The Jacksonville State football team had an enthusiastic practice on Friday to open fall camp for the 2015 season and head coach John Grass was pleased with what he saw for a first day.
The Gamecocks held an afternoon workout in helmets and shorts on their practice fields. Grass, who is starting his third year at JSU and second as the head man, pointed out his team's excitement and energy on a day it had been looking forward to for a while.
"It was a great first day," Grass said. "I thought everybody was bouncing around, giving a lot of effort and excited about being out here. A lot of times football players dread fall camp, and I didn't see any of that leading up to today or today, either one."
After a 10-2 season in 2014 that saw JSU ranked as high as No. 2 in the national polls and a perfect 8-0 record in Ohio Valley Conference play, Grass pointed out how his team has been eager to get the 2015 campaign underway and start a journey towards what the Gamecocks hope will be another conference title and a deep run into the FCS playoffs.
Three seasons in with the Gamecocks, Grass also pointed out the progression of his veterans, who have some continuity to build upon. After a disappointing finish in last season's playoffs, the Gamecocks saw several players put in extra work over the summer to prepare for the upcoming fall. Grass noted improved depth and conditioning as things about his team that have improved due to the team's offseason commitments.
"We are bigger and stronger," he said. "Having a third offseason under your belt is huge. We are deeper than we've ever been. Hopefully we can stay healthy and continue to have the luxury of having a little depth, which we haven't in the past. I see us growing. All of the hard work in the offseason has paid off. We have been anticipating this season getting started for a long time, so it's fun to finally get to this point."
The first day also brought some hiccups, but none that were unexpected. As talented a group of newcomers the Gamecocks have had in several years has an acclimation process to go through to get up to speed with those returners, but Grass was pleased with what he saw in them, as well.
"Our guys are excited to get out on the field, get to work and get the season started," Grass added. "It was a productive day. We have some things we have to correct. We have to teach these young guys that haven't been through a practice yet how to practice, but they did good for the most part.
JSU will practice in helmets and shorts again on Saturday before putting on shells on Sunday. The first day in full pads is scheduled for Tuesday, with the first two-a-day set for Wednesday.
The Gamecocks, who are ranked as high as No. 4 in the preseason polls, open the season on Sept. 5 at Chattanooga, a team also in the preseason Top 10.