Football faces Butler on Saturday at noon

Sept. 21, 2006


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After playing its second consecutive full-scholarship opponent, JU will open Pioneer Football League play against Butler at the Butler Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 23, at noon. The Dolphins, who played at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 16, are in the midst of a season-high four-game road trip.
The game will be broadcast live on WJGR AM-1320 "The Patriot" with Barry Milligan returning for a second tour of duty as the "Voice of the Dolphins." The contest can also be heard live on as part of the JU Sports Network.

Head coach Steve Gilbert
Head coach Steve Gilbert is in his ninth season at Jacksonville, his 10th year overall. The 49- year-old Freehold, N.J. native, hired in February of 1997, has built the program from the ground up. He has posted a 31-50 (.383) mark at JU, including a 21- 21 mark against similar non-scholarship programs and 10 wins against scholarship teams.
Gilbert, who was named the 1996 NCAA Division III Coach of the Year after leading Ursinus College to its first-ever NCAA playoff berth, led the Dolphins to their first winning season in 2001 (6-5) and the PFL South Division Championship with a perfect 3-0 mark in divisional play. Gilbert has a career record of 72-98 (.424) in 17 seasons as a collegiate head coach.

Curry named PFL Special Teams POW
Freshman place kicker Donovan Curry was named Pioneer Football League Special Teams Player of the Week after tallying seven points, including a pair of field goals, in a 41-13 loss to Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 16 at Strawberry Stadium.
Curry, who connected on his first collegiate field goals in the contest, nailed a 23-yard attempt to put the Dolphins on the board first. He ended the half with 37-yard attempt to match the longest made field goal by former kicker Ryan Feely in 2005. Curry also added an extra-point in the third quarter to finish the perfect night.
A three-year letterwinner as a kicker at Eastside High School in Gainesville, Curry also played four years of soccer for the Rams. He won the kicking job during fall camp, as well as kickoff duties, in a four-man freshman tryout.

Adjusting on the fly
The Dolphin defense made some changes during the Southeastern Louisiana contest and the results were noticeable as JU won the second half battle by a score of 7-6.
After allowing 35 points, 147 rushing yards and 292 yards of total offense, the Dolphins rebounded in the second frame by allowing only six points, 81 rushing yards and 131 yards of total offense.
The new approach in the second half saw a lot of young players making their way to the field and the infusion of youth energized the unit as they flew around the ball.
Not to be outlooked was the adjustments made by the Dolphin offense to open up the running game in the second half. Excluding sacks to the rushing total, JU managed only 37 rushing yards in the first half. In the second frame, the Dolphins racked up 82 yards after going with more double tight end sets and putting blockers in motion.

Youth movement
Leading the way for the defense in the second half was sophomore linebacker Tyler Thomas, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles (five solo). Thomas, who is the son of JU head men's soccer coach Michael Johnson, did nearly all of his work in the second half as the Dolphins swarmed to every play as an 11-man wrecking crew.
Freshman strong safety Jason Wood was also active in the game and finished second on the squad with seven tackles (three solo), one tackle for loss and a vicious decleater to break up a pass attempt. Wood, who earned the starting nod in fall camp after making the transition from running back, is currently second on the Dolphins with 12 tackles and leads the team with two pass deflections.
Freshman corner Roderick Clark also made an impact in his first collegiate start by finishing with four tackles (three solo) and a pass deflection. Clark, who is listed at 5-foot-7, got the starting nod after senior corner Bryan Flowers was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Among other players who you need to keep an eye on are freshman defensive end Mac McDonald (three tackles, two quarterback hurries), sophomore linebacker Dane Weathers (six tackles) and junior linebacker Quintan Salery (three tackles, one tackle for loss).

A nose for the ball Freshman linebacker Allen Fennell has become the force in the middle for the Dolphins after earning the starting nod during fall camp.
Although he is still learning the intricacies of the position, his athleticism and natural instincts have made him the leading tackler on the squad with 13 (eight solo) while also forcing and recovering a fumble through two games.
In his first collegiate start, Fennell led the Dolphins with seven tackles (five solo) against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 2.
A redshirt last season, he finished with four tackles and also intercepted a pass during the first scrimmage of preseason camp.

Lightning in a bottle
Junior Nate Conner has made plays as a receiver but is most lethal when he is sitting under a ball for a return on special teams. In two games, Conner has 275 kickoff return yards for an average of 25 yards per return. Included in those returns is a season-high 41- yard scamper against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 16. On punt returns, Conner is averaging 6.2 yards with a long of 20 yards.
Conner earned all-PFL honors as a freshman after finishing with 357 kickoff return yards (21.0 ypr) with a career-high 66-yard touchdown return against Austin Peay on Oct. 16, 2004. He expanded his talents to punts as well in 2005 as he finished with 117 punt return yards (13.0 ypr), including a season- high 67-yard touchdown at Austin Peay on Oct. 22. Conner also finished with 213 kickoff return yards (30.4 ypr) with a season-high 46-yard return against Morehead State on Oct. 8.

Horton moves to the head of the class
The incumbent starter heading into the 2006 season, junior Chris Horton has picked up where he left off at the end of last season in which he took over the starting role in the final three games.
During that time, Horton led the Dolphins to a 2-1 record and helped secure the second best record in program history.
A threat on the ground as well as the through the air, Horton rushed for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown in a win over Davidson. He also threw for a career-high three touchdowns in the win over North Greenville and tallied a career-best 307 passing yards at Webber International.
In 2006, that trend has continued as Horton completed 14-of-26 passes for 226 yards and a 53- yard touchdown to junior receiver Nate Conner against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 2. He also led the Dolphin ground game with a team-high 67 yards on six carries.

Forcing the issue
Another bright spot for the Dolphins against Gardner-Webb was the playmaking ability of the defense, which forced five turnovers.
A major point of emphasis during preseason camp, the Dolphins have set a goal of causing three turnovers per contest.
Among the five turnovers forced by JU (four fumbles, one interception), two of the fumbles came inside the Dolphins' own five-yard line in back-to- back possessions by the Bulldogs.
The Dolphins forced a fumble against SE Louisiana to give JU a -3 turnover ratio (3-6).

Ground control
In what has typically been a one-man show in past JU offenses, the 2006 running game will feature an ensemble cast of characters.
Lining up first to greet his audience will be senior Jerry Brant. Brant finished with 59 yards on 15 carries against SE Louisiana, including a 25-yard scamper. He needs only 311 yards to surpass Jon Underhill for third place in the JU career record book.
Looking to increase his role is senior Bryan Gamble. After being used sparingly against GWU, Gamble found the endzone against SE Louisiana.
Another face to the equation is sophomore Cecil Coltrane. After averaging 8.3 yards per carry in two games last season, Coltrane finsiehd with 26 yards on 15 carries against GWU.

Replacing a legend
One of the major holes to be filled for the Dolphins in 2006 is the one left by all-time leading tackler Brandon Torre in the linebacker corps. Torre, who finished with 277 career tackles, was a mainstay on the strong side and a fierce competitor despite his lack of outstanding athletic ability.
Filling in for Torre on the strong side will be sophomore Winston Ward. A member of the squad for three years, Ward appeared in the first three games last season before suffering a knee injury. In two games this season, Ward has five tackles (two solo), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

As we make our way to the trenches, you will find the heart and soul of the Dolphins' defensive attack in 2006. Senior nose guard Ryan Young and junior defensive tackle Kiel Pierce have been a one- two punch on the defensive front for two years and now they are about to take things to the next level.
With a defense that got younger in a hurry, the duo will be faced with the largest role of their tenure: create havoc at the point of attack. In 2005, the twosome combined for 64 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a sack and helped pave the way for linebacker Brandon Torre to set the program record for tackles. Young ranked third on the squad with 40 tackles (20 solo) and registered at least five tackles in 5-of-8 contests. Pierce finished with 24 tackles (13 solos) and one sack.

More big shoes to fill
Along with Brandon Torre, two other key positions on the defense will sorely be missed in 2006: defensive end Jason Bense and strong safety Bernard Opoku.
Bense, who was arguably the best player on the defense, finished his Dolphin career ranked second in the JU career record book with 17.5 sacks.
Moving into his starting end spot will be junior Sean Heverin. Heverin made a big impact in his first start against Webber International by tallying a career-high six tackles (five solo). He has also made an immediate impact in the preseason by recording a team-high five tackles and two sacks in the final scrimmage on Aug. 25.
Opoku, one of the most gifted athletes to don a JU uniform, earned first team all-PFL honors, recorded an interception in the Magnolia Gridiron All- Star Classic and was invited to the Jacksonville Jaguars' mini-camp in May.
Freshman Jason Wood moves into the strong safety slot after moving over from running back during the preseason.

How about replacing an All-American?
Probably the biggest shoes, and leg, to replace will be those left by All-America kicker Ryan Feely.
Feely earned first team all-conference honors for the second straight year after ranking sixth in the nation with 42.8 yards per punt. He also took care of place kicking duties and led the squad with 46 points after connecting on 25-of-27 extra points and 7-of-11 field goals.
The competition to replace Feely began with four true freshmen during preseason camp. The men who emerged from the rubble and will split both duties are Donovan Curry and Joe Recktenwald.

Rich named Pre-Season All-American Dolphin senior offensive lineman Pat Rich was tabbed second team I-AA Mid-Major Preseason All-America by Don Hansen's Football Gazette.
Rich, who was named team captain in the spring, earned honorable mention Division I-AA Mid- Major All-America accolades by at the end of the 2004 season.
A two-time first team all-Pioneer Football League selection, Rich has developed into the anchor of the Dolphin line since playing in all 11 games as a true freshman in 2003. During that season, the Dolphins produced a school-record 4,463 yards of total offense, 2,103 rushing yards and running back Emmett Hunter rushed for a program-record 1,467 yards en route to All-America honors. As a sophomore, Rich had a key role in the Dolphins' success in the rushing attack as JU ran for 180.8 yards per game, fourth-best in the PFL. Last season, the Dolphins set the program record for total offense (585 yards) against Butler as well as the second highest total offensive output (578 yards) and the second highest rushing total (371) against North Greenville.

New additions to the staff
Three new faces will grace the Dolphin sidelines in 2006 with the additions of Brian Ferguson (RB), Scott Hughes (WR) and Lt. David Hills as a volunteer kicking specialist.
After announcing the promotion of fourth- year coach Luther Price from wide receivers to defensive backs, special teams and recruiting coordinator this summer, second-year coach Thomas Wagers moves from tight ends to quarterbacks and third-year offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Andy McLeod will incorporate tight ends.
The trio replaces Jason DesJarlais (Yale), Chris Norris (Southeast Missouri) and Ryan Silverfield (Central Florida).

Jacksonville University Dolphins
JU is entering its ninth season of intercollegiate football at the NCAA Division I-AA non- scholarship level and has a 31-49 (.387) record in 80 games. The Dolphins are 19-23 all-time at Milne Field, 11-25 on the road and 1-1 at neutral sites.
After competing as an independent for the first three years of the program, JU is in its sixth season as a member of the Pioneer Football League.
Former Dolphin players who have reached the professional ranks include Micah Ross, a wide receiver and special teams player (Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, and Carolina Panthers) and Linj Shell, a corner with the Cologne Centurions (Philadelphia Eagles) of NFL Europe.

D.B. Milne Field
The Dolphins are 19-23 (.452) all-time at D.B. Milne Field in six-plus seasons of football. In 2003, JU started 3-0 at home for the first time ever and finished the season with a program-best four home wins. The Dolphins' record was a standing-room- only crowd of 4,890 in the inaugural game against Davidson on Sept. 12, 1998.

JU in the national rankings
After completing one of the strongest seasons in program history last year, JU found its way into the preseason national rankings in 2006.
The Dolphins ranked 11th in the College Sports Top-20 poll, 12th in Don Hansen's Top-12 poll and are receiving votes in The Sports Network Top-10 Poll.
JU has been nationally ranked in 45 of the last 52 weeks since entering the polls at the start of the 2001 season. JU had spent 15 straight weeks in the Sports Network I-AA Mid-Major Top-10 Poll, reaching as high as No. 2 on Oct. 1, 2001. The Dolphins briefly entered the Sports Network Top 10 in 2003 with a No. 9 ranking on Sept. 29 following a 3-1 start. The Division I-AA Mid-Major polls includes the 22 programs of the MAAC, NEC and Pioneer Football League, which play at a non-scholarship or limited scholarship level.

JU selected fifth in new PFL Poll
JU was selected to finish fifth in the restructured Pioneer Football League in the preseason coaches' poll.
The PFL, which featured a north and south division the past five seasons, will revert back to a single division comprising eight teams in 2006. Due to the loss of a league championship game, the PFL regular-season winner will face the winner of the Northeast Conference in the inaugural Gridiron Classic.
Defending champion San Diego was predicted to finish first with five first-place votes (45 points) and Dayton earned two first-place votes for a total of 43 points. Drake rounded out the top three with 37 points and three-time defending South champion Morehead State was picked fourth with 32 points.
JU, which received one first-place vote, ranked fifth with 26 points ahead of Davidson (17), Valparaiso (15) and Butler (9).

JU in the Pioneer Football League
JU went a perfect 3-0 in the South Division en route to the 2001 PFL South championship in its first year in the league. Amongst teams which are still in the PFL, the Dolphins are 8-16 in five seasons.
The Dolphins are 2-9 against opponents from the former North Division (1-0 vs. Butler, 0-5 vs. Drake, 0-2 vs. Dayton, 0-1 vs. San Diego, 1-1 vs. Valparaiso) and 6-7 (.462) all-time against the former PFL South teams (5-3 vs. Davidson, 1-4 vs. Morehead State).

Strength of schedule
The Dolphins' 2006 schedule features one of the toughest schedules in program history, including only four games being played at D.B. Milne Field.
Gardner-Webb, a scholarship program from the Big South, will be the home opener for the Dolphins on Sept. 2. JU will embark on a four-game road trip which begins with another scholarship program, Southeastern Louisiana, on Sept. 24.
The squad will open Pioneer Football League play with three road games against Butler (Sept. 23), Valparaiso (Sept. 30) and Davidson (Oct. 7), before returning home against PFL power Dayton on Oct. 14.
The Dolphins head back to the road for two weeks beginning with three-time PFL South Champion Morehead State (Oct. 21) and North Greenville (Oct. 28).
Jacksonville closes out its home slate on Nov. 4 against defending PFL champion San Diego before ending the year against Drake (Nov. 11).
The Dolphins have nine wins all-time against scholarship opponents, including seven in the last four seasons. JU's last win was against Webber International in 2004.