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Wilcox running strong

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Wilcox running strong

Georgia Southern running back J.J. Wilcox (19) throws a block for GSU quarterback Jaybow Shaw as Shaw makes his way into the endzone in the Eagles' win over Elon September 23, 2010.

J.J. Wilcox came to Georgia Southern to be a wide receiver.

The rising junior caught 16 passes for 179 yards his freshman year in 2009, and everything changed after that season with the arrival of coach Jeff Monken and his triple-option offense.

Wilcox was asked, for the first time in his life, if he could move to running back. Or in his case, A-back.

"I was upset," Wilcox said in spring of 2010 when asked about the switch. "I had to call my dad on the phone and I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t know how to play running back. I don’t know how to read seams and gaps.’ He was like, ‘Just hang in there.’ Personally I went and talked to coach Monken. He sat down to talk with me and told me it would be the best adjustment. He said, ‘Don’t you like to run and catch?’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’"

Wilcox went on to start 14 of 15 games in 2010, and finished fourth on the team in rushing, totaling 484 yards on the ground and scoring six touchdowns.

"This time last year," Wilcox said, "I was still trying to figure out if I was a wide receiver or a running back. Coach Monken and the other coaches talked to me and put me in the right situation."

Fortunately for Wilcox, he still gets a taste of what he came to GSU to do. In fact, he also led the Eagles in receiving, catching 22 passes for 551 yards and three more touchdowns through the air.

"I was very surprised," said Wilcox about his pass-catching opportunities. "I’ve just got to give it to the coaches though. They gave be the chance to make some plays, and I’m happy where I’m at right now."

Spring practice, which continued Saturday at Beautiful Eagle Creek, has been different this season. All of the wide-receiver-turned slotbacks and halfback-turned-fullbacks are more comfortable in their role.

"You can definitely tell," said quarterback Jaybo Shaw. "A lot of guys, including myself, are more confident with each other and the coaching staff."

Even Wilcox, who feels like he’s playing the position he was born to play.

"You practice the position every day," he said. "You work on it in the weight room. I work on it every chance I get, and now I feel like I’m an A-back."


Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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