JU climbing mountain to start the season
Another season, another mountain to start the season.

The JU football team heads to Statesboro, Ga., Saturday to play third-ranked Georgia Southern and JU coach Kerwin Bell may feel as though he has been filming Smith-Barney commercials leading into the opener.

“We have to make them earn it,’’ Bell says of the third-ranked Eagles, who made it to the NCAA FCS semifinals last season.

In a reversal of form from the past several years, when the Dolphins’ all-time leading rusher (Rudell Small), passer (Josh McGregor) and receiver (Josh Philpart) all have played, JU will look to the defense to keep things under control.

Nine starters return on defense, two on offense for the 6 p.m. game at Paulson Stadium.

“We feel like the last week of camp we’ve really started to come together especially on the offensive side of the ball,’’ Bell said. “We’re young and our defense is going to have to carry us a little bit as we find these young guys and get going on offense.’’

The youth of the offense starts at quarterback where sophomore Trevius Folston, redshirt freshman Kade Bell and freshman Steven Hughes all have been trying to win the most playing time. Kerwin Bell has kept to his word and not named a starter.

The offensive line has but six or so starts to its name and sophomore guard returns as the player with the most experience.

The Dolphins have some experience at running back with fifth-year seniors Keith Dawson and Erick Baker, who transferred from South Carolina, expected to carry the load.

The Dolphins could carry as many as 10 receivers on the trip.

The defense seems packed in almost every area from the return of last year’s sack leader, Luidji Michel on the line, along with returners Mike Mayoral, Chance Smith and Juan Pimienta, to a strong linebacking crew and talented secondary which includes returning Andre Addison, who has moved to safety from corner, and corner Colby Walden who runs a 4.4 40 and returns kicks.

Despite the returners, defensive coordinator Jerry Odom realizes who his crew is facing.

“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.’’

Bell waxed poetic in summing up the game.

“There’s very few times in your life that you get the opportunity to have a moment in your life that will never be forgotten,’’ he said. “Not many people get a chance to have that moment and our kids have that chance this week to play a team like Georgia Southern and for us it’s an opportunity to lay it all on the line and that moment will be with these kids for a lifetime.’’

The game will be available via both video and live stats on the Georgia Southern athletics web site.

- Jim Nasella