James key as Jax State opens practice

rp_primary__DSC0230JACKSONVILLE – The Bill Clark era at Jacksonville State begins on Friday with the first of 15 spring football practice dates and culminating on April 12 with the annual J-Day Game.

The Gamecocks, who finished the 2012 campaign with a 6-5 mark, will be learning new offensive and defensive schemes with the addition of Clark’s nine new members of the Jax State coaching staff.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Clark. “We’ve been working since January on weights, conditioning, speed work, and agilities to get ready to go out tomorrow. This is new, it’s the first time our staff will get to go out and see our players with the pads on. It’s just an exciting time for us.”

Offensively, JSU’s leading rusher, DaMarcus James returns after a stellar sophomore campaign. The Demopolis native rushed for 867 yards and scored six touchdowns. James nearly averaged 100 yards on the ground with a 96.3 per game average. Joining him in the backfield is sophomore Troymaine Pope, a native of Anniston, who gives the Gamecocks an experienced rushing attack. Pope played in seven games as a true freshman and finished with 256 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown and he also added a receiving touchdown.

Telvin Brown, who had 11 catches in his first season in a Gamecock uniform, along with Gabriel Chambers will give new offensive coordinator John Grass a variety of pieces to work with this spring as he installs the new Gamecock offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, JSU brings back a solid group of players who saw action early on in their Jax State career. Rising senior Rashad Smith has led JSU in tackles the last two seasons after recording 89 stops as a junior in 2012. He also had tive tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one interception and a sack. Joining Smith at linebacker is junior Ben Endress, who finished with 85 tackles last fall, including 53 solo stops.

First-year defensive coordinator Duwan Walker will also have depth in the defensive secondary with Jermaine Hough and Rashad Byers combining for five of the nine pick offs by the Jax State secondary. Byers finished third on the team with 56 tackles, while Hough led the team with three interceptions to go along with his 42 tackles and six tackles for loss.

The Gamecocks will practice on March 10, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21 and 22 before taking off for spring break the week of March 23, before returning to the field in early April. After the break, the Gamecocks will take to the field on April 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, in preparation for the final day of practice on April 12.

The annual J-Day game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium, and admission will be free.

Clark and his staff will host a high school coaching clinic on March 21-22 for area high school coaches to learn from coaching legends Joe Kines and Burgess, in addition to the Gamecock coaches. Thursday’s schedule will include the featured speakers and a coaches social, while Friday will feature a FCA Breakfast and clinic, followed by hands on fundamental instruction practice.

For more information on the coaching clinic please contact the JSU Football Office at 256-782-5365.

Football season tickets will go on-sale Monday, March 18, and will be available through the JSU Athletic Ticket Office in Kennamer Hall, online at JSUGamecockSports.com, or by calling 256-782-8499.