E.A. Sports Today

Failed drug tests compromised JSU defense

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

There has been a strong feeling among Jacksonville State football fans since December that if quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back Damarcus James hadn’t gotten hurt, the Gamecocks would have beaten Eastern Washington in the FCS quarterfinals and advanced in the playoffs.

But even if they had gotten through that game, their chances of beating Towson in the semifinals and reaching the national championship game would have been seriously limited by what happened later.

And its impact was felt all the way through the spring.

Five players from the Gamecocks’ defense failed a post-game drug test that subjected them to a one-year suspension from any NCAA institution, sources inside and outside the program said. The sources said the players tested positive for marijuana.

The players – identified by sources as linebacker Brent Tolson, lineman Sean Watson, cornerback Dushonta Broughton and safeties Brandon Bender and Pierre Warren – are no longer in the JSU program.

Tolson and Watson were out of eligibility. Warren gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Broughton and Bender were headed to Faulkner; Broughton appears on its roster, Bender does not.

JSU officials have made no public comment on the issue, although they did announce Warren’s decision to forgo his final year of eligibility for the draft. Messages for athletics director Warren Koegel Friday were not returned and new head coach John Grass was involved in a youth football camp and not immediately available for comment.

University officials have repeatedly declined requests for the results of their athletics department drug testing program, citing privacy concerns and fears that small sample sizes in the data may compromise individual identities.

The departures in the secondary created a major fix-it project in the spring. The Gamecocks attempted to fill the void with newcomers, with the most seasoned, Georgia transfer Shaquille Fluker, never getting cleared to participate.

Bender and Warren were the Gamecocks’ top two tacklers last year with 101 and 76 tackles, respectively. Tolson had 63 (and two interceptions), Watson 34 and Broughton 14. Warren also had five interceptions, 12 pass break-ups, three fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.

Warren went undrafted and signed with the New Orleans Saints in June. He said when announcing his decision to enter the draft no outside reasons influenced him forgoing his final year of eligibility.

The Gamecocks, a consensus preseason top 10 team, were picked by the league’s media to win the Ohio Valley Conference this season. The Coaches/SID poll is expected to follow suit when it is announced at the conference football media day Monday in Nashville.

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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