Friday, August 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ roster growing

Leader sports editor

The second week of Jacksonville football practice saw a steady work rate and a slow increase in numbers. The Red Devils practiced with an average of 45 players the first week, but have been up to 52 most days in week two. More good news is that no further losses were incurred to eligibility or injury. Jacksonville has done full contact drills and scrimmaging, but is taking it lighter this year in preseason after suffering critical injuries last preseason and even in 7-on-7 action this summer.

“It’s been steady,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “We still haven’t reached what I think will be our full roster. That’s a little disappointing this late but we’ve got a lot of kids with jobs. We’re not in a situation here like some places where the kids don’t have to work. If these kids want anything they have to earn it. That mentality can actually be helpful in a way. But we’ve got our core group in here working and they’re getting better.”

Senior Nykel Worthen, who has the giant task of replacing current Arkansas Razorback Kevin Richardson at free safety, is one of the players’ with a job. He arrived early on Thursday to flip tractor tires for missing Wednesday’s practice for work. Worthen indicates confidence is high heading into the upcoming season.

“Everybody’s just ready to go,” said Worthen. “We can’t wait for that first game. We’ve been practicing a long time and doing a lot of stuff in the summer. I think we’re looking pretty good.”

While confidence is high, Worthen says the team understands the coaches’ message that there is still plenty of work to do.

“We can always get better,” Worthen said. “The team has been good about keeping people from loafing and keeping that intensity up. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

The team will play its annual preseason Red-White game on Saturday, Aug. 24 before heading to Cabot for the season opener at Panther Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 3.