If you haven’t already, be sure to check out previous teams we have ranked for the upcoming season!
Continuing right along in our ‘Ranking The Teams’ series,
#10 on our list is Jacksonville.
Not to be confused with FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State, the Jacksonville Dolphins come from Jacksonville, Florida. They play at the FCS level in the Pioneer Football League.
The first thing to consider in this match-up against the Dolphins is where they come from. The Pioneer Football League is home to some of the smaller schools in the FCS and none of those schools offer athletic-based scholarships. Because of this, the schools that the Dolphins see out of conference, in which offer scholarships, can carry a higher level of talent. Liberty looks to be one of their most difficult games of the 2016 season. While there are good teams in the PFL, most simply do not possess the same talent as other conferences. Apart from this, Jacksonville has been at the center of some controversy in recent years. Even though the PFL does not offer monetary help for athletic ability, Jacksonville was doing just that. Between 2010-2014, football players received compensation for their time on the team. The Dolphins received harsh sanctions from the conference and even lost their chance at their first ever playoff berth in 2014. Schools caught in controversy tend to lose talent or the opportunity to bring in new talent.
Jacksonville did have some impressive play last season as they averaged 440 yards and 30 points per game. They went 9-2 having their two losses come from Dayton, a current power in the conference, and Drake. The Dolphins bolstered a great passing attack thanks to redshirt senior QB Kade Bell. Bell served as the starting QB for Jacksonville for the last 4 years, much like what Liberty had in QB Josh Woodrum. He averaged over 236 yards a game and produced much of their offense for the season. With the loss of a 4-year starter, Jacksonville will look to junior QB Rylan Wells to take control. Even though he didn’t start, Wells saw action in 9 games and managed to ellipse almost 1,000 passing yards last season. They also return both of their top rushers in Jamal Adjamah and Ulysses Bryant, though they both had average sophomore seasons. On the defensive side of the ball, Jacksonville lost a good portion of their starters. While their production is impressive, it must be considered that a good portion of Jacksonville’s numbers come from within the Pioneer Football League where their competition is not too fierce.
By the time November comes around, a win against Jacksonville will probably mean very little. Should Liberty be lobbying for an at-large bid for the FCS playoffs, this will most likely be a throw away game. In considering this, Jacksonville seems to be a good fit for #10 on our list. But remember: A loss often does more damage than a win does good in games like this. The last thing the Flames want to do is lose smaller games like this.
Some other things to keep in mind:
This game is nestled in between two of, what could be argued as, the biggest games in Liberty’s history. Before Jacksonville, the Flames will see Virginia Tech and after they will see SMU. Should the team be more concerned with the FBS teams they will be facing, it could impact their play against the Dolphins.
As discussed with the Robert Morris game, Jacksonville is coming to Williams Stadium where the Flames generally play good football. Could end up being a blowout.
Players to watch:
LB Grady Redding-This rising senior led Jacksonville’s defense in tackles and will likely make himself known against Liberty.
The Flames kickoff against Virginia Tech in 56 days!