Sept. 21, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
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After playing its second consecutive full-scholarship
opponent, JU will open Pioneer Football League play
against Butler at the Butler Bowl on Saturday, Sept.
23, at noon. The Dolphins, who played at
Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 16, are in the midst
of a season-high four-game road trip.
The game will be broadcast live on WJGR AM-1320 "The Patriot" with Barry Milligan returning for a second
tour of duty as the "Voice of the Dolphins." The
contest can also be heard live on
www.judolphins.com as part of the JU Sports Network.
Head coach Steve Gilbert
Head coach Steve Gilbert is in his ninth
season at Jacksonville, his 10th year overall. The 49-
year-old Freehold, N.J. native, hired in February of
1997, has built the program from the ground up. He
has posted a 31-50 (.383) mark at JU, including a 21-
21 mark against similar non-scholarship programs and
10 wins against scholarship teams.
Gilbert, who was named the 1996 NCAA
Division III Coach of the Year after leading Ursinus
College to its first-ever NCAA playoff berth, led the
Dolphins to their first winning season in 2001 (6-5)
and the PFL South Division Championship with a
perfect 3-0 mark in divisional play. Gilbert has a
career record of 72-98 (.424) in 17 seasons as a
collegiate head coach.
Curry named PFL Special Teams POW
Freshman place kicker Donovan Curry was
named Pioneer Football League Special Teams Player
of the Week after tallying seven points, including a
pair of field goals, in a 41-13 loss to Southeastern
Louisiana on Sept. 16 at Strawberry Stadium.
Curry, who connected on his first collegiate
field goals in the contest, nailed a 23-yard attempt
to put the Dolphins on the board first. He ended the
half with 37-yard attempt to match the longest made
field goal by former kicker Ryan Feely in 2005. Curry
also added an extra-point in the third quarter to
finish the perfect night.
A three-year letterwinner as a kicker at
Eastside High School in Gainesville, Curry also played
four years of soccer for the Rams. He won the kicking
job during fall camp, as well as kickoff duties, in a
four-man freshman tryout.
Adjusting on the fly
The Dolphin defense made some changes
during the Southeastern Louisiana contest and the
results were noticeable as JU won the second half
battle by a score of 7-6.
After allowing 35 points, 147 rushing yards
and 292 yards of total offense, the Dolphins
rebounded in the second frame by allowing only six
points, 81 rushing yards and 131 yards of total
The new approach in the second half saw a
lot of young players making their way to the field and
the infusion of youth energized the unit as they flew
around the ball.
Not to be outlooked was the adjustments
made by the Dolphin offense to open up the running
game in the second half. Excluding sacks to the
rushing total, JU managed only 37 rushing yards in
the first half. In the second frame, the Dolphins
racked up 82 yards after going with more double tight
end sets and putting blockers in motion.
Leading the way for the defense in the
second half was sophomore linebacker Tyler Thomas,
who finished with a game-high 10 tackles (five solo).
Thomas, who is the son of JU head men's soccer
coach Michael Johnson, did nearly all of his work in
the second half as the Dolphins swarmed to every
play as an 11-man wrecking crew.
Freshman strong safety Jason Wood was
also active in the game and finished second on the
squad with seven tackles (three solo), one tackle for
loss and a vicious decleater to break up a pass
attempt. Wood, who earned the starting nod in fall
camp after making the transition from running back, is
currently second on the Dolphins with 12 tackles and
leads the team with two pass deflections.
Freshman corner Roderick Clark also made
an impact in his first collegiate start by finishing with
four tackles (three solo) and a pass deflection. Clark,
who is listed at 5-foot-7, got the starting nod after
senior corner Bryan Flowers was lost for the season
with a knee injury.
Among other players who you need to keep
an eye on are freshman defensive end Mac McDonald
(three tackles, two quarterback hurries), sophomore
linebacker Dane Weathers (six tackles) and junior
linebacker Quintan Salery (three tackles, one tackle
A nose for the ball
Freshman linebacker Allen Fennell has
become the force in the middle for the Dolphins after
earning the starting nod during fall camp.
Although he is still learning the intricacies of
the position, his athleticism and natural instincts
have made him the leading tackler on the squad with
13 (eight solo) while also forcing and recovering a
fumble through two games.
In his first collegiate start, Fennell led the
Dolphins with seven tackles (five solo) against
Gardner-Webb on Sept. 2.
A redshirt last season, he finished with four
tackles and also intercepted a pass during the first
scrimmage of preseason camp.
Lightning in a bottle
Junior Nate Conner has made plays as a
receiver but is most lethal when he is sitting under a
ball for a return on special teams. In two games,
Conner has 275 kickoff return yards for an average of
25 yards per return. Included in those returns is a
season-high 41- yard scamper against Southeastern
Louisiana on Sept. 16. On punt returns, Conner is
averaging 6.2 yards with a long of 20 yards.
Conner earned all-PFL honors as a freshman
after finishing with 357 kickoff return yards (21.0 ypr)
with a career-high 66-yard touchdown return against
Austin Peay on Oct. 16, 2004. He expanded his
talents to punts as well in 2005 as he finished with
117 punt return yards (13.0 ypr), including a season-
high 67-yard touchdown at Austin Peay on Oct. 22.
Conner also finished with 213 kickoff return yards
(30.4 ypr) with a season-high 46-yard return against
Morehead State on Oct. 8.
Horton moves to the head of the class
The incumbent starter heading into the
2006 season, junior Chris Horton has picked up where
he left off at the end of last season in which he took
over the starting role in the final three games.
During that time, Horton led the Dolphins to
a 2-1 record and helped secure the second best
record in program history.
A threat on the ground as well as the
through the air, Horton rushed for a career-high 92
yards and a touchdown in a win over Davidson. He
also threw for a career-high three touchdowns in the
win over North Greenville and tallied a career-best
307 passing yards at Webber International.
In 2006, that trend has continued as Horton
completed 14-of-26 passes for 226 yards and a 53-
yard touchdown to junior receiver Nate Conner
against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 2. He also led the
Dolphin ground game with a team-high 67 yards on
Forcing the issue
Another bright spot for the Dolphins against
Gardner-Webb was the playmaking ability of the
defense, which forced five turnovers.
A major point of emphasis during preseason
camp, the Dolphins have set a goal of causing three
turnovers per contest.
Among the five turnovers forced by JU (four
fumbles, one interception), two of the fumbles came
inside the Dolphins' own five-yard line in back-to-
back possessions by the Bulldogs.
The Dolphins forced a fumble against SE
Louisiana to give JU a -3 turnover ratio (3-6).
In what has typically been a one-man show
in past JU offenses, the 2006 running game will
feature an ensemble cast of characters.
Lining up first to greet his audience will be
senior Jerry Brant. Brant finished with 59 yards on 15
carries against SE Louisiana, including a 25-yard
scamper. He needs only 311 yards to surpass Jon
Underhill for third place in the JU career record
Looking to increase his role is senior Bryan
Gamble. After being used sparingly against GWU,
Gamble found the endzone against SE Louisiana.
Another face to the equation is sophomore
Cecil Coltrane. After averaging 8.3 yards per carry in
two games last season, Coltrane finsiehd with 26
yards on 15 carries against GWU.
Replacing a legend
One of the major holes to be filled for the
Dolphins in 2006 is the one left by all-time leading
tackler Brandon Torre in the linebacker corps. Torre,
who finished with 277 career tackles, was a mainstay
on the strong side and a fierce competitor despite his
lack of outstanding athletic ability.
Filling in for Torre on the strong side will be
sophomore Winston Ward. A member of the squad for
three years, Ward appeared in the first three games
last season before suffering a knee injury. In two
games this season, Ward has five tackles (two solo),
a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
As we make our way to the trenches, you
will find the heart and soul of the Dolphins' defensive
attack in 2006. Senior nose guard Ryan Young and
junior defensive tackle Kiel Pierce have been a one-
two punch on the defensive front for two years and
now they are about to take things to the next
With a defense that got younger in a hurry,
the duo will be faced with the largest role of their
tenure: create havoc at the point of attack. In 2005,
the twosome combined for 64 tackles, seven tackles
for loss and a sack and helped pave the way for
linebacker Brandon Torre to set the program record
for tackles. Young ranked third on the squad with 40
tackles (20 solo) and registered at least five tackles
in 5-of-8 contests. Pierce finished with 24 tackles
(13 solos) and one sack.
More big shoes to fill
Along with Brandon Torre, two other key
positions on the defense will sorely be missed in
2006: defensive end Jason Bense and strong safety
Bense, who was arguably the best player on
the defense, finished his Dolphin career ranked
second in the JU career record book with 17.5
Moving into his starting end spot will be
junior Sean Heverin. Heverin made a big impact in his
first start against Webber International by tallying a
career-high six tackles (five solo). He has also made
an immediate impact in the preseason by recording a
team-high five tackles and two sacks in the final
scrimmage on Aug. 25.
Opoku, one of the most gifted athletes to
don a JU uniform, earned first team all-PFL honors,
recorded an interception in the Magnolia Gridiron All-
Star Classic and was invited to the Jacksonville
Jaguars' mini-camp in May.
Freshman Jason Wood moves into the
strong safety slot after moving over from running
back during the preseason.
How about replacing an All-American?
Probably the biggest shoes, and leg, to
replace will be those left by All-America kicker Ryan
Feely earned first team all-conference
honors for the second straight year after ranking
sixth in the nation with 42.8 yards per punt. He also
took care of place kicking duties and led the squad
with 46 points after connecting on 25-of-27 extra
points and 7-of-11 field goals.
The competition to replace Feely began
with four true freshmen during preseason camp. The
men who emerged from the rubble and will split both
duties are Donovan Curry and Joe Recktenwald.
Rich named Pre-Season All-American
Dolphin senior offensive lineman Pat Rich
was tabbed second team I-AA Mid-Major Preseason
All-America by Don Hansen's Football Gazette.
Rich, who was named team captain in the
spring, earned honorable mention Division I-AA Mid-
Major All-America accolades by
CollegeSportsReport.com at the end of the 2004
A two-time first team all-Pioneer Football
League selection, Rich has developed into the anchor
of the Dolphin line since playing in all 11 games as a
true freshman in 2003. During that season, the
Dolphins produced a school-record 4,463 yards of
total offense, 2,103 rushing yards and running back
Emmett Hunter rushed for a program-record 1,467
yards en route to All-America honors. As a
sophomore, Rich had a key role in the Dolphins'
success in the rushing attack as JU ran for 180.8
yards per game, fourth-best in the PFL. Last season,
the Dolphins set the program record for total offense
(585 yards) against Butler as well as the second
highest total offensive output (578 yards) and the
second highest rushing total (371) against North
New additions to the staff
Three new faces will grace the Dolphin
sidelines in 2006 with the additions of Brian Ferguson
(RB), Scott Hughes (WR) and Lt. David Hills as a
volunteer kicking specialist.
After announcing the promotion of fourth-
year coach Luther Price from wide receivers to
defensive backs, special teams and recruiting
coordinator this summer, second-year coach Thomas
Wagers moves from tight ends to quarterbacks and
third-year offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
Andy McLeod will incorporate tight ends.
The trio replaces Jason DesJarlais (Yale),
Chris Norris (Southeast Missouri) and Ryan Silverfield
Jacksonville University Dolphins
JU is entering its ninth season of
intercollegiate football at the NCAA Division I-AA non-
scholarship level and has a 31-49 (.387) record in 80
games. The Dolphins are 19-23 all-time at Milne Field,
11-25 on the road and 1-1 at neutral sites.
After competing as an independent for the
first three years of the program, JU is in its sixth
season as a member of the Pioneer Football League.
Former Dolphin players who have reached
the professional ranks include Micah Ross, a wide
receiver and special teams player (Jacksonville
Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, and Carolina Panthers)
and Linj Shell, a corner with the Cologne Centurions
(Philadelphia Eagles) of NFL Europe.
D.B. Milne Field
The Dolphins are 19-23 (.452) all-time at
D.B. Milne Field in six-plus seasons of football. In
2003, JU started 3-0 at home for the first time ever
and finished the season with a program-best four
home wins. The Dolphins' record was a standing-room-
only crowd of 4,890 in the inaugural game against
Davidson on Sept. 12, 1998.
JU in the national rankings
After completing one of the strongest
seasons in program history last year, JU found its
way into the preseason national rankings in 2006.
The Dolphins ranked
11th in the College Sports Report.com Top-20 poll,
12th in Don Hansen's Top-12 poll and are receiving
votes in The Sports Network Top-10 Poll.
JU has been nationally ranked in 45 of the
last 52 weeks since entering the polls at the start of
the 2001 season. JU had spent 15 straight weeks in
the Sports Network I-AA Mid-Major Top-10 Poll,
reaching as high as No. 2 on Oct. 1, 2001. The
Dolphins briefly entered the Sports Network Top 10 in
2003 with a No. 9 ranking on Sept. 29 following a 3-1
start. The Division I-AA Mid-Major polls includes the
22 programs of the MAAC, NEC and Pioneer Football
League, which play at a non-scholarship or limited
JU selected fifth in new PFL Poll
JU was selected to finish fifth in the
restructured Pioneer Football League in the preseason
The PFL, which featured a north and south
division the past five seasons, will revert back to a
single division comprising eight teams in 2006. Due to
the loss of a league championship game, the PFL
regular-season winner will face the winner of the
Northeast Conference in the inaugural Gridiron Classic.
Defending champion San Diego was
predicted to finish first with five first-place votes (45
points) and Dayton earned two first-place votes for a
total of 43 points. Drake rounded out the top three
with 37 points and three-time defending South
champion Morehead State was picked fourth with 32
JU, which received one first-place vote,
ranked fifth with 26 points ahead of Davidson (17),
Valparaiso (15) and Butler (9).
JU in the Pioneer Football League
JU went a perfect 3-0 in the South Division
en route to the 2001 PFL South championship in its
first year in the league. Amongst teams which are still
in the PFL, the Dolphins are 8-16 in five seasons.
The Dolphins are 2-9 against opponents
from the former North Division (1-0 vs. Butler, 0-5 vs.
Drake, 0-2 vs. Dayton, 0-1 vs. San Diego, 1-1 vs.
Valparaiso) and 6-7 (.462) all-time against the former
PFL South teams (5-3 vs. Davidson, 1-4 vs.
Strength of schedule
The Dolphins' 2006 schedule features one of
the toughest schedules in program history, including
only four games being played at D.B. Milne Field.
Gardner-Webb, a scholarship program from
the Big South, will be the home opener for the
Dolphins on Sept. 2. JU will embark on a four-game
road trip which begins with another scholarship
program, Southeastern Louisiana, on Sept. 24.
The squad will open Pioneer Football League
play with three road games against Butler (Sept. 23),
Valparaiso (Sept. 30) and Davidson (Oct. 7), before
returning home against PFL power Dayton on Oct. 14.
The Dolphins head back
to the road for two weeks beginning with three-time
PFL South Champion Morehead State (Oct. 21) and
North Greenville (Oct. 28).
Jacksonville closes out its home slate on
Nov. 4 against defending PFL champion San Diego
before ending the year against Drake (Nov. 11).
The Dolphins have nine wins all-time against
scholarship opponents, including seven in the last
four seasons. JU's last win was against Webber
International in 2004.