HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Jacksonville.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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Jacksonville (2-8 IN 2018)
Pioneer Football League (JU finished 10th in 2018)
COACH: Ian Shields – At School: 4th year (14-17) Overall: 8th year (38-38)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 28.4 ppg. (53rd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 38.7 ppg. (110th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 2 vs. Stetson: This was a 38-35 loss at Stetson last year, a team that finished tied for second in the conference with a 6-2 record. Jacksonville had a number of close losses in 2018, and a game like this will tell us if this team has improved.
SUM IT UP: The Dolphins saw a drop in the wins column from 2017 to last year, going from 7-4 overall to 2-8 and from 5-3 in the conference to 1-7. Three of those losses, which all came in a row at the start of October, were by seven points or less. With six offensive starters coming back and seven starters returning on defense, Jacksonville looks to turn those close losses into wins.
The pieces are in place offensively, starting with quarterback Calvin Turner Jr. The Dolphins finished third in the FCS last season with 3,453 total yards rushing. A year after playing defensive back, Turner took over at QB and rushed for 1,431 yards and 17 TDs. The strong rushing attack also brings back its No. 2 rusher Garnett Nicolas and No. 3 rusher Irvin Riley. Nicolas was a 2018 HERO Sports Freshman All-American.
A key for the offense is filling in three spots on the line. Only two starters return up front: Dane Cordell and Logan Langemeier.
To get back to being competitive, the defense needs to improve after being toward the bottom of the FCS with 38.7 points allowed per game. The linebacking core has solid starting experience coming back with Caysaun Wakeley, Ethan Hull and Cedric Wilcox. Wakeley is the top returning tackler after he totaled 54 last year, which ranked third on the team.
OUR TAKE: This is a program that's used to having success. The last time the Dolphins were below .500 was 2013. They bounced back in 2014 and 2015 with 9-2 records. While the 2019 squad may not hit nine wins, we do expect this team to improve to around .500 in conference play.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./QB Calvin Turner Jr. (All-PFL Honorable Mention, 1,431 yards rushing and 17 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: So./RB Garnett Nicolas (2018 HERO Sports Freshman All-American, rushed for 718 yards and 9 TDs); Jr./OL Dane Cordell (All-PFL HM); Sr./LB Caysaun Wakeley (All-PFL HM, 54 tackles); Sr./DB CJ Lewis (All-PFL HM, led team with 8 PD); Sr./RB Irvin Riley (421 yards rushing and 5 TDs)
THE QUOTE: "I thought the defense got the better of it…I thought our guys were flying around on defense and were really active. I think we made some real strides on that side of the football and it was nice for our defensive guys to go validate that in the Spring Game," he said. — head coach Ian Shields said after the spring game
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Jacksonville Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The PFL
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast