"We have a good group of guys overall," said Maddox, who enters his fourth year as defensive line coach at JCJC. "Last year was a special group because they all went off and signed with senior colleges. I think this group is more talented than last year. But last year's group played hard all the time. They were not the most talented group, but they gave great effort.
"My goal is to get these guys on that same pace as far as effort goes. I just want to get them playing with a sense of urgency."
From last year's defensive line, Felton Collins and Chavez Sims both signed with Murray State University, Cameron McLeod inked with Ohio University and Shaquille Smith signed with the University of North Alabama.
But the Bobcats do have some experience returning, especially at the tackle slots.
Steven Eddings (6-4, 285) out of Bartlett High School in Memphis, Tenn., and Jamarcus Blanks (6-0, 270) from South Jones provide JCJC with a solid base at tackle.
"Steven Eddings is making some progress," Maddox said. "He is a year into it, so he is a guy we're expecting to be a leader for us. I've got some big expectations for him. He has some things to work on, but he is doing a good job.
"Jamarcus is another leader. He works hard and is an explosive guy. He is a captain on defense and is very vocal. He works at helping the team to improve. I'm pleased with those two guys."
At the end positions are two former offensive players.
Lazarus Shelby (6-1, 240) from Collins played tight end in 2012, while Ben Benison(6-3, 265) was an offensive lineman.
"Lazarus played tight end for us last year and we are glad to have him on defense," Maddox said. "We are hoping he can start for us and help us out this season. Ben also came over from offense and is a bigtime effort guy. He doesn't say a lot, but he works hard."
Behind Shelby is an interesting newcomer.
Allen Young (6-4, 230) is officially a freshman eligibility-wise from McComb. But Young ran track at Butler County Community College (Kan.) in 2010-11 and at Southern Miss in 2012-13. He specialty was the 400-meter run.
Now, he is trying his hand at football and the coaches are excited about his potential.
"Allen came out over the summer," Maddox said. "He can be a real good guy and a special player for us. Football is new to him, so we are trying to work on some things with him. We are working on technique and trying to get him up to speed. But he is a very athletic guy."
Working at a tackle spot behind Blanks is another solid prospect. Takyler Harris (6-2, 260) is a freshman from Bolivar High School in Bolivar, Tenn.
"Takyler has all the ability in the world," Maddox said. "He is a very explosive player. He is quick with good size and I think the sky can be the limit with him."
Backing up Benison will be Justice Coleman (6-2, 220), a freshman from Gautier.
"Justice is doing well, but like all the freshmen, we are trying to get them used to the speed of the game and technique," Maddox said. "You have got to have technique at this level because everybody is good. It's not like high school where you were the dominant person."
Working behind Eddings is another Tennessee product. Courtney Gaines (6-3, 300) is a freshman from Hillcrest High School in Memphis, Tenn.
"Courtney is probably the biggest guy I have out there. He is progressing and I think he will be a great addition to the team," Maddox said. "He has unbelievable ability. We just have to get him going and get him over that hump. I expect you might see him on TV one day, but he just has to put it all together."
Also getting reps at tackle is Devin Smith (6-2, 295), a freshman out of Hancock.
"Devin has a big body and a big frame," Maddox said. "He is a strong kid that takes coaching well. He is getting better and I think he is going to be OK."
The Bobcats of head coach Ray Perkins will open the 2013 season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Holmes Community College. The game will be audiocast on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.
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