Jacksonville, Ala. – Ten days after the start of camp for the Jacksonville State football team, head coach Jack Crowe likes what he has seen so far from one of his most experienced units, the offensive line.
Jacksonville State used the last half of its Wednesday evening practice to scrimmage on Burgess-Snow Field, giving an offensive line that returns five players that have started for JSU its most intense work so far in the preseason. The Gamecocks’ 12th-year head coach has been pleased so far with his line, a group that he says will be the key to the Gamecocks’ success in 2012.
“We are going to have to control the ball on offense, and we are going to have to do that by running the football,” Crowe said. “We are going to have to keep our offense on the field and give our defense a chance to learn and grow. If there is a tone to this season, it is that we have to run the ball behind those guys to be able to build everything else into where it ought to be.”
Anchoring the line is a pair of seniors that have received accolades in Tori Mobley and Odie Rush. Mobley, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound native of Columbus, Ga., is a Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, an honor Rush received before a leg injury postponed his senior season from 2011 to this year. A 6-foot-3, 293-pound native of Starkville, Miss., Rush returns to play his senior season this year, replacing the only starter lost from last year in Michael Ellis.
“We are working with seven or eight guys there, but we have five who have played. That would be the most experienced group on this football team outside of wide receiver. It tells you something about our football team when your most experienced unit has three sophomores in it, but those three sophomores all played as freshmen so we know they can play.”
Those sophomores are Blake Burks, Tarik Milner and Max Holcombe, all three of which were at the top of the depth chart by season’s end last season. That experience is something Crowe thinks will be valuable to the Gamecocks as a team in their second season.
“That experience means everything, because if you have an experienced team that is always where you want your core to be,” Crowe said. “Defenses win championships, but when they play their best is when they are sitting down on the bench and our offense is on the field. They can’t be scored on in that situation, and the way you do that is to control the ball with your offensive line.”
The offensive line has responded like veterans so far this fall and has been a bright spot in Crowe’s eyes just halfway through the second week of preseason drills.
“So far in camp, that group has shown me hard work and commitment,” Crowe added. “We haven’t had as tough a preseason. We haven’t had the intense heat and I really have not set a heavy pace of contact before today, but that changed today. So far, we have left it mostly to learning and focusing on points of execution, and, through that, we have every indication our offensive line is going to be where it needs to be.”
The Gamecocks will practice twice on Thursday and once on Friday before their annual Fan Day on Saturday. The event will start at 11 a.m. at Burgess-Snow Field and admission is free. All players will be available for autographs and free schedule posters will be provided. Also in attendance will be the Marching Southerners, JSU’s cheerleaders and Cocky. Following Fan Day, the Gamecocks will hold a full scrimmage that will be open to the public.
Courtesy JSU Media Relations