ITS FINALLY "COUNTRY TIME" AT JACKSONVILLE STATE
As summer camp has evolved, two names have been consistently mentioned as newcomers to watch: running back, Coot James, and wide receiver, Gabriel “Country” Chambers. Chambers is no stranger to playing championship football, having won a title his senior year of high school at Cherokee County along with fellow Gamecock Coty Blanchard.
Blanchard followed his high school glory with an amazing performance in his first college game, helping to lead JSU to an improbable upset over Ole Miss. Chambers, however, has had to be a little more patient in getting his opportunity to shine after sitting out his first year to concentrate on admission issues. Indeed, Chambers was not even allowed to practice with the team. Undeterred, he kept working on his skills and appears to be ready to contribute to the Gamecocks this season. Chambers is the consummate Gamecock, confident in his own ability, but quick to praise teammates. While Chambers has great physical ability, his strongest attribute may be a sheer love for the game of football.
On the eve of the 2011 season, we sat down with Chambers to get his thoughts on being back on the field, his fellow wide receivers and some other new Gamecocks that are turning heads.
On Returning to Football After Sitting Out For the Year
Q: How excited are you to be out on the field again after sitting out for a year?
A: I’m very excited. When you sit out, you have to have the confidence to get yourself back into the pads.
Q: Was it strange getting into the live contact after sitting out?
A: The first day we started out it felt kind of weird because I had not been hit for a while, but I’m getting used to it.
Q: Who laid that first hit on you?
A: Robert Gray [a safety from Collinsville] probably laid the first big lick on me. It was like a hit I got in the state championship game.
Q: Speaking of the state championship, JSU has a big contingent of fans from Cherokee county. When you go out on the field on September 1 do you feel like you will be representing Cherokee County?
A: Yes, sir. I am representing Centre, but I am also out there doing whatever I can to help my team win. The coaches say you have to get out of high school mode, so I am definitely not forgetting where I came from, but I’m also looking towards my future at JSU.
Q: Have you and your former high school teammate Coty Blanchard hooked up much in preseason workouts?
A: Yes, sir. When we had the week off to go back home, me, Coty and DJ Fife [former Cherokee County running back] all met up and we threw back at the high school. . . . Me and Coty have been throwing and connecting here lately.
Q: Coach Crowe has sung your praises here in the pre-season, how does that make you feel?
A: I don’t take that for granted. It means a lot for the head coach to say something about me. He knows that I won’t let him down. I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to do my job. I have a great group or receivers that are helping me. Right now, I am still in a learning experience but once I get used to the learning curve I will be ready to rock and roll.
Q: Who are some of the receiving corps veterans that have taken you under their wing?
A: I have a great group of guys to help me. I have Alan Bonner, James Shaw and we have a new transfer, Trey Smith, he has helped me out a lot. We are like a family out there. We help each other out and look out for each other. A lot of the guys help make sure we are in the right spot at the right time.
Q: Has it been difficult adjusting to the speed of the college game versus high school?
A: Not really, the main thing I have to get used to is not making that many cuts, but just turn it up and get north and south because the big guys might be coming! Every time I get the ball, I’ll run for my life . . . because there are bigger guys out there and they are way faster than they were in high school.
Q: You try to stay away from Monte Lewis in practice?
A: Yes, sir. I try to stay away from him and Big Texas [JSU Defensive End Rodney Garrott].
Q: You look like you have bulked up some since arriving at JSU?
A: Yes, sir. I have gained some weight. Coach Austin [JSU’s strength coach] does a good job [with us] in the weight room. When I first started [this year] I wasn’t in top shape because I had to take the year off . . . but Coach Austin has gone a great job getting me back in shape. We are in the best shape that we have ever been. We are going to be pretty good. I hate it for teams that are going to have to go against us.
Q: Are you ready for 2 a days to be done?
A: We are ready, but then if you love the game . . you still want football to be always there.
ON THE TRANSFERS TO JSU
Q: Trey Smith, the wide receiver transfer from Western Michigan, had a big Spring Game. Has he carried that over to summer practice?
A: Yes, sir. He is one of those guys you can throw to [when you need a first down]. He is a tall, physical person. He says he is going to open it up one day; I’m just waiting to see him open it up.
Q: What is your first impression of Georgia transfer, running back Washaun Ealey?
A: Ealey is a great back. I’ve never seen someone that is that big, but can run like that. [Editor’s note: Chambers was quick to mention that he views Calvin Middleton as a great running back as well].
Q: How about Jack Jackson, the linebacker transfer from Ole Miss?
A: Jack is a headhunter. He is an athletic player. . . . He is one of those players that likes to get around the ball.
CHAMBERS ON THE GAMECOCKS’ PASSING ATTACK:
Q: I keep hearing JSU might be going more to the running game. Are the receivers taking it as a challenge to play so well that Coach Letson [JSU’s offensive coordinator] doesn’t have any choice but to throw it to you?
A: We are just going to have to do what receivers do. If they want to go to the running game, we are going to have to block for them. As long as we are winning, we aren’t going to complain. We are going to try and get the running game back, anybody can stop the pass, but its hard to stop the run. That’s the main thing for defenses, stop the run. The passing game is going to be there.
Q: How is QB Marques Ivory playing after losing so much weight?
A: Ques’ and I talked the other night. He is one of those guys on the team that gives me leadership. He was determined to lose weight. He felt like in the games we lost last year, he could have made more plays. This year we will see more of Ques’ like he was in high school, more like a running quarterback. He can throw and run. It is exciting what he can bring to the table this year, so I am ready to see it.
CHAMBERS ON THE GAMECOCK SECONDARY:
Q: How tough is it in practice going up against our veteran corners, AJ Davis and Jawaan Booker?
A: They are tough. Book and I worked out in the summer. He is a smart player. He really stays on me about my release.
AJ is a speed and lockdown corner, Book is the same way. I’m glad that I have people like that to compete with every day to make me better. [Both of these guys] show me leadership and tell me about stuff they learned when they were freshmen. It is helping me out so that I can learn more and more about the game so I can be ready before UT Martin.
Q: I also hear some good things about our freshman corners, Denzell Bynum and Brandon Bender?
A: Denzell is one of those quick guys. I played against Denzell in high school. He is a great defensive player and from what I see in camp he should be able to get playing time. But, we have so many great corners its just going to be a competitive group this year.
Brandon Bender is athletic. He can play any spot [in the backfield], he can play corner, he can play safety. We have a lot of athletic people that just love the game.
Q: A long time ago, you told us to watch out for safety Pierre Warren from Marbury, Alabama. Is he still a player to watch?
A: Pierre is a ball hawk. Every time he goes up he tries to take it away from us, so I call him a ball hawk. He makes plays on defense. He is going to be a great safety for us.
Q: We heard Kicker, Griffin Thomas, tackled you on a break away return. Is that true?
A: I was tired! It was one of those things where I was trying to make a cut back field. Griffin was there. I thought that he was going to try to tackle me up high but he tackled me down low. But, Griffin is a great, athletic guy so I am not going to take anything away from him. But, it’s not going to happen again during the season.
Q: Are you ready for UTM, they are a good team?
A: Coach Crowe says there are some things we have to do, but we are physically and mentally ready.
Q: Any more thoughts about the season?
A: We plan on taking it to the next level and it starts with UT Martin. There is going to be some bumpy roads, but we are going to try and finish it. . . . Its going to be a great, exciting season for everybody and I hope everyone can come out and watch us and give us fan support. I promise you that we are not going to let you down. . . . We have great backs, we have great players. We can go deep in the playoffs. We are planning on winning the OVC and we are planning on going deep in the playoffs this year.
*******The above picture is from jsufan.com. James takes great pictures at all JSU athletic events. Please see his pictures at his website.************