SPORTS >>Red Devils are committed
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville came in eager and ready for the first week of football sessions leading into the 2006 season. The Red Devils have high hopes heading into a new conference and classification, and brought excitement into the opening week.
After spending a day doing tests and time drills, Jacksonville began practicing in shorts and helmets, then went to full pads on Friday.
With only one day of practice in pads, it was difficult to get a read on where the team is regarding execution, but head Red Devil Mark Whatley liked what he saw in some of the intangibles.
Players are getting along, staying for extra, voluntary workouts and watching film, and carrying that kind of commitment to the practice field.
“We’ve got a bunch right now that’s doing some things that you really enjoy seeing,” Whatley said. “They’re doing extra conditioning and they’re staying after practice and just hanging out together. They’re bonding together. The other coaches that have been here longer than I have said they haven’t seen a group doing the things this one’s doing in a long time. This is a fun bunch to get to coach, so far, knock on wood.”
Throughout the summer the Jacksonville skill-position players were solid. They have met expectations in the first week of practice and remained solid.
Notably, 6-foot-3, 195-pound receiver Marcus King has caught the ball with much more consistency than a year ago.
His size and speed have always been dangerous, and now he appears to have added consistent pass-catching ability to his other weapons.
“He had a fine summer catching the ball,” Whatley said. “He’s got a ton of potential and the way he played this summer did him a lot of good. It gave him a lot of confidence.”
Jacksonville is obviously solid at quarterback. Daniel Hubbard returns for his third and final year at starting quarterback, and junior Cameron Hood gives the team quality depth under center.
The starters in the backfield are also returning starters in seniors Justin Akins and Justin Sebourn.
The unknown after week one is the same as it has been since last season ended, the line.
Jacksonville has some big players with good athleticism, but not very many.
“With only one day with the pads on we really don’t know a whole lot more about that group than when we started,” Whatley said. “We feel like we’ve got some good ones. We’re just going to need some of them to step up and help us out on both sides of the football.”
There were 56 Red Devils at practice on Friday, and Whatley says a few more will begin coming in next week. Look for more details on the Red Devils’ progress in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.