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Jax State's 2-Year Transition to FBS Status a Success


Jax State; Dec 16, 2023; New Orleans, LA, USA; Jacksonville State Gamecocks quarterback Logan Smothers (7) dives in for a touchdown against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during the second half at the Caesars Superdome.
© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks were notified by the NCAA on Friday they have completed their two-year transition period required to move to the FBS level. As a result, the Gamecocks will be full FBS members in the fall.



Jax State is coming off a 9-4 season and a three-point overtime win over Louisiana in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Kicker Garrison Rippa converted a 27-yard game-winning field goal as the clock struck zero. The Gamecocks led Conference USA with more than 20,000 fans per home game and played before a national television audience eight times, which was a school record.  



The Gamecocks increased their limit of scholarship players to the NCAA benchmark of 85, in addition to meeting certain financial criteria. In 2022, Jax State hired the best football coach available to lead the team into the FBS by putting the best product on the field. That coach was Rich Rodriguez.


Jax State
© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The former offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Monroe and coach at West Virginia, Rodriquez led the Gamecocks to 9-win seasons in each of his first two seasons at the helm. In year one, the Gamecocks posted a 9-2 record and won the Atlantic Sun Conference championship. Last season, Jax State posted a 6-2 record in CUSA. In a strange turn of events, the bowl berth in the "Big Easy" came about because there were fewer bowl-eligible teams than actual bowl games.


Jax State became one of only three teams to post nine wins in their first season playing an FBS schedule. The 1997 Marshall Thundering Herd (that featured QB Chad Pennington and WR Randy Moss) and Georgia Southern (2014) are the other teams.



2024 Jax State Football

The Gamecocks return just nine starters from last year’s squad, two of which earned 2023 postseason accolades. TE Sean Brown was named second-team All-CUSA after hauling in 19 catches for 294 yards and 5 TDs. In addition, Brown was named CUSA Tight End of the Year.


OG Clay Webb graded out at 87.5, which led all guards in the FBS in 2023. Webb earned first-team All-American by the College Football Network for his efforts and was named Offensive Guard of the Year by College Football Network.


Jax State
© Dave Hyatt/USA TODAY NETWORK

Jax State returns experience in the backfield with RB Ron Wiggins, who rushed for 468 yards and 6 TDs last season. Logan Smothers is the projected starter at quarterback after gaining 1,057 total yards and 13 total touchdowns a season ago.


On defense, the Gamecocks return LB Laletia Hale (60 tackles, 5.5 TFLs) and LB J-Rock Swain (30 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 4 sacks and 1 forced fumble).


Jax State hosts the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina on Aug. 29 in the season opener.

 



 

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