Hot Dog! JU Football Is Back
Defending Pioneer Football League champion Jacksonville University begins its quest for a 2011 repeat as practice opens today at D.B. Milne Field with a heat index of near 105 degrees expected.

The Dolphins reported Thursday to continue what they started last season when they went 10-1 overall and 8-0 in the PFL and have a senior-laden offense returning from a team that averaged nearly 42.2 points a game in 2010.

The leaders of the offense are a trio of seniors; quarterback Josh McGregor, wide receiver Josh Philpart and running back J.J. Laster who will play behind an offensive line dominated by class mates.

McGregor holds virtually all school passing records and statistically is the leading quarterback in all of college football. He, of course, will be looking to top last year’s 3,049 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.

“It’s going to be an exciting season for us with the season we had last year,’’ McGregor said. “We have a good group of seniors who want to put the hard work in this camp to make sure we go farther than we did last year. We’ve got a group of young kids coming who will work hard and everyone is excited to get the first day started. I’ve talked to a lot of guys on the team and we want this camp to start, and not to get it over, but to compete and progress.’’

His favorite target is Philpart, a preseason all-star candidate who had 48 receptions for 800 yards and 12 TDs.

Laster played behind Rudell Small last season but still racked up 810 yards rushing and a nation’s-best 8.5 yards per carry.

The JU defense has eight starters returning led by senior defensive end Rolando Fines and junior defensive back Leonard Smith.

Smith had 66 tackles and a pair of interceptions and Fines 54 tackles in 2010.

“The coaching staff’s really excited because we feel like we’ve got the best roster we’ve had since we’ve been here,’’ head coach Kerwin Bell said. “We have a lot of talent and a lot of experience and we like the way our team unity is coming together. We’ll get started (today) and hopefully we’ll have the kind of team we had last year which was ‘let’s go to work’.’’

Bell said given the expected weather conditions, the National Weather Service says it will be scorching hot when practice starts at 3:30 p.m., the team will build in extra water breaks.

“We practice at a real fast pace especially on the offensive team which has the whole practice as an up-tempo practice so we’ll take one or two of those breaks as a precaution,’’ he said. “The good thing about our guys is they’re used to this Florida heat and have been out in it. Hopefully we won’t have any problems.’’

McGregor concurred.

“The heat will never bother us down here,’’ he said. “I hope some of the northern teams we play can actually feel some of the heat we have to go through.’’