TUESDAY, APRIL 01, 2003
Football Closes Spring Practice With Spirited Scrimmage
April 1, 2003
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The JU football team wrapped up its 2003 spring season with a 45-minute scrimmage on Monday. The Dolphins worked on executing their offense under first-year offensive coordinator Andy McCleod, as well as filling in some key positions on the defensive side of the ball.
"We made a smooth transition offensively," said head coach Steve Gilbert, who is preparing the Dolphins for their third season in the Pioneer Football League. "We have moved some players around, but the base of quarterback and running back are still solid."
Defensively, the Dolphins have some big holes to fill, including 3-of-4 defensive backs. JU had several key players miss the entire spring with injuries, including defensive linemen Jason Bense (Panama City, Fla.), Matt Kappelman (Jacksonville/Bishop Kenny) and Omar Platt (Tallahassee, Fla.), as well as linebacker Zell Robinson (Panacea, Fla.). Overall, Gilbert was pleased with the effort and spirit of the defense.
"We played with more emotion and enthusiasm this spring," said Gilbert, who is entering is sixth season as the Dolphins' head coach. "We are very young, but I am excited about the level of talent and athleticism we have on the defensive side of the ball." The Dolphins open the 2003 season at Lenoir-Rhyne on Sept. 6.
Quarterback: Freshman quarterback Mike Sturgill (Vero Beach, Fla.), who threw for 1,876 yards and 11 touchdowns during his first season, remains as the team's starter. He will have plenty of support with backups Kevin Haggerty (Parkland, Fla.), who played in three games last season, as well as junior Scott Hicks (Jacksonville/Episcopal), who also saw action in two games before suffering a rib injury. JU also adds sophomore Matt Kampfe (West Linn, Ore.), a 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman who sat out last season after transferring.
Running Back: The combination of Emmett Akins (Largo, Fla.) and Chad Davis (Tallahassee, Fla.) remains in tact for the Dolphins. Davis gained 931 all-purpose yards as a redshirt freshman, while Akins ran for a team-high 485 yards last season. Gilbert said they both had excellent springs.
Tight End: Starter Jimmy Willman (Ocala, Fla.) missed a good part of the spring drills after having shoulder surgery following the 2002 season. He will get some help from senior Justin Knowles (Greenville, Fla.), who returns to tight end after playing on the defensive line last season. Sophomore Anthony Campanella (Daytona Beach, Fla.), the Dolphins' long snapper, will also see time at tight end.
Wide Receiver: With the graduation of All-American receiver Jon Turner, the Dolphins have a big hole to fill. Gilbert will do it with more quickness and speed thanks to senior Charles Harper (5-6, 140) and sophomore Julio Santiago (5-6, 140). They will get a lot of opportunities in JU's offense, which emphasizes more quick reads and shorts plays, much like the West Coast offense.
Offensive Line: The biggest concern is always the offensive line, where the Dolphins are extremely thin thanks to injuries and early departures. The offensive linemen got a lot of repetitions during the spring because of the small numbers, but as many as seven incoming freshmen will have an opportunity to earn playing time immediately.
Defensive Backs: JU must replace 3-of-4 defensive backs, including All-PFL strong safety Jeremy Kearson. The sole returning starter is free safety Charlton Williams (Lynn Haven, Fla.), who had a team-high 69 tackles as a junior. Newcomers include junior Bobby Kelly (Jacksonville/First Coast), who showed good confidence after missing the 2002 season following knee surgery, and Drew Stafford (Rockville, Md.), who Gilbert called "the most improved player" from last year. The Dolphins also moved senior David Smalls (Jacksonville/Fletcher) from running back to the defensive backfield.
Linebackers: Former defensive lineman Oliver Barnes (Opa Locka, Fla.) made a good transition to middle linebacker, where he showed excellent leadership and mobility during the spring. Junior Tim Hasse (Bradenton, Fla.) also continued to improve, playing with more emotion.
Defensive Line: Gilbert has called the D-Line a "bunch of hard workers" and JU will once again count on using a lot of players in the rotation. Junior Peyton Keeling (Jacksonville/Wilbraham & Monson Academy) returned bigger and stronger and had an excellent spring, while juniors Derek Roberts (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Paul Pierson (Jacksonville/Ed White) continued their steady play.