Youth Shines In Dolphins' First Scrimmage

Aug. 24, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Dolphins football team held its first scrimmage on Saturday at the Ashley Sports Complex on the JU campus. The Dolphins had a special teams scrimmage in the morning and a 60-play scripted scrimmage with referees in the afternoon. The afternoon session was attended by about 200 fans, the most for a JU scrimmage in the five-year history of the program. The Dolphins are scheduled to scrimmage again on Friday at 4 p.m. at D.B. Milne Field.

The starting offense was effective moving the ball despite playing with two freshmEn on the line, including centers Barry Johnson (Casselberry, Fla.) and Phil Skandaliaris (Oldsmar, Fla.). Freshmen Matt Cheeseman (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and Josue Sanchez (Middleburg, Fla.) also rotated with the first team.

Freshman quarterback Mike Sturgill (Vero Beach, Fla.) was effective both throwing the ball and running. He completed 8-of-12 passes, while rushing for 15 yards, including a 12-yard bootleg on which the Dolphins scored a touchdown. He also sat in the pocket and delivered a 12-yard pass to Julio Santiago (Jacksonville, Fla.) and hit senior wideout Jon Turner (Melbourne, Fla.) on a beautiful 23-yard grab on an out pattern. "He has a ways to go, but he is way ahead of the learning curve", says fifth year head coach Steve Gilbert. "We was poised and in control, and made some good decisions. We still have two weeks and he will continue to improve each day."

Junior tailback Emmett Akins (Largo, Fla.), who rushed for 397 yards last year behind All-American Brent Alexander, looked overpowering in the scrimmage rushing five times for 34 yards. On his first carry, he gained 14 yards while running over three defensive players and dragging two players for the final five yards. He also had a nine-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 and followed that with a three-yard gain on fourth-and-1.

The defense was effective early in the drives, but tired as the drive reached eight to 10 plays. It is not unusual at this early point in camp, but defensive coordinator Shap Boyd would like to see the defense in better shape and would like the first team to play with more enthusiasm and energy. Junior defensive end Derek Roberts (Alpharetta, Ga.) and junior defensive tackle Paul Pierson (Jacksonville, Fla.) were effective getting to the quarterback and knocking down passes. Freshman nose guard Tyrone Bethea (Jacksonville, Fla.) played with both the first and second teams and was disruptive all day.

Senior cornerback Linj Shell (Orlando, Fla.) had a couple of sacks off the end. Junior defensive back Charlton Williams (Lynn Haven, Fla.) was playing both free safety and cornerback, which was one of the reasons he was so tired toward the end. Williams is trying to fill the void left by the graduation of All-American free safety Tyrone Wright, and is also the Dolphins' first back-up cornerback. The second defense played with great energy and was able to make some stops to end drives. Former tight end Justin Knowles (Perry, Fla.) made a couple of stops behind the line from the end position, as did linebacker Denzil Alleyne (Clewiston, Fla.).

Senior wide receiver Jon Turner showed why we was an All-Pioneer Football League performer last season. Turner caught four balls for 48 yards, including a 23-yard leaping catch over free safety Charlton Williams. Turner also made a nice grab on a screen and turned a one-yard loss into a nine-yard gain on his first reception of the scrimmage.

The Dolphins' three tight ends - Andrew Bianchi (Tallassee, Ala.), James Willman (Ocala, Fla.) and Eldin Ferguson (Riviera Beach, Fla.) - all had a good scrimmage. The Dolphins showed several different looks, including double tight ends and using the tight end out of the backfield as a blocker and receiver. Bianchi had a seven-yard grab, while Ferguson had a 14-yard catch out of the backfield on the first possession playing with the second team.

For the most part the Dolphins were free of penalties during the 60-play scrimmage, which is unusual for a young team so early in the camp. JU did not have a penalty until the 30th play, but finished with six as the players got tired.

The Dolphins worked on the kicking game in the morning special teams scrimmage. At this point, redshirt freshman Ross Shmunes (Jacksonville, Fla.) has the edge on the Dolphins' extra points and field goals, while sophomore linebacker Jason Bense (Panama City, Fla.) is handling the kickoff duties. Senior punter Brett Keener (Melbourne, Fla.) is entering his fourth season as JU's starting punter.

Several newcomers stood out during their first scrimmage. Sturgill, who is penciled in as the Dolphins' starting quarterback, was very effective, as was freshman nose guard Tyrone Bethea (Jacksonville, Fla.). Bethea was disruptive all day, both with the first and second teams. Ferguson had a 14-yard catch and was effective blocking, while redshirt freshman Chris Fairchild (Dunedin, Fla.) had several good plays from his linebacker position with the second team.

Redshirt freshman Chad Davis (Tallahassee, Fla.), who is the Dolphins' number two running back, was held out while nursing an aggravated ankle. He should be back at full speed by Tuesday...Senior guard Donald Mattis (Lake Wales, Fla.) is out up to six weeks with a sprained knee, but has chance of making it back by the season opener on Sept. 7 if things go well.

Three of the four quarterbacks had bootleg runs of more than 10 yards, including a 13-yard gain by back-up Kyle Hicks (Jacksonville, Fla.) on the first play of the scrimmage...junior defensive back Tino Delacruz (Jacksonville, Fla.), who is the Dolphins' oldest player at 32 after serving 11 years in the Navy (he is a lieutenant), made an interception on the final play of the scrimmage.