The Jacksonville Dolphins have to replace nine starters on offense from a year ago – everyone but their tight end and a wide receiver -- but when JU faces the Georgia Southern Eagles Saturday at 6 p.m. in Paulson Stadium, it’ll all be about the scheme.
"It’s their passing attack. They have a great scheme. It’s a pro-style scheme and you can see the influence of the coaches who have been at the highest level," said GSU defensive coordinator Jack Curtis. "It’s very sophisticated. They get a lot of guys out in the passing game, and you’ve got to be good with your eyes. You’ve got to be able to turn people loose."
The Eagles have had to do a 180 in their defensive mentality. Throughout fall camp, they’ve been facing their own offense and its potent, triple-option running game, and now they’ll have to face a Dolphins offense that will go to the air early and often.
"We’ve been defending the triple option in camp," Curtis said, "and we’ve had to put in a lot of extra work this last week and a half."
The Jacksonville defense is no stranger to GSU’s offense, either.
"They opened with The Citadel last year, so they’ve got a good feel for what we’re doing with the ball," said Eagles head coach Jeff Monken. "We’re not a whole lot different from The Citadel when it comes down to it in terms of scheme and the way we block."
Still, the Dolphins had their hands full in the 2011 opener. The Bulldogs cruised to a 31-9 win while rushing for a grand total of 439 yards, gaining 8.1 per attempt.
The JU defense has eight starters returning to the defensive side of the ball.
"Coach (Kerwin) Bell fells like this may be the best defense they’ve had in school history," Monken said.
The Dolphins are no strangers to winning in their 15 years since the program started. They won the Pioneer Conference title in 2008 and 2010. The 2010 season included an 86-7 win on the road against in-conference foe Valparaiso.
"Attitude means so much in competition. They went 10-1 two years ago, and there are plenty of kids on that team who were there for that," Monken said. "They’ll be very confident coming in here, and I wouldn’t expect them to back down."
The Dolphins look to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback, Kade Bell, son of the head coach.
Jacksonville is 0-4 against Southern Conference opponents, losing to The Citadel, Samford and twice to Appalachian State.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.