Jacksonville State Gamecocks Q&A

So far this off-season we’ve previewed over 80 FBS schools but every once in a while we like to profiile the teams that interest us the most in the FCS. Earlier this off-season we learned a little bit about the Georgia State Panthers and the Georgia Southern Eagles and now it’s time to shine the spotlight on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Many of you probably remember the Gamecocks from last years thrilling OT victory over the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Gamecocks made it into the FCS playoffs last year but were upended by Wofford 17-14. This year should be a very interesting year once again for Jacksonville State as they welcome two high profile SEC transfers in Georgia’s Washaun Ealey and Ole Miss LB Clarence Jackson. I bet there will be some interesting conversations between Clarence and his new teammates, what do you think? Ole Miss is not on the schedule this year but Kentucky is. What does 2011 have in store for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks? We talked to the guys over at the Jacksonville State based website Gamecock Illustrated to get their thoughts on the 2011 Gamecocks.

Jacksonville State had a good run last year as they pulled off a shocker at Ole Miss in week one and made it to the FCS Playoffs. What were your favorite memories from last year?

The Ole Miss win was my favorite memory without a doubt. To overcome all of the odds and make a great comeback to win that game was a once in a lifetime experience. Another great moment was a last minute, long touchdown pass from Marques Ivory to James Shaw that gave the Gamecocks the win over UT Chattanooga.

The Gamecocks get a big name transfer this year in Washaun Ealey from Georgia. Ealey led the Dawgs in rushing the last two years but had some issues on and off the field. What kind of impact do you expect from him this year? 

Ealey will have a huge impact. If he can average over 5 yards per carry in the SEC, he should average over six in the OVC.   Washaun wants to prove to the folks at Georgia how good he can be.  His biggest problem last year was fumbling and our coaching staff really preaches ball security.

In addition to Ealey, Jacksonville State was also the landing spot of Ole Miss LB Clarence Jackson. How does he fit into the teams plans this year?

We understand Jackson was going to start for Ole Miss this year so he will probably start for JSU.  He is a runner and a hitter.  His youtube highlights from high school are amazing.  JSU has some other very talented linebackers in Rashad “Spiderman” Smith, Brannan Byrd and James Powell.  Athletically, these guys match up very favorably against linebackers from FBS schools.

For those that didn’t follow Jacksonville State tell us a little about the best players on this team. 

On offense, Ealey should do great things.  We also love our starting fullback, who used to be a tailback, Calvin Middleton. Middleton is a workhorse that will be a big time rushing threat at tailback.  Our quarterback is Marques Ivory, who lost thirty pounds in the offseason, and has a ton of experience.  Another explosive player is backup QB and punter, Coty Blanchard, who was responsible for much of the heroics at Ole Miss.  Blanchard is probably the best “fake punter” in the country.  At quarterback he is a big time dual threat and the Gamecocks don’t give up much when he replaces Ivory.

On defense, we love Abbeville, Alabama native, Monte Lewis who plays Defensive End for the Gamecocks.  Lewis is preseason OVC co-defensive player of the year and should be playing on Sundays in the near future. Another great player is Rodney “Big Texas” Garrott.  Garrott plays kind of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position for the Gamecocks. He is relentless and also one of the best trash talkers on the team.  In the middle of the defensive line, Jamison Wadley, is just country strong.  He has a mean streak similar to Bill Goldberg that played for Georgia in the 80s before going on to bigger fame as a pro wrestler.  We think our defensive line could be really good this year.

Who are some under the radar guys who were on last years team that we should keep an eye on?

We actually did a blog post on this a few weeks back.  JSU got an FBS transfer named Trey Smith, a wide receiver from Perry, Georgia  that is 6-4 and over 200 pounds.  He exploded for over 100 yards in the spring game.  I think that FCS cornerbacks are going to be presented with real matchup problems when they face him.  Another explosive player that has not played yet is wide receiver Gabriel “Country” Chambers, Blanchard’s high school teammate.    On defense, a guy that has not received a lot of publicity but is a beast is Dimetrio Tyson.  He has really beefed up and should be a dominant interior defensive lineman.  Finally, as mentioned above, another player that could burst on the scene is Rashad Smith.  He received Gulf Coast MVP honors in high school and originally committed to NC State before winding up at JSU.

What do you see as the most important games on the schedule this year?

In my view, the most important game is the home opener against UT Martin.  It is a conference game and if you get down early in the OVC it is hard to come back.  The next most important game is Murray State.  They are an up and coming team in our league and JSU will have to travel to Murray to beat them.  Of course, if we beat Kentucky, Commissioner Slive has promised JSU an invitation to join the SEC!

What is your gut feeling on the final record and what makes this season a success in your eyes?

The Gamecocks should finish 10-1 with the only loss being Kentucky.  With the addition of Ealey, Jacksonville State should be able to return to its historic personality which is a smash mouth running game.  The coaches won’t talk about it, but I think our defense is going to be one of the best in the FCS.   Winning the OVC would be a success in my book and anything on top of that would be icing on the cake.

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