The Jacksonville State football team officially got its quest for a third-straight Ohio Valley Conference title underway on Thursday, when the Gamecocks began fall camp on their practice field behind Salls Hall.
The Gamecocks used a two-hour workout in helmets and shorts to begin their preparations for the season, one that will begin with a Thursday night home game against old rival North Alabama on Sept. 1. Head coach John Grass liked all that he saw in that first workout and took some enjoyment in getting back on the field with his guys.
"It was a great first day," Grass said. "It's so good to back on the field practicing again. I told our guys after practice it's good to be out here around them and back in the groove of practicing."
(Comments from Coach John Grass and Roc Thomas are in the featured video)
Grass emphasized the importance of fall camp but also tried to downplay how much you can see in the first few days. That evaluation process will improve as the pads go on throughout the first week of camp.
"Fall camp is where you build your football team," Grass added. "It's hard to build it over the first couple of days because you are in helmets and shorts, but we will find out when the pads go on and we build a callus to the physicality that you have to have to play this game.
"It was a good first day in shorts. We got a lot done and got a lot of reps in. We see a lot of speed and a lot of depth."
The majority of the Gamecocks spent much of the summer working out together on campus, something that Grass said really helps the amount of things you can get done on day one.
"It's huge," he added. "We work our guys hard in the summer, and it's an advantage going into fall camp with just recovery, fatigue and handling the heat. It's so much better than it was years ago, as far as taking care of players. We are much more educated now than we were years ago as far as taking care of players, the recovery aspect and how we work."
One welcomed addition from the spring was the return of All-American quarterback Eli Jenkins, who missed all of spring practice after off-season shoulder surgery. He made his return on the practice field on Thursday, and Grass thought he looked as sharp as ever.
"He looks good," Grass said. "People didn't realize last year that he played with an injury that took a lot of velocity off of his football. It's good to see him back. He's got a live arm right now and he's doing really well. We are still limiting how many balls he can throw, because it's easy to overwork him during fall camp. He looks really good right now."
The Gamecocks will practice in shorts again on Friday before putting on shells for the first time on Saturday.
Courtesy: JSU Sports Information (www.jsugamecocksports.com)