Young defense making strides
Game programs are going to come in handy for the JU faithful when they open the season at Old Dominion next Saturday as the defense will have a lot of young guys in the starting lineup.

The Dolphins are projected to have three new starters in the defensive backfield as well as three new starters on the defensive front.

Anchoring the defense is three experienced linebackers who have proven their worth already in Joseph Fennell, Layne McCombs and Will Perry.

“When you look at our defense, our strength is at linebacker positions,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “We have three guys starting that have played a lot of football for us and have all proven to make big plays.”

The lone returning starter from last year on the defensive line is junior Rolando Fines, who will be working with sophomores Kali Fafita, Mike Mayoral and Chance Smith. Backing them up is a slew of freshmen – twin brothers Montavis and Montaque Mack, Juan Pimienta and Luidji Michel.

Joining the fray on the defensive front is seniors Cevonte Heagle and Ray Gault, who have been battling injuries throughout training camp.

“We really like the potential for this group on the defensive line,” Bell said. “The young guys have been really impressive in fall camp and we expect our experienced guys to be ready to go for the first game. This was an important position for us in recruiting this past year and these guys have come in ready to work with the potential to make an immediate impact.”

The defensive backfield will have a completely different look this season as well, with Darren Johnson being the only starter set to return to his position.

Jordan Dewhirst moved to free safety in the spring and has been in a tight battle with Lacy McDougald throughout camp for the starting nod. Both are expected to see a lot of action at the position.

At strong safety, Leonard Smith has moved over from cornerback and taken the starting role, with Andy Sainvil backing him up.

“We have a lot of depth and athleticism at our safety positions,” Bell said. “We’ve got some big guys who can cover ground and deliver a big hit, which is something we were looking for during training camp. We want these guys to be playmakers who can get us the ball back.”

While Johnson will be anchoring one side of the cornerback positions, sophomore Colby Walden will be handling the duties on the other side. A wide receiver as a freshman last year, Walden has slowly developed into a solid cover corner.

“We really like the guys we have at cornerback in Darren and Colby,” Bell said. “Darren has improved a lot from last year and moving Colby over has been a big boost to the defense. He has really grown during camp as a defender and has the potential to be a shutdown corner for us.”

DOLPHIN DAY ON SATURDAY: The inaugural “Dolphin Day” is set for Saturday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. as fans are encouraged to come out and take in the final preseason scrimmage and meet some of the Dolphins from other sports. There will also be prizes and giveaways throughout the day. Admission is free.

SEASON TICKETS ON SALE: Season tickets are on sale for $60 with “The Grove” parking passes going for $60 as well. Visit or contact Nikki Swanson in the JU ticket office at (904) 256-7444 for more information.