Monday, March 30, 2009


Today, we’re taking a look at the offensive line. Gone from last year are Keith Gergel and Al Jefferson, literally, the right side of our line. They were solid last year, with Gergel taking 2nd Team All-OVC honors. In losing Gergel to graduation, we lost not only a 6’4”, 302 lb tackle, but someone that played in 37 of 43 games over the last 4 seasons, starting in 30 of those games. Al Jefferson also graduates. Jefferson was a starter at guard for the last 3 full seasons. That’s a lot of games to replace, but the offensive line will be in good hands.

Late last week, I got a chance to talk by phone with Offensive Line Coach, Scott Smouse. Coach Smouse graduated from Appalachian State University in 2000, and then spent one season as a graduate assistant at Duke University, where he worked with the defense. He earned his master’s degree in Kinesiology from LSU in 2005. Smouse then spent two years at LSU as a graduate assistant, working with the offensive line, under Nick Saban, winning the BCS National Championship in 2003. Coach Smouse shared some of his thoughts about the offensive line for the 2009 season.

What starters are coming back?

Anchoring the O-Line at center, will be senior Reggie Wade (6’1”, 285). Before coming to JSU, Wade played at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He played in the Triumphant Sports Bowl in 2007, which is a junior college all-star game. Coach Smouse on Reggie - “Center is the toughest position on the offensive line, and Reggie did an excellent job for us last year. Reggie is a leader.”

Rising junior Curt Porter, (6’7”, 290) will start at left tackle again for the 2009 season. Smouse said of Porter, “Curt is a solid player. He did a great job last year. He started every game. We’ll miss the leadership of Keith Gergel. He was like having a coach on the field. But with Curt Porter and Reggie Wade, we’ll have great leadership. As a group, we’ll be better”. Porter was being recruited by SEC schools until suffering a knee injury. He has great size and ability.

Matt Jones, (6’3”, 305) started every game as a true freshman last season at left guard. Jones played at Hoover High School and was a second-team All-State selection as a senior, helping the Bucs advance to the Class 6A Championship game. He was also a member of Hoover’s 2005 Class 6A Championship team, so he knows what it takes to win. Coach Smouse said, “Matt did a great job, starting every game as a true freshman. You never know how that will work; going from high school to college competition, but Matt stepped right in. Matt will have another good season.”

Who steps up?

I asked Coach Smouse what we should expect to see this year, and who will step up to replace Gergel and Jefferson. He said, “We have some players who are ready to step in and contribute. I’ve seen good things from Tori Mobley (6’3”, 280). He will be a redshirt-freshman. We’re working him at right and left tackle, trying to find the best fit.”

Coach Smouse also mentioned Justin Kay (6’3”, 290). "Justin is working at right tackle and guard. He’s from Vestavia Hills and he’s really doing a great job. Justin will be a junior. We’ll see him contribute on the line this year.” Justin transferred to JSU after originally playing at Army.

Tyler Chambers (6’3”, 290, rising sophomore) and Tyler Ogletree (6’1”, 295, rising junior) both saw playing time last season. They’re both working hard now to get ready for next season.” Of note, Chambers originally committed to Marshall.

As I attended the scrimmage on Saturday, I saw Devon Hayes (6’5”, 310, rising junior) getting plenty of action at guard. Taylor Chambers (6’3”, 280) also got in on the action. A couple of other players to watch are center Josh Carroll (6’1”, 290, rising senior) and guards Matt Washington (6’3” 275, rising junior), and Mark Bounds (6’2”, 290).

The offensive line looks big and experienced for next season. In addition, there is depth, something we really didn’t have last year. Coach Smouse added, “We were able to redshirt six players last season. They will all be available this year. We’re much deeper now than we were in the fall.” The depth gives us the luxury of working in some rotations, which will mean fresher legs on those 4th quarter drives. I am hoping to get a look at a depth chart once things fall into place after spring drills. While talking about depth, I asked about signees. We will have Ricky Clemons (6’5”, 300) and Colt Kennedy (6’6”, 290) coming in as freshmen. Smouse told me, “It’s too early to tell right now (about playing time for the upcoming season), but they’ve got some talent. We just need to get them here and take a look. We need to see them work against college talent.”

Overall, we have a good balance of seasoned veterans and others with varying levels of game experience. Even the guys with little to no college game experience are prepared to step up. The emphasis on signing linemen is expected to pay off over the next couple of years. And this season, we could really use some people stepping up into big roles. We start off with GA Tech again, and it doesn’t get any easier the next week at Florida State. Coach Smouse added, “The schedule doesn’t do us any favors this year. We’re comfortable playing in Paul Snow Stadium, and we start off this coming season with four straight games on the road.” He says they will be ready for the challenge though.

As we were concluding our call, Coach Smouse mentioned the running game. “I’m excited because we have some very talented running backs. High-quality running backs can make an offensive line look good.” A superior line can make a running back look good, too. My amateur assessment is that we are in great shape on the O-line for the coming season.

JSU 86

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Picture slideshow from yesterday's scrimmage

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JSU 86

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gamecock Scrimmage

I went to the scrimmage today at 1 PM, and wanted to share a few random thoughts.

Ryan Perrilloux looked sharp today. He looks like he is in top form - the most sought after quarterback in the nation coming out of high school. He led the team to 3 first half touchdowns (by my count - just a practice scrimmage, so no scoreboard). Great reads, great passes. I think we'll see the advantage of having our qb at spring practice this year.

Alphonso Freeney went down with an apparent knee injury. We hope it's not too serious, but no official word yet.

First half - not many yards available between the tackles. Second half was different. Offensive line opened some holes and looked good.

Brandon George had a good practice.

We have some backs that can make the tackler miss. Hopefully, we'll find ways to get them the ball in open space. Remember the name Jamal Young. I think we will see some amazing things from him before too long.

We had at least three completed passes over 40 yards. I'm going by memory, which is getting shorter these days.

Overall, it was a very encouraging day. The O-Line is working well together. Next week, I'm thinking of going back and focusing more on the defense. It's an open scrimmage at Paul Snow Stadium at 1 PM. See you there?

JSU 86

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


2008 - The Year in Review

A trademark of the Jack Crowe era at Jacksonville State has been a smash mouth, powerful running game. For years, the Gamecock faithful were spoiled by one dominant runner after another. In 2003, it was Kory Chapman. Oscar Bonds picked up where he left off in 2004 and Clay Green led the charge in 2005 - 2006.

Inexplicably, there was a significant drop-off in 2007. Tailback by committee simply did not work and the Gamecocks did not have a runner gain over 510 yards on the season.

The running game returned to form under Coach Jimmy Ogle’s leadership in 2008. The Gamecocks finished second in the OVC in rushing led by hard nosed, downhill running Daniel Jackson who averaged over 80 yards per game (a particularly solid effort considering that he only ran for 29 yards against Georgia Tech). The Gamecocks statistics were all the more impressive considering that now departed Alabama transfer Tremayne Coger was injured for much of the first half of the year and then mysteriously left the team. The speed that Coger showed a glimpse of during the UTC game would have been a welcome addition to the Gamecock attack had Coger been able to stick it out at JSU. The Cocks also missed Sean Green who also left the team for personal reasons and were hurt by mid-season injuries to fullbacks Ronald Murray and Alphonso Freeney.

In my view, the most inspiring effort of the year came on the last drive of the season against Tennessee State in a game the Gamecocks thought they had to win to advance to the playoffs (you know the rest of that story). In any event, the Gamecocks took over with 5:38 remaining in the game and moved the ball 84 yards in 14 plays. It was simply inspired, hard nosed running aided by outstanding line play. The Gamecocks wanted it more.

Unfortunately, Jackson, the leader of the reinvigorated 2008 running attack is out of eligibility. If the Gamecocks can find another player with Jackson’s heart and desire, they should be ok. Coach Jimmy Ogle was kind enough to spend a few moments with me to talk about the upcoming year. Here’s a look at what’s in the cupboard at running back and fullback for 2009.

2009 - Preview

Who’s Back

The coaching staff feels good about the returning players, but must find the “go-to” guy for 09. Regardless of which back it is, there is no doubt the running game will benefit from a veteran offensive line, including four returning tight ends that have played in games.

A leading candidate to replace Jackson is Brandon George, a redshirt sophomore from Georgia football powerhouse Parkview High School. George’s high school career is a bit of a mystery - he did not appear on many recruiting lists and did not rack up big statistics for Parkview. However, George did not waste much time seizing the spotlight when given a chance to shine for the Cocks. In only his 4th carry from scrimmage, George showed off his high school track skills and took it 57 yards to the house against SEMO. George was solid the rest of the year but did not get much opportunity to show his wares with Jackson getting most of the running attempts when Perrilloux was not airing it out. Coach Ogle on George: “He is going to do nothing but get better . . . he wants to work as hard as he can every day . . . and he can run fast. . . Brandon has the ability if he breaks he can outrun some people.”

Aside from George, there is less reason for optimism among returning players. The red shirt will come off Nick Johnson from Fort Payne after a promising high school career, but time will only tell how he will perform on a bigger stage. Coach Ogle on Johnson: “Nick’s just a [redshirt] freshman. I’m excited to see him perform this year. We have to get him some confidence. . . . Nick spent most of the fall on our scout team and did some [good] things . . . Nick is going to contribute to our football team.”

Andrecus Lindley, who garnered considerable playing time last year despite not being on the Gamecock roster until August, also returns. While the name alone should be worth a few big runs, Lindley was only able to muster 73 yards on the season. Lindley seemed to run a bit tentatively in 08’ but my feeling is that with a full year under the tutelage of JSU’s outstanding strength and conditioning staff, Lindley will be much improved.

Given the dearth of experience at running back, the Cocks may look to fullbacks to carry an increased load or possibly move to tailback. A leading candidate in that department will be sophomore Calvin Middleton whom Coach Crowe described as “the best player we have ever signed at [fullback.]” Middleton got a lot of snaps as a freshman averaging 4.7 yards per carry, but with only sixteen carries. Coach Ogle on Middleton: “he has great vision and quickness.”
Alphonso Freeney is also returning. A bruising runner, Feeney ran for 169 yards on 29 carries in limited action last season. Coach Ogle on Freeney: “He makes plays with the ball and is a big part of what we do.”

The Gamecocks added a speedster to the mix in January when Jamal Young enrolled at the Friendliest Campus. Young is only 5’6 but rushed for over 1000 yards for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and was in the top 20 nationally among juco runners. Young’s size may prevent him from being an every down player, but if you want to see a playmaker check out his highlights on you tube. Coach Ogle on Young: “He’s a little guy, he’s tough, he’s physical and he can really run fast. He’s very quick.”

Is Help on the Way?

Credit goes to the coaching staff for bringing in a phenomenal class of backfield recruits. There is no question that these guys can help JSU win games in the future, but a couple have injuries to overcome.

Donald Prince, Aliceville High School. 5-11, 200. 4.5/40 Prince averaged over 200 yards per game his senior season (that is not a misprint) and was named to the West Alabama All Star squad. His outstanding play attracted interest from a host of SEC schools, including Auburn and Alabama. Unfortunately, a devastating knee injury ended his senior season and his hopes of signing with Alabama, but Jacksonville State’s coaching staff did not waiver. Prince told the Commercial Dispatch: “I feel like they really believe in me. I appreciate them for the chance they took on me. They didn’t have to do so I really appreciate it.” While Prince was quoted in the same article as saying he hoped to participate in two-a-days, it seems that a red or grayshirt is more likely given the youth and his injury. If he plays, look out - he’s a home run hitter with a hi-light film that’s a mile long.

Richard Freelon, Bruce H.S., Bruce, Mississippi. 6-0, 200. 4.5/40. Like Prince, another running back that seemed to be on the verge of signing with a major FBS college. Freelon was a first team all state player in football rich Mississippi and had recruiting interest from Ole Miss, Mississippi State and BYU. Freelon averaged over 200 y/p/g as a junior and rushed for 1756 his senior season. He was named Offensive Player of the Year by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. said: “Freelon could be one of the most underrated backs in the Southeast this year. . . A very sudden runner turning up field quickly.” He was rated the #36 player in Mississippi by Freelon is purportedly academically qualified. Hopefully, Mr. Freelon can contribute early and give JSU the speed burst out of the backfield it was missing last year. There is no doubt that he has a chance to play as a freshman.

Jahron Brown. East Paulding, H.S., 6-1, 215 4.6/40. Brown is a bruising fullback from the Metro Atlanta area who originally committed to Arkansas and was rated the #6 fullback in America by Rivals. Brown was recruited by Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State. had this to say about Brown: “A big, bruising running back that has the agility to play running back as well as fullback. Brown has excellent power and flexibility to pull through, around and over would be tacklers.” Brown is recovering from surgery, but if healthy could help the Gamecocks next fall. It seems that an FBS transfer at running back could really help JSU. There were rumors that we might get a transfer from Alabama, but that seems less likely now. You never know what might happen in the next couple of months. Last year a pretty good quarterback found his way to Jacksonville.

More to come...
We'll take a quick look at how spring practice is going, then on to preview the Offensive Line!

Go Cocks!!

JSU 88

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First day for a new blog...

This is our new blog. We hope you enjoy it. We’re just two guys that want to see JSU athletics experience sustained excellence. We’re not employed by the University. We don’t get paid by anyone for this. We’re certainly not “professional bloggers”. We did attend JSU back in the 80’s, and we have different levels of involvement since graduating. We were there when JSU basketball won the Division II National Championship. We had the longest winning streak in the nation that year. We had graduated, but did see the team play in a few games the year of the Division II Football National Championship. This blog is just a hobby for us…not affiliated with the University. We do this because we want to see more coverage, more discussion, and more interest in JSU athletics. We hope to bring more depth and more thought to JSU’s athletic teams, and ultimately, more support. How can JSU get more support from students, alumni, and the community? We hope we can do our part. We love JSU.

High interest in football is not unique to JSU, but to universities all across the south. We’ll write about other sports, but this blog will probably have a bend toward football. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the upcoming football season. We’ll begin with a preview by position. First up…running backs. Enjoy.

Go Cocks!