JACKSONVILLE — After nine straight days of practice, Jacksonville State got a break Friday. They’ll get a break Sunday, too.
Saturday, however, they’re set for their first scrimmage of the preseason, and while the workout likely won’t yield any great revelations, it’ll be another chance for coaches to evaluate their players as they try to decide who’ll play where and how much.
Also, this is a chance to test players in as close to game-like conditions as you can get in practice.
“I’ll be interested to see how they respond because it’s one thing to be in a practice situation where people around you can help you and get you lined up, but when it’s live scrimmage, there’s nobody out there,” JSU offensive coordinator Jim Ogle said.
He was discussing the Gamecocks’ running backs at the time, but his words could apply to any position on the field.
“We would like to get up there to 90 plays or more and really see where we are,” JSU head coach John Grass said after Thursday’s practice. “We’re excited to see some of these young guys that we are talking about playing and seeing them with live bullets. We will do some to-the-ground stuff but not for the whole scrimmage.”
Here are five questions JSU’s coaches might have as they scrimmage their team:
JSU head coach John Grass likely won’t make a decision on how to handle extra points and field goals until game week, but a candidate could do himself some good.
So far, sophomore punter Jason Pierce, junior Parker Holland and sophomore Bryant Wallace are in the running. Wallace kicked a couple of extra points in a game last year.
Also, JSU will need somebody to kick off, because that job is open, too. It’s certainly possible that three different people win positions — one to punt, one to kick extra points and field goals, and one to kick off.
What? In what possible way is the Gamecocks’ quarterback situation any sort of question mark?
Zerrick Cooper, the preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference offensive player of the year, is back as the starter, while Zion Webb, a trusted backup who could win big as the top guy, has returned, too.
After that, however, JSU still needs to sort out the order, just in case. Sixth-year senior Dalton Etheridge is in the running. He was with JSU’s football team in 2014, when he redshirted, and 2015, when he appeared in nine games. He also played baseball for the Gamecocks in 2015 and 2016. He transferred to West Georgia, then back to JSU in 2018 when he had to sit out as a transfer student. Now, he’s back on the football field, trying to win playing time.
True freshman A.C. Graham and redshirt freshmen Jake Wisener and Chapelle Wade are in the hunt for the job.
3. Running back
There are six candidates, including three who played a decent amount last year: Jaelen Greene, Michael Matthews and Uriah West.
There’s also redshirt freshman Austin Kinsey, redshirt freshman Kelvin Wallace II and sophomore Colton Shirley. JSU would like to play three.
4. Up front
As always, Jacksonville State wants to play physical up front, and part of that mindset comes from confidence.
This is another chance for the young offensive and defensive lines to work on technique, chemistry and aggressiveness.
As Ogle said, this is a good chance to see how players handle being on the field without someone a few yards away, yelling instructions.
They either get it done or they don’t. The young guys who do will get more chances in the preseason to show they deserve playing time.