“I think our guys are doing a good job,” said the fifth-year defensive line coach for the 10th-ranked Bobcats. “Our sophomores are a lot further ahead than where they were at the end of last season. The freshmen are learning more about how college football is supposed to be played and the speed of the game and the expectations of it all.
“Those guys have bought into the system and are doing the things we are asking them to do. I’m expecting some big things out of those guys.”
The Bobcats return three players in the line who received several starts last fall.
Returning at defensive end are sophomore Jamal Young (6-4, 230) of McComb and sophomore Justice Coleman (6-2, 240) of Gautier, while Courtney Gaines (6-4, 320) of Hillcrest High School in Memphis, Tennessee, is back at a defensive tackle slot.
Young, who was a track star at Butler Community College (Kansas) and Southern Miss, played his first year of football at JCJC last year.
“Jamal started five or six games for me last year,” said Maddox, who worked three weeks this summer as an intern assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons during their training camp. “He is a ‘hustle’ guy. He has a high motor and is an older guy. He knows what it takes to be successful. It seems like he wants it a little more this year.
“He has only played one year of football and has his degree.”
Coleman is coming off an injury and is considered solid against the run.
“Justice started a few games early last year, got hurt and ended up missing about five or six games,” Maddox said. “We are glad to have him back. He is a strongside defensive end and is basically a run-stopper. He is a very aggressive guy, can do some good things in the run game and help us out in the pass game.
“He is a great kid, too good of a kid sometimes. I want him to hit somebody. He smiles and speaks to everybody on campus. I think he can have a really good season for us.”
Gaines only played in two games last year before absorbing a season-ending knee injury. Maddox has been pleased with his progress and believes Gaines has a future in football after JCJC.
“Courtney is probably the most talented guy out of the group I have,” he said. “He has a lot of ability. The sky could be the limit for him. I tell him I was in Atlanta working with the Falcons and he has just as much ability as those guys. It’s just a matter of how bad he wants it. We want him to be more self-motivated and we are trying to get him over that hump.
“He has a lot of upside. He can run, he’s smart and he knows football.”
Starting alongside Gaines at tackle is expected to be freshman Johnkil Skipper (6-0, 290) of Hazlehurst.
“Johnkil is a great kid and has probably progressed more than any player out of the group so far,” Maddox said. “He has come in and worked his tail off. He is a special kid just to be a freshman. He does a lot of great things. He is another very explosive player and uses his hands well.
“He has some things to work on, but we are excited about him and he has a chance to be a pretty good football player.”
A familiar face will serve as a backup tackle and end.
Antonio Ducksworth (6-0, 300) is a sophomore from Bassfield. He started every game in the defensive line for the Bobcats in 2011, but has not played the past two seasons.
“Antonio started for me three years ago,” Maddox said. “He has experience and is very explosive. He knows the game and he can come in and do some good things for us. He is quick and explosive off the football, but we’ve got to get him into shape since he has not played for two years.
“But he knows what it takes and I have a lot of trust in him.”
Serving as a backup defensive end will be Javarious Tanner (6-0, 240), a freshman walk-on from Hazlehurst. Maddox said Tanner can be a pass-rushing specialist.
“Javarious walked on and earned a scholarship,” he said. “He probably has the highest motor of any of them. He gets off the ball well and is a great asset to us just because of his pass rush ability. He can get to the quarterback. He will be a guy that can come in on third downs and, hopefully, get a lot of sacks for us.”
In the mix at a tackle slot is Aries Anderson (6-1, 300), a transfer from East Mississippi Community College. He prepped at Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, Alabama.
“Aries is a big kid and he’s very similar to Ducksworth and Skipper,” Maddox said. “Again, he is explosive, can penetrate and can make some things happen. We like to get into the backfield and disrupt the offense Aries and those two guys can certainly do that.”
Another player that can rotate between end and tackle is Reginal Hamilton (6-2, 275), a freshman from Quitman.
“Reggie has a ways to go, but he is working hard and getting better,” Maddox said. “He is someone who can definitely help us out.”
Maddox, who was a standout on the 1998 Bobcat team that went 12-0 and played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans in the NFL, believes his defensive linemen are up to the task this fall – if they can stay away from injuries.
“We don’t have a lot of bodies, so we need for them to stay healthy,” he said. “They can do whatever they want to do because they have the ability. But I think we will be fine and I am looking forward to watching our guys play.”
The Bobcats open the season at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Aug. 28 at Northwest Mississippi. The game will air on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.
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