“This is probably the best group I’ve had since I’ve been here,” the JCJC defensive line coach said. “This is my third year here and talent-wise – as a group – I know it’s the best I’ve had. We’ve had some good individual guys go on to the next level – Ryan Robinson at Oklahoma State, Jo’nal White at Louisiana Tech, Anthony Wilson at Southern Miss and Derrek Upshaw and Jadarrius Garner at Troy.
“But this group works together well and pushes each other to do well. We are excited about this group and I think our defensive line will be one of the strongest points of this team.”
The Bobcats return three sophomores from last year’s defensive line and they are expected to start – ends Chavez Sims (6-2, 237) of Mize and Shaquille Smith (6-1, 260) of Jackson Lanier, along with tackle Cameron McLeod (6-3, 285) of Greene County.
Maddox is particularly excited about Sims, whose brother, Eugene, currently plays for the St. Louis Rams.
“Chavez is a captain on the defense,” Maddox said. “He is a hard worker and a leader. He is a smart player and gives you all he has. We are expecting big things from him. We had a couple of Division I schools come through in the spring recruiting him, so I think he will do a great job for us.”
Maddox said that McLeod has made the successful transition from offense to defense.
“Cameron is a big guy who came here playing offensive tackle, but (Offensive Line) Coach (Ron) Brewer gave him to me,” he said. “I told him whenever he leaves here, he will be going to the SEC. So, that’s been our goal. He has been working towards doing that. He is kind of in the same boat as Chavez because some schools did come here in the spring and look at him.
“The sky is the limit for him. Cameron has all of the tools. He is a smart kid in the classroom and works hard. The future is bright for him and we are excited about him.”
Maddox said Smith has done well in recovering from an injury last year.
“Shaquille is a returning guy. He started for me right at mid-season, but had an ACL tear,” he said. “He has worked extremely hard with (Athletic Trainer) Joel Cain and the doctors and has returned stronger than he left. He is performing well and we are excited about seeing him line up this year.”
Currently listed as a starting tackle is a freshman from Quitman, Fred McGruder. McGruder (6-4, 357) brings size and ability to the line.
“Fred is an extremely big guy,” Maddox said. “He moves well, but he is a freshman. He is kind of raw and we are working on a couple of technique things to get him fundamentally sound. He takes coaching well and if he continues to do that, he will have a very bright future, too. He buys into everything and he is coachable.”
Backing up Sims will be James Anthony (6-4, 250), a Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University transfer, while Laurel sophomore Felton Collins (6-4, 250) will spell Smith. Collins played tight end last year and was on the Bobcat basketball team.
“James transferred in from Mississippi State and Alcorn,” Maddox said. “He is a young guy and has a lot of work to do to get better. He works hard and is a little raw, but we will get there.
“We moved Felton from tight end to defensive end. He is a big guy with a big frame and we are very excited to have him on our side of the ball. He was with us in the spring and did a great job and I asked (Head) Coach (Ray) Perkins if we could keep him. So, he awarded him to us and we are glad to have him.
“He is a strong, explosive guy.”
Memphis, Tenn., freshman Steven Eddings (6-5, 285) is listed behind McLeod, while South Jones freshman Jamarcus Blanks (6-3, 280) backs up McGruder.
“Steven is a big kid from Memphis,” said Maddox. “He is similar to Cameron. He is big and tall with long arms. He is working hard and doing an excellent job in camp.
“Jamarcus is a local guy and is probably the quickest guy we have on the defensive line. They call him ‘Cheese’ and he is a great kid. He is focused and will be a real good player for us. He is an explosive guy and I look for him to get a lot of sacks for us this year.”
Northeast Jones sophomore transfer Julian Boochie (6-3, 240) will also be at an end slot, while Oak Grove freshman Ryan Myrick (6-3, 260) is at a tackle.
“Julian is a walk-on who we signed because we saw some progress over the summer and he earned a scholarship,” Maddox said of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer. “He works hard and has his nose to the ground.
“Ryan is a big, raw kid who works hard and gets better every day. That’s what we look for – make progress every day.”
The Bobcats will open the 2012 season under first-year head coach Ray Perkins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 against the Holmes Community College Bulldogs at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field.
The game will be telecast on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call. The game will also air on WLAU-FM, 99.3.