E.A. Sports Today

‘B’ is for bulk

For Jacksonville grad Wiggins, adding bulk to speed brings FBS-level peace as he sets about proving himself in Jax State’s FBS reality.

Cover photo: Jax State’s Ron Wiggins tries to pull away from a UTEP defender during Saturday’s game on Burgess-Snow Field. He accounted for 87 total yards and the Gamecocks’ first-ever touchdown as an FBS program. (Submitted photo)

JACKSONVILLE — Picture the memory of Ron Wiggins flashing a peace sign as he finished a long touchdown run in high school.

Yes, he drew a flag, but c’mon. As things that draw taunting flags go, this one rated about a 2 on a 10 scale.

Joe Medley, Editor

Now, picture Ron’s runs on the new turf in Jacksonville’s Golden Eagle Stadium. Don’t think the thought hasn’t occurred for the guy who burned the old grass for more than 5,000 yards as a junior and senior.

Indelible as those memories of Wiggins are, they’re nowhere near the picture of a newly minted, Football Bowl Subdivision running back who looks like he swallowed a weight room in the offseason.

Ron can still run. About 20 pounds more bulk didn’t lose him any speed.

The 175-pound guy who spurned FBS offers to sign with a then-Football Championship Subdivision Jacksonville State is no more. He converted to the 195-pound guy looking to prove himself in FBS.

Peace out.

“I heard a lot that I wasn’t going to make it at the next level because I was just a speed guy,” he said during Jax State’s Tuesday news conference in advance of Saturday’s 1 p.m. home game against East Tennessee State.

One game into Wiggins’ FBS life, he looks the part.

Jax State began its first season as a full-on FBS member Saturday, beating a team with an acronym people recognize to start the Gamecocks’ first Conference USA season 1-0.

Wiggins provided the historical footnote with his 4-yard touchdown, Jax State’s first-ever full-on FBS touchdown, in the second quarter.

More impressive than his 24 rushing yards against UTEP were his 63 receiving yards. He accounted for 41 of the Gamecocks’ 80 yards on the drive that ended in his touchdown.

Can he do it on the FBS level?

Why yes. Eyes don’t lie.

“Ronnie started taking off at the end of last year, and he really had a great spring,” Jax State coach Rich Rodriguez said.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Wiggins make it in FBS. Arkansas State, Southern Mississippi, Troy and UAB thought enough of Wiggins’ FBS potential to offer him out of high school.

Too, Rodriguez has put two years into reworking Jax State’s roster. Most players deemed to lack FBS potential got that candid evaluation and left the scene.

Wiggins is still around for a reason, and his FBS shot got real in the 2021 season, when Jax State announced plans to move up. That move would take effect in 2023, so Wiggins had time to get his body ready.

Meeting the moment meant bulking up. Run-Ron-Run had to become Lift-Ron-Lift and Eat-Ron-Eat.

It had to be, because 175-pound ball carriers don’t last long in FBS. Wiggins set a goal.

“I’ve always been 175 or 180, so, really, in the offseason, my goal was to get around 190, 195,” he said. “We’ve got a great strength staff. Coach Blake (McCall) worked us hard in the spring and summer, and I was able to achieve my goal.”

That means the guy who stunned UMS Wright defenders with his stop-and-go gear in the 2019 Class 4A final can take more pounding on college football’s top tier.

He also still has the speed to fly deuces, but that would draw “hard edge” from his FBS coach.

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