JU Dolphins set to begin 21st year of football

Jacksonville will host St. Augustine's at 1PM on Saturday

Jacksonville University football coach Ian Shields addresses the team at the conclusion of the 2018 spring practice.
Jacksonville University football coach Ian Shields addresses the team at the conclusion of the 2018 spring practice. (news4jax.com)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville enters its 21st season of football in 2018. The Dolphins take the field representing the Pioneer Football League for the 18th year. JU looks to build on a 7-4 mark in the 2017 campaign, which included a 5-3 record in PFL play, which saw the team finish in third place.

The 'Phins welcome back 47 players who donned the Green and Gold in 2017. This includes six returning starters on each side of the ball and a pair on special teams. Junior RB Irvin Riley earned Second Team All-Conference honors in the Pioneer Football League last season, while RG Jake Dempsey, WR Prince Gray, LG Jake Howell, LB Thomas Oporto, QB Calvin Turner Jr. and LB Caysaun Wakeley received PFL Honorable Mention nods.

Head Coach Ian Shields enters his third season at the helm of the team, with 2018 marking his 25th year as a college football coach. Alongside Shields are seven coaches who manned the Jacksonville sidelines last season. Former United States Military Academy standout Trent Steelman returns to his roots for the 2018 campaign, taking control of the team's quarterbacks & b-backs units.

Based upon voting from the 115 members of the Jacksonville football team, the program announced its team captains and leadership council for the 2018 season. Wakeley, Riley, Dempsey and LB Thomas Oporto were each chosen as captains, while Turner Jr., WR Nic Duch, DL Crandall Maines and CB CJ Lewis were placed on the leadership council.

The Dolphins welcome Saint Augustine's University onto the schedule for the first time in program history. A member of the NCAA Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the Falcons travel to the River City for the first of two straight clashes with opponents at the Division I level (North Carolina Central). JU is 1-0 against current CIAA members, having defeated Chowan University, 29-7, as part of its inaugural season of football in 1998.

A number of Dolphins were honored with preseason recognition prior to taking the field for the 2018 season. Wakeley represented the team on the PFL All-Preseason squad, returning as one of the team's two top tacklers from 2017.

Wakeley later joined eight other 'Phins in earning a spot on the Phil Steele Preseason All-Conference team, getting a Second-Team nod. He was joined on the squad by Dempsey, Turner Jr. and LB Trevor Tufano . Howell and Oporto were placed on the First Team, while Riley, Gray and DL Myles Harris received Third Team honors.

Traveling to the Sunshine State for the first time in recent memory, the Falcons look for their first victory over a NCAA Division 1 opponent in program history. Entering their 84th season of football, SAU begins its campaign looking to build on a 5-5 record in 2017, which included a 5-2 mark in CIAA competition and Southern Division-leading 4-1 performance.

The Falcons return 53 lettermen from last season, including the squad's top returners in receiving yards (WR Lenwood Joyner), rushing yards (RB Jeremiah Miller), pass breakups (DB Demonte Hines), passing yards (QB D.J. Johnson) and tackles (DL Keywan Morgan).

Offensive tackle Zack Jenkins joined Dempsey in representing each player's respective school as a nominee for the 2018 AFCA Allstate Good Works Team, which recognizes student-athletes for their off-the-field contributions.