Football Opens Preseason Practice on Wednesday

Aug. 12, 2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The JU football team has arrived on campus and 95 Dolphins will hit the D.B. Milne practice field on Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the first preseason practice of the 2003 season. New NCAA Rules limit the number and order of practices, forcing JU to wait until Saturday afternoon for its first practice in full pads. The Dolphins return just 12 seniors, but have more than 60 freshmen on the roster, including 44 in preseason camp.

"There is going to be a big learning curve this year with so many new players," said head coach Steve Gilbert, who has directed the Dolphin program since its inception in 1997. "Preseason camp is going to be very important for the incoming freshmen, who we expect to make an immediate impact."

The Dolphins have been picked to finish fourth in the Pioneer Football League South Division in the 2003 PFL Preseason Coaches' Poll, which was released by the league office on Tuesday. JU returns 10 starters from last year's young squad, which finished the season 3-7. "Our goal is to reclaim the PFL South title," said Gilbert. "The division is up for grabs, but we have proven that we can beat anyone on our schedule." Last season, the Dolphins defeated three scholarship programs, but went 0-3 in league play. This year, two of JU's three PFL South games are at home. "We need to win early in the season to gain confidence," said Gilbert. "We also need to rely on our seniors, who have experienced winning a championship, to help bring our young team together."

The Dolphins return five starters on offense, including All-PFL quarterback Mike Sturgill (Vero Beach, Fla.) and All-PFL running back Chad Davis (Tallahassee, Fla.). Sturgill threw for a school-record 1,876 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman, while Davis accounted for a team-best 116.4 all-purpose yards per game. JU also returns preseason All-Americans Jimmy Willman (Oacla, Fla.) at tight end and Matt Meyer (High Springs, Fla.) at left tackle. Defensively, the Dolphins also return five starters, but All-PFL and Preseason All-America free safety Charlton Williams (Lynn Haven, Fla.) is JU's lone returning starter in the secondary. Williams led the team last season with 69 tackles.

JU will face its toughest schedule ever in 2003 with six scholarship opponents, as well as five PFL games (only 3 count toward standings) and more than 6,600 miles of travel. The Dolphins are 11-14 all-time against similar non-scholarship opponents and have five wins over scholarship programs.

The winner of the North and South Divisions of the PFL will meet in third annual league championship game on Nov. 22 at the home field of the North champion. Dayton defeated Morehead State, 28-0, in last season's PFL Championship in Morehead, Ky.

Key Dates:       August 13 - First practice, 3:00 p.m.
                 August 16 - First practice in pads, 3:00 p.m.
                 August 23 - First scrimmage, 4:00 p.m.
                 August 21 - Media/Picture Day: 1 p.m. at Milne Field
                 August 26 - First day of classes
                 September 6 - First game at Lenoir-Rhyne at 1:00 p.m.