In what seems to be becoming a habit in the Kerwin Bell Era at JU, the Dolphins are going against a highly touted opponent to start.
Last season, JU headed to The Citadel for the opener, a 31-9 loss, then hit the road to another scholarship powerhouse Western Illinois.
In 2010, the Dolphins traveled to Old Dominion and won, 35-25, and followed that with a trip to Appalachian State the next week. ODU wound up 8-3 that season and Appalachian State moved up to number one in the FCS poll the week the Dolphins arrived. They wound up 10-3, with one of their losses to Florida.
And now, the Eagles who made in to the FCS semifinals last season before getting beat by North Dakota State, 35-7.
“We’ve had some tough ones,’’ coach Kerwin Bell said. “Appalachian State was number one when we went there; this fits right in with that.’’
The Eagles return eight starters on offense and a like number on defense. The offense averaged 435 yards per game and scored more points, 21, against Alabama than anyone last season.
The Eagle run out of the triple option, which JU will see once this season, and that’s enough to keep Dolphin defensive coordinator Jerry Odom up this week.
“They run the option out of a lot of different formations,’’ he said. “They give you a lot of different looks and it’s not your standard look. The second thing is they’ve got good players. They’re fast, they’re good athletes and that’s a pretty good recipe for being pretty good. They’re a very good team and deserve the ranking.’’
Odom says the Eagles may be the hardest of recent opening opponents because of what they do.
“I think spread teams we match up with a lot better because it’s what we see on a day to day basis,’’ he said. “This is a tough deal, just like The Citadel was last year, because you work your camp for a couple of weeks and you’re trying to get better at what you’re going to do throughout the season and then you have to take this week and a half (to work on the option) and sometimes you feel like it stunts your growth a little bit.’’
A driving rain at the start of practice Monday didn’t do much to dampen spirits.
“It’s a rainy day practice,’’ Bell said, almost with a chirp. “A rainy day practice.’’
Players preferred to be dry but we’re ready to go, including tight end Hank Farmer, who caught a touchdown pass in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I don’t like the rain,’’ he said. “But it’s show time.’’