Gamecocks picked fourth in ASUN, land four on all-conference squad

Jacksonville State head football coach Rich Rodriguez speaks at the ASUN Media Day at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta on Friday. (Photo by Thomas Ashworth/The Chanticleer)

Thomas Ashworth, The Chanticleer

ATLANTA — Rich Rodriguez and company left with a chip on their shoulder after the inaugural ASUN Football Media Day on Friday.

Despite having four selections named to the Preseason ASUN Football All-Conference team, the Gamecocks were the only ASUN program without an offensive player named to the team.

“The preseason picks are based on what happened last year,” Rodriguez said at the Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta. “It’s good to see that we had three guys on defense, that fun to see, but we had no guys on offense. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’ll have a couple on both sides of the ball.”

Along with the linebacker tandem of Stevonte Tullis and Markail Benton, defensive lineman Jaylen Swain and punter Jack Dawson were also named to the team.

Jacksonville State was ranked fourth in the 2022 Preseason Football Coaches Poll, with Kennesaw State leading the way while getting four of the six first-place votes.

Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky tied for second, with Austin Peay and North Alabama finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Central Arkansas and Austin Peay picked up the other two first-place votes.

“As a competitor, you don’t like that,” center Zack Cangelosi said. “You always want to be number one, but it gives us another chance to go prove ourselves. We get to go out and compete every day against all these guys and see how we match up against them.”

With the departure of Zerrick Cooper, the Gamecocks are left with a competition at the quarterback position heading into the season.

Zion Webb, who earned All-OVC First Team honors after starting the full 2021 spring football season, will be joined by the inexperienced signal callers in the ongoing competition.

“We’ve got some talent there,” said Rodriguez. “The only one coming back from spring is Zion (Webb). He’s played some and I think he’s healthy. He’ll certainly have a chance to compete. I don’t mind playing two or three guys at that position if I feel like they’re good enough to win with.”

Along with his experience at the power five level, Rodriguez says that his experience coaching at then-NAIA Glenville State was just as valuable.

“I don’t know if I’d hire a coach that hasn’t at least coached on the high school or small college level,” Rodriguez said. “If all you ever did was Division-I, especially power five, you’d get spoiled. You’ve got somebody that does everything for you, and you don’t have to grind a little bit.”

As the Gamecocks open practice one week earlier than most due to their Week 0 matchup against Stephen F. Austin in the FCS Kickoff in Montgomery on August 27, Rodriguez and his staff look to help their players achieve both team and individual goals.

“This is a great situation for all of us,” Rodriguez said. “Where we’re at now (and) where we’re going to be in the future. I just feel fortunate that our players have welcomed the new staff and have embraced what we’re trying to do for them.”

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