#6 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2015 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Overall Rank: #6
#1 Ohio Valley

Jacksonville State

Jacksonville State Team Page


After falling at Michigan State 45-7 in their season opener, Jacksonville State reeled off ten straight wins heading into the playoffs. That successful regular season gave the Gamecocks the #3 overall seed in the playoffs, but they were upset at home in their opener against Sam Houston State. This is still the team to beat in the Ohio Valley Conference though and the last time an OVC team went undefeated in conference play in back-to-back years was Murray State back in 1995 and 1996.

2014 Record: 10-2, 8-0
2014 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Grass (10-2 at Jacksonville State, 10-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Grass
Defensive Coordinator: David Blackwell, Brandon Hall

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Troymaine Pope, RB, 715 yards
Passing: Eli Jenkins, QB, 1,870 yards
Receiving: Josh Barge, WR, 919 yards
Tackles: Folo Johnson, S, 71
Sacks: LaMichael Fanning, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: DeBarriaus Miller, S, 4; Jermaine Hough, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Miles Jones, WR Ruben Gonzalez, WR Markis Merrill, TE Bo Brummel, OL Justin Lea, OL Adam Wright, CB Jaylen Hill, DE Chris Landrum, P Hamish MacInnes

Key Losses: RB DaMarcus James, OL Max Holcombe, LB Ben Endress, LB Michael Carlisle, DL Caleb Lawrence

The Jacksonville State defense ranked first or second in the conference in just about every major statistical category. There are a couple key departures, most notably linebacker Ben Endress and lineman Caleb Lawrence, but Coach John Grass has plenty of talent to build around. The defensive line will be one of the best in the FCS, led by tackle Devaunte Sigler and ends Chris Landrum and LaMichael Fanning. Take your pick among those guys as far as who is the most dangerous. Sigler was named the conference’s preseason defensive player of the year and Fanning, who used to play at Alabama, is a superb talent. The secondary boasts four returning starters. Cornerback Jermaine Hough and safety DeBarriaus Miller tallied four interceptions a piece in 2014 and Jaylen Hill added three more. And free safety Folo Johnson is the team’s top returning tackler with 71 stops. It is at linebacker where the most help is needed, but there are experienced seniors like Dawson Wells and Santavious Oden who should be ready to pick up the slack.

Jacksonville State could take a small step backwards without top running back DeMarcus James. He rushed for 1,151 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. But the Gamecocks had two other backs who each had 123 carries last season. Troymaine Pope rushed for 715 yards and six touchdowns, while Miles Jones added 630 yards and seven scores. Those two got plenty of experience last season and are capable of handling an even bigger work load. The three running backs were a big reason why Jacksonville State ranked fourth in the FCS in rushing offense, but quarterback Eli Jenkins helped too. He rushed for 698 yards and six touchdowns. Perhaps Jacksonville State will take a step back in the rushing offense without James, but they should still be the best ground attack in the OVC. Jenkins does need to throw on occasion too. He completed 57.2 percent of his pass attempts for 1,870 yards and 12 touchdowns. The nine interceptions were a bit of a problem and the Gamecocks had a negative turnover ratio in 2014. If Jenkins and the offense can take better care of the ball, Jacksonville State will be able to keep the ball on the ground more and control the game, even against the better competition.

The Bottom Line:
Jacksonville State has a lot to prove come playoff time, but there is a long way to go before that. A season opening trip to Chattanooga, a team that they beat in overtime last year, will be a good measuring stick for both teams. Other nonconference games are against Auburn and Mississippi Valley State. A Halloween home game against Eastern Kentucky and a trip to Eastern Illinois a week later are the two games that will likely test Jacksonville State’s hopes for another 8-0 season.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 285.3 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 225.4 (47, 4)
Total Offense: 510.8 (4, 1)
Scoring Offense: 21.7 (26, 1)
Rushing Defense: 127.7 (23, 1)
Pass Defense: 189.8 (28, 2)
Total Defense: 317.4 (17, 2)
Scoring Defense: 21.7 (26, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.17 (66, 3)
Sacks: 2.25 (47, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.50 (36, 3)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#10 Shi'kim Coward
#111 Mason McLean
#192 Katavious Taylor


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