Dolphins change practice times, prepare for first scrimmage
With the first scrimmage of the season set for Saturday at 10 a.m., the JU football team adjusted its schedule to make sure the team was fully prepared.

The Dolphins moved their Friday practice to 9 a.m., with the team working out for a little more than two hours. After having practice cut short on Thursday afternoon due to lightning, the schedule was flip-flopped to avoid the potential weather on Friday afternoon.

“Every practice at this time of year is important, so we can’t afford to lose a practice to the weather,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “The most important thing is the safety of the kids, but we also need to make sure that they are properly prepared to compete in the scrimmage.”

The weather has been the story so far in the first week of camp, with the Dolphins battling stifling heat, rain and lightning.

Temperatures have been in triple-digits each day, with the heat index going above 110 several times.

The heated practices put the JU sports medicine staff on alert for any problems that could arise – from cramps, excessive weight loss and dehydration.

“This is one of the hottest camps we’ve had in recent memory,” said JU head athletic trainer Doug Frye. “We’re taking a lot of precautionary measures to make sure that all of the student-athletes are in good shape when they hit the field.”

Each player has his weight recorded before or after practice, with the athletic training staff monitoring the weight loss to weight gain ratio to make sure they are gaining the weight back that they lose during practice.

The athletic training staff also puts an emphasis on hydration. Each player is required to have a water bottle with them at all times, with plenty of more than 20 gallons of fluids in the locker room at all times. Fluids are also freely available to the athletes on the practice field.

More water breaks are scheduled on hotter days, usually scheduling them after a more intense drill. There is a tent available on the practice field for shade, with cooling fans to be installed soon.

With the athletic training staff monitoring the student-athletes extensively, they also monitor the conditions – everything from temperature, humidity and heat index.

“Our goal is to prevent as many injuries and heat-related situations as possible,” Frye said. “We do our best to educate the guys about hydration and rest. Those are the two most important things in battling heat related illness.”

SCRIMMAGE TIME: The first scrimmage is set for Saturday morning at 10 a.m. on D.B. Milne Field. The Dolphins will go work out for around two hours with several position battles taking the forefront.

The quarterback battle will see its first test as sophomore Erik Stepelton, who won the starting job in spring camp, hits the field in a game situation as the starter for the first time.

Another key position battle will be at running back as Rudell Small, Jimmy Sapp, Ron Harris and J.J. Laster each push for the starting nod.

“I like the competition we’ve got at each position so far in camp,” Bell said. “We’ve got some guys who have stepped up and this scrimmage is going to be very important.”

The defensive side will be looking at the three linebacker positions as each one has a heated battle among several players. The defensive line is also looking to make some progress in narrowing down a playing rotation.