02/29/2012 5:56 PM
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FL - The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks conducted another full-contact practice on Wednesday morning, the third such workout in as many days held at Plantation Park in St. Johns County.
Early-morning fog broke shortly after the start of practice as temperatures rose into the 80s in the second half of the session. After two days of cooler weather, Wednesday’s heat gave the Sharks an important conditioning test throughout what was a grueling team session.
Yet again, the team portion of practice was a spirited competition between offense and defense. Despite the intensity prior to the whistle, players on both sides could be seen giving each other tips and suggestions during breaks in the action. In particular, rookie defensive lineman Billy Harrison appeared to go in depth with members of the Sharks’ offensive line following a drill.
Leading up to this weekend’s preseason scrimmage, the Sharks’ coaching staff emphasized the need to keep focus. With an off day on tap for Thursday, proper treatment and body maintenance will be key as well.
An Eye on the Defensive Line
If the Jacksonville Sharks want to defend their ArenaBowl XXIV title, they'll need to see production from a defensive line that recorded 36 sacks last year. With almost half of last year's total sacks coming from Derrick Summers and Jason Holman, the two returning lineman for this season, line coach Brian Ferguson is encouraged to see the pair sharing their knowledge and working with the rookies.
"Summers has taken on a great role with helping out the defensive ends," Ferguson said. "Arena football is different than college football or the outdoor game as far as the stances and starts and Summers has done a great job helping the young guys. Holman has done the same with the nose guards."
Two new linemen, Johnny Dingle and Scooter Berry, were college teammates at West Virginia. Both played on the defensive line at WVU, but Berry recognizes the change in pace from NCAA to the Arena Football League.
"The biggest difference is speed," Berry said. "Growing up I wasn't always the fastest kid, but I was always quick. I didn't know what to expect here, it's so fast, but I like it."
With just two returners, the competition to earn a starting spot is going strong. Heading into the preseason game against New Orleans on Saturday, Ferguson knows what he wants to see from his group.
"I want to see four guys working together as a unit," Ferguson said. "There's no individual and we didn't do that last year. The best four guys who can get the best production is what I'm looking for. There's no superstar in this game. I want four guys working together, knowing where they're supposed to be on certain plays and performing their job."
Finding four brutes to work together shouldn't be difficult for Ferguson, as the group has worked hard through the first part of camp and jelled well.
"It's been competitive," Holman said. "When you bring young guys we're all competing for a job. Everybody's learning, everybody's getting better each day and that's all you can ask."
Following Wednesday’s practice, the Sharks announced that WR Jason Harmon and OL Vernard West have been assigned to the 2012 roster.
The 25-year-old Harmon (6’2”, 215) played at Florida Atlantic, leading the Owls with 48 receptions for 649 yards and six touchdowns as a senior in 2009. West (6’4,” 310), 24, is a Gainesville native who graduated from Bethune-Cookman.
The Sharks will not practice on Thursday, a much-needed day off after three straight days of hard hitting. The team returns to Plantation Park on Friday for their final tune-up before Saturday afternoon’s preseason scrimmage against the VooDoo. Friday’s practice will be open to the public and is set to begin at 8:30 a.m.
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and back-to-back South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2012 season are now available, two tickets as low as $135. To reserve your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance.