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Mar. 16—It might seem like the spring football season just began. In a sense, it has for Jacksonville State, as the games began just 17 days ago.
Even so, the Gamecocks are starting their stretch run. Ranked eighth in the FCS and having won a national-best six straight games, JSU (6-1, 3-0 OVC) will host Southeast Missouri on Sunday. After that are three more games: Austin Peay at home on March 28, at Eastern Illinois on April 3, and at Murray State on April 11. At the moment, JSU and Murray State (3-0, 3-0) are tied for first in the OVC standings.
As the Gamecocks prepare to play a Southeast Missouri team that has beaten them two straight times, JSU head coach John Grass spoke with reporters Tuesday morning about injuries, Zion Webb's passing arm, a milestone for the Gamecocks' home field, and other topics.
The top five things Grass covered:
1. Injury update
Defensive back Kolbi Fuqua, a redshirt-sophomore who transferred from Auburn, has been a bright spot for the JSU defense, but he injured his ankle Sunday at Tennessee-Martin.
"We'll know later this week what his status is," Grass said. "It's pretty severe, so we'll find out what the prognosis is moving forward with him."
In addition, tight end Trae Barry missed his second straight game Sunday because of issues with his knee, which required surgery in 2019 because of a torn ACL.
"Trae Barry is in meetings and practicing this week," Grass said. "We'll just have to figure it out later in the week if he's ready to go or not. ...
"I thought he did really good last week and was close to being ready to play. so I'm thinking he'll be a lot closer this week. He's doing everything he can to get on the field, as far as rehab. We consulted with the doctors and we're trying to do our part and make sure he's well before we put him back out there again."
2. Webb's arm
Before this year, Jacksonville State quarterback Zion Webb was known for his ability to scramble as much as anything.
He entered this season with 524 rushing yards to 529 passing.
Now, he's making waves with his arm. Counting only OVC games, Webb is leading the league with 206.7 passing yards a game and a passer efficiency rating of 160.0.
"Zion's got a really good arm," Grass said. "That's something we've not seen from him before because now he's getting to play every snap, and you're seeing him progress and get better. I think he's getting better every game, which is what you want to see."
3. Burgess-Snow milestone
Jacksonville State played its first game at what is now known as Burgess-Snow Field in 1946 when first-year coach Don Salls led the Gamecocks to a 26-0 win over Middle Georgia.
On Sunday, when Grass leads JSU onto the turf to meet Southeast Missouri, it will be the Gamecocks' 400th game at their venerable home stadium.
"It's special being the 400th game," Grass said. "To put that in perspective, it's not like other sports where you're playing so many games a year. To get to 400, that's a lot of years of playing football in this stadium.
"I like looking at what the stadium looked like in the first season, and you see the pictures of the wooden bleachers and things like that. You can see how it's progressed to what it is now."
Grass said he anticipates a good crowd of fans and alumni who enjoy returning to the school, which is an indication of what the campus and the stadium means to folks. Grass himself is a JSU graduate.
"JSU is a special place," he said. "The people who went here know that. It's not something to be overlooked."
4. Punt, JSU, punt
In conference games only, JSU freshman punter Jack Dawson is leading the OVC in punting. He is averaging 42.4 yards on 11 kicks. He had to beat out freshman Cole Porch to earn the job.
"He's settled into the role," Grass said. "We had a really good competition going on, and he's kind of pulled away a little bit. He's punting the ball consistently."
Grass said Dawson isn't just punting well for average, but "he's locating the ball where we want it located."
5. Nesby's arm
If Webb goes down and the Gamecocks need somebody to help fill in behind center, they've got an experienced passer in Jacksonville State defensive lineman Anthony Nesby.
A South Atlanta High School graduate, Nesby said he played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore, and he added with a smile, "I've got a real great arm."
He struggled with a concussion, and his grandmother figured he needed to be bigger to protect himself.
"Ended up feeding me a lot, and that's how I got so big," said Nesby, who is now 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds. "When I got back from my concussion, they moved me to linebacker. I kept eating and getting bigger, and they moved me to D-line, and I was good at it. I guess I was an athlete."
He said he has told Grass that JSU should put in a goal-line play for him.
"I can throw it," Nesby said. "I can throw it real good."
Grass said Nesby is valuable as a defensive lineman. Even though he is a redshirt-sophomore, he is one of JSU's most experienced players at his position.
"He's really come into his own," Grass said. "He's climbed his way up the depth chart and played more snaps than he's ever played before. He's a guy we're counting on."
Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.