They went through the first afternoon workout of the fall, Thursday, and are now getting set for the lone scrimmage action, this Friday at home against Pace. And watching the Jags go at it under the hot, breezy conditions, one could not help but be startled with their size.
During a lull, coaches Jaime Olivarez and Lonnie Garza, long-time defensive gurus, were pointing out new, promising Jags right and left, and it is an impressive group. Along with returning vet Ernie Tijerina, Econ has a bunch of big, strong youngsters who will get their reps in 2017.
“We have good numbers, probably the best we’ve had,” said Olivarez, waving at a group of 20 good-looking kids. “Hopefully we will come at the other teams in waves, we may have a speed line and a strength line; we’ve got a lot of guys who are going to play.”
One of the new faces belongs to Canelo Gomez, younger brother of former program great Boxer Gomez, and another is sophomore Augustin Villegas. They and their mates are muscular, eager, and will definitely get their chance to contribute. Rangy David Galvan is another prospect in the group, among the league’s stingiest in 2016.
Tijerina, 250 and stacked, will be the leader of the gang as a senior. He paid his dues as a spot player, started some ball games in 2016, and now appears poised to be one of the best linemen in the league. He can play either end or tackle, and gives the Jags a veteran presence for a defense that returns just three bona fide starters from the playoff team of last year.
On the other side of the line, the Jags are hoping that A.J. Garza, who had his moments in 2016, continues to improve, helping an offense that Coach Gabe Pena thinks could be very explosive.
“We have got the weapons to throw the ball, if we can get some protection up front,” he said. “With Pete Segura and Roger Barrientos, we feel we have two of the best receivers around.”
As for the running game, the Jags head into the latest campaign without a proven threat, though oft-injured Gabriel Ornelas is finally healthy and ready.
“He’s one of those guys who, if he is healthy, can be a very good runner,” Pena said. “We also have Lee Maldonado and Omar Trevino, some guys who are ready to take their shot and see what they can do. Sonny Castillo is another back who will see his share of time this year.”