JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State opens its regular season in four weeks against Michigan State, its first FBS opponent since closing the 2012 season with Florida. Before the Gamecocks can kick off that game, they will go through preseason camp, and that began Friday night on campus.

“We wanted to beat the heat a little bit,” first-year JSU head coach John Grass said of the night workout. “Especially when our guys are in head gear, so there’s no sense in coming out here at 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and spending energy when you’re not in pads. It was a real good first night, and I thought it created energy.”

The decision did in fact create a lot of energy throughout the Gamecock team.

On a few occasions, running back DeMarcus James was dancing to a few songs being played over a sound system. Even when the offense and defense took reps against each other, there was a great sense of competitiveness.

Grass said he saw a lot of things he liked during the team’s first preseason practice.

“I thought people just knowing where to go, what to do was a good thing,” he said. “I thought it was a great first day, and we are further ahead than most people would expect.”

On the flip side, Grass wasn’t too worried about many mistakes because he is looking more at the big picture.

“In head gear, it’s hard to tell because they aren’t blocking and tackling,” he said. “As far as getting people lined up and getting them where they’re supposed to be, I thought we did a pretty good job, but we can get better.

“We missed a few throws on offense, but we made some throws. Defensively, we made some plays too. We just have to continue to get better every day.”

JSU running back Troymaine Pope was on the field and practicing after surgery a month ago on his arm.

“He’s back and looked good tonight. I’d say he’s 90 percent,” he said. “We’ll probably hold him back a little bit when we get pads on, but he looked good as far as running around catching the football, carrying the ball.”