#11 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2014 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Overall Rank: #11
#1 Ohio Valley
#11 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2014 Preview
Jacksonville State Team Page


Jacksonville State is coming off a great 2013 campaign and the hopes are very high heading into 2014. The Gamecocks were just 5-3 in Ohio Valley play, but they snuck into the playoffs and made some noise once there. JSU crushed Samford 55-14 in the first round and upset McNeese State 31-10 in the second round. In the quarterfinals, the team gave Eastern Washington a run for their money, but ended up losing 35-24. That success has led to a change of head coach though. Bill Clark left for UAB and Coach John Grass, who was the offensive coordinator for JSU in 2013, is taking over.

2013 Record: 11-4, 5-3
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Grass (0-0 at Jacksonville State, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Grass
Defensive Coordinator: David Blackwell, Brandon Hall

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: DeMarcus James, RB, 1,477 yards
Passing: Max Shortell, QB, 1,608yards
Receiving: Josh Barge, WR, 885 yards
Tackles: Harris Gaston, LB, 57
Sacks: Dustin Gayton, LB, 8.0
Interceptions: Rashod Byers, CB, 1; Jermaine Hough, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: QB Eli Jenkins, RB Troymaine Pope, RB Miles Jones, WR Anthony Johnson, WR Telvin Brown, WR Markis Merrill, OL Max Holcombe, DL Caleb Lawrence, DE Chris Landrum, P Hamish MacInnes

Key Losses: S Brandon Bender, S Pierre Warren, LB Rashad Smith, LB Ketrick Wolfe, LB Robert Gray, LB Brenton Tolson, K Griffin Thomas

The impressive offensive output was in large part due to freshman quarterback Eli Jenkins. With eight other starters back, this should be one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Jenkins split time with Max Shortell, who is also back, but quickly proved that he was a dynamic playmaker. Jenkins appeared in all but one game, starting eight, and threw for 887 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 953 yards and eight scores. His ability to make plays with his legs is hugely important for this team. But if Jenkins struggles, Coach Grass can call on Shortell, who threw for 1,608 yards in 2013. Josh Barge, Anthony Johnson and Telvin Brown will benefit from the experience under center. Barge was the most productive receiver, catching 58 passes for 885 yards. Johnson is a huge target at 6-4 and caught a team high four touchdowns as a freshman. Despite all the hype Jenkins will get, the true strength of this offense is running back DeMarcus James. He rushed for 1,477 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and is ready for another big year. Troymaine Pope is a talented and experienced backup for James.

This team is not going to win many low scoring games, but the defense does need to help out the offense against those tougher teams. In all four of JSU’s losses in 2013, the team allowed at least 31 points. The Jacksonville State defense will spend plenty of time in the backfield. Three starters are back to man the front four that helped this team rank fourth in the FCS in sacks. End Chris Landrum and tackle Caleb Lawrence combined for 11.0 sacks and 22 tackles-for-loss. But it is linebacker Dustin Gayton who led the team with 8.0 sacks. Jermaine Hough and Harris Gaston are a couple more experienced linebackers, although they will leave most of the blitzing to Gayton. The secondary will have to retool around cornerback Rashod Byers.

The Bottom Line:
Jacksonville State will start the season with a couple of tough road games at Michigan State and Chattanooga. If they lose both of those games, the Gamecocks will be playing catchup the rest of the year. With trips to Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky in OVC play, this team will certainly have to earn a trip to the playoffs.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 239.1 (12th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 202.2 (71, 4)
Total Offense: 441.3 (25, 2)
Scoring Offense: 35.2 (20, 2)
Rushing Defense: 197.7 (90, 6)
Pass Defense: 183.8 (17, 2)
Total Defense: 381.5 (57, 5)
Scoring Defense: 23.6 (36, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.4 (31, 4)
Sacks: 3.47 (4, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.67 (41, 3)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#13 E.J. Moss
#97 Michael Leonard
#140 Victor Nieves III
#142 Dalton Etheridge


See All College Sports Madness Top 44 FCS Football Previews