Jacksonville State Football enters 2014 at number 5 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 11-4 (5-3) Ohio Valley Conference
For the 11th straight season, Jacksonville State posted a winning record in 2013; the third longest active streak in FCS football. The Gamecocks tasted victory 11 times en route to the FCS quarterfinals where their season ended at the hands of Eastern Washington. It was the first and last season for head coach Bill Clark, who took the top job at JSU after four seasons as the South Alabama defensive coordinator, and moved on to coach Alabama-Birmingham in 2014.
-Bill Clark Head Coach
-Harris Gaston OLB – 57 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks
-Robert Gray OLB – 67 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FFs
-Ketrick Wolfe LB – 68 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FFs
-Brenton Tolson LB – 63 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs
-Rashad Smith LB – 69 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF
-Brandon Bender DB – 101 tackles, 3 TFL, 5 pass defences, 3 FFs
-Pierre Warren S – 76 tackles, 5 INTs, 12 pass breakups, 17 pass defences, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick
-Griffin Thomas PK – All-American, 24-32 FGs, 75%, Long 52
What to Watch For
Offense – Ten of eleven starters are back. Quarterback Max Shortell and his athletic backup/athlete option Eli Jenkins, all five top receivers, and all three top rushers. These guys are gonna light some people up.
Linebacker Problems – The Gamecocks graduated every starting linebacker. Smith, Wolfe, Gray, Tolson, and Gaston were five of the top seven tacklers on the team, and safety Pierre Warren was number two overall. Safety Brandon Bender would have been a junior and a de facto leader after his 101 tackles lead the team last season, but he’s gone as well.
Jacksonville State was in the top ten in the FCS in several statistical categories last season: red zone offense (#8 – 88.6%), first downs (#6 – 343), and defensive passing efficiency (#6 – 105.25) – a pretty diverse group of statistics. The offensive numbers can only improve with so many starters returning just as the former offensive coordinator, John Grass, is promoted to the top job. Expect the Gamecocks to light up the scoreboard this fall, and hope their brand new linebacking corps and defensive backfield can stop their opponents from doing the same.