediate impact alongside another sophomore James Powell, who saw action in 11 games for the Gamecocks in 2010.
“These guys could all be tailbacks,” Crowe said of the mobility Jackson, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and Powell, at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, offer. “They’re all extremely athletic and extremely physical.”
A “deep and very talented” safety corps alongside a “thin, but talented” group of cornerbacks, round out the defense for Crowe.
Senior Jason Horton provides leadership at safety with junior Keginald Harris. Sophomore Robert Gray, a standout player at Collinsville High, is expected to compete for a starting position. Senior A.J. Davis is a three-year starter at cornerback where senior Jawaan Booker also will start. Both are expected to be pushed for their starting jobs by junior Francis Duncan.
Just because the defense returns so much experience, Crowe indicated opponents shouldn’t expect to see the same type formations from the Gamecocks who have a new defensive coordinator in Chris Boone, who also will coach linebackers.
“I think we’re going to take a different approach and new approach on defense,” Crowe said without elaborating on the details. The OVC isn’t new to Boone, who was the defensive coordinator at UT Martin the past five years.
The Skyhawks led the conference in total defense in 2010 when they allowed only 299.3 yards per game and ranked 12th nationally.
Wadley, who transferred to JSU after sitting out 2007 as a redshirt freshman at Southern Mississippi, said the defense would mix things up more but wouldn’t change too much from the 3-4 of the past.
“It’s just a little spicier,” he said. “It’ll just be a little more blitzing here and there.”
JSU, the preseason favorite to win the OVC, opens its season at home Sept. 1 against UT Martin.