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'Big Play' JJ?

'Big Play' JJ?

'Big Play' JJ?

    No one is ready to hang the moniker of “Big Play J.J.” on J.J. Wilcox quite yet, but the Georgia Southern slotback is beginning to emerge as one of the Eagles’ key playmakers.
    At GSU a big play is defined as one gaining 20 or more yards.
    When the Eagles’ triple option offense was in its heyday under the direction of Paul Johnson and Mike Sewak it was possible for a big play to occur any time the ball was snapped. And, it did more often than not.
    Georgia Southern, it seemed, had a player at nearly every position who was a big play threat. That offensive explosiveness has been missing the last four seasons.
    Under first year head coach Jeff Monken the Eagles (3-3, 1-2) are beginning to show signs they are capable of spring a big play on opponents.
    Two weeks ago against Wofford sophomore slotback Darreion Robinson shook down some thunder from the skies with a 78 yard scoring run.
    Then last Saturday it was Wilcox’s turn to show the potential lying under the surface. He scored in the first period on a 58 yard pass from quarterback Jaybo Shaw, and in the fourth quarter had a 63 yard reception to set up the Eagles’ final score in a 35-27 loss at Chattanooga.
    Georgia Southern will be looking for more of the same out of Wilcox when it plays Saturday at 1 p.m. at The Citadel (2-5, 0-4).
    The Eagles will be seeking to snap a two game losing streak as they take on the Bulldogs who are also making the adjustment to the option offense. The Citadel is mired in a four game losing streak.
    Of the Eagles’ 26 big plays this season Wilcox, a 6-foot-0, 197 pound sophomore from Cairo, has eight of them, four coming in the last two games.
    Wilcox, who played in eight games last year and finished with 16 catches for 179 yards, is Georgia Southern’s leading receiver this season. He is also the team’s second leading rusher.
    “He’s a competitor and plays with a lot of fire,” Monken said. “He’s got good hands, he’s strong and tough, and he blocks well.
    “He doesn’t possess great breakaway speed, but he cares,” Monken said. “He plays with a lot of heart, and usually guys like that get a lot out of their ability.”
    Wilcox has been Georgia Southern’s most consistent offensive player after Shaw. He has five touchdowns, second only to Shaw’s six, has 217 yards rushing on 34 carries, and has caught 11 passes for 302 yards, an average of 27.5 yards per catch.
    With freshman B-back Robert Brown sidelined with a back injury Monken has added a wrinkle to the option attack, lining Wilcox up in what amounts to a tailback spot in the I formation.
    “Coach said he wanted me in the backfield,” said Wilcox who played wide receiver and defensive back in high school. “I’m not playing B back, but I’m a big team guy and if it’s something that’s going to help the team then I’m going to do it.
    “I think I bring some leadership to the team,” Wilcox said. “I bring it by my actions on the field. I’m going to push the team as much as I can.”
    Wilcox has failed to score only in the Elon game. He had a 26 yard run for a score against Savannah State, and had the Eagles’ only score at Navy, hauling in a 17 yard pass.
    He scored on a 15 yard catch at Coastal Carolina, had a 22 yard run against Wofford, and then the 58 yard bomb at Chattanooga.
    “Learning the option scheme after playing in a spread where we ran only two or three schemes has been a challenge,” Wilcox said. “The option has a little bit of everything.
    “We’re getting better as a team at understanding what we have to do,” Wilcox said. “Becoming a blocker was a big transition. Here you have to get low with ends, linebackers and safeties.
    “You have to be physically and mentally tough, and I think those are two of my biggest assets.”

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