Southeast product Jones receives strong reviews

Monday, August 4, 2008

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun had some flattering words for Southeast Missouri State product Edgar Jones, who is in his second season as a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens.

Jones saw limited action as an NFL rookie last season after he made the Ravens as an undrafted free agent, but he has been getting plenty of front-line work so far in training camp as Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs will likely sit out the preseason because of his franchise-player designation.

The newspaper noted that Jones is a second-year player who is "ready to excel" and published the following quote from Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan: "Edgar has come a long way, from a small college, and he just keeps getting better every day. I think he can become a good one."

The article went on to say that the 6-foot-3, 263-pound Jones — an All-American defensive end at Southeast in 2006 who was moved to linebacker in the NFL — is "big and physical enough to play inside, and quick and fast enough to play outside. He has already been compared to Adalius Thomas, the former Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker who's now with the New England Patriots."

Jones, who played in only four games last season, was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "I'm way ahead of last year, feeling more confident. Last year was harder, more difficult. I'm more comfortable. Now, I just got to put my head in the playbook more."

Jones is one of four ex-Southeast players currently in NFL training camps.

Eugene Amano is the most established among that group as he will be entering his fifth season as an offensive lineman with the Tennessee Titans. The All-American at Southeast received five starts last year, including the Titans' playoff game against the Chargers.

Dimitri Patterson spent last season as a reserve cornerback with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Southeast All-American played in three games for the Washington Redskins in 2005 and in 2006 was on the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad late in the year.

Dan Connolly is trying to make the New England Patriots' active roster after spending all of last season on their practice squad. The offensive lineman was a reserve for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005 and spent the entire 2006 campaign on Jacksonville's injured reserve list before being released last summer.

Like Jones, Patterson and Connolly originally made the NFL as undrafted free agents. Amano was drafted in the seventh and final round.

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Speaking of Southeast football, the Redhawks are just about to get fall camp started.

Players reported Sunday, with media day and conditioning tests set for today. The first actual practice will be Tuesday.

As is customary for early August in Missouri, steamy weather will greet the Redhawks.

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That Sikeston native Blake DeWitt was recently sent down to Class AAA by the Los Angeles Dodgers is probably not so much because they don't feel like he has what it takes to be a solid major leaguer but more because they simply want him to receive regular at-bats.

DeWitt, a first-round draft choice in 2004, was getting that through the first several months of the season as the Dodgers' starting third baseman despite being a rookie.

But in recent weeks DeWitt had received little playing time, after his average dipped from a high water mark of .322 to .257. He batted just .200 since June 1.

After the Dodgers traded for Cleveland Indians' third baseman Casey Blake a little more than one week ago, DeWitt was sent down.

DeWitt, who prior to this season had never played above the Class AA level, is now with the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League. He was off to a hot start with that squad, batting .409 with two home runs and nine RBIs in just six games entering the weekend.

One of DeWitt's teammates in Las Vegas is former Austin Peay standout A.J. Ellis, who actually grew up in Cape Girardeau but didn't live here that long.

Ellis, who attended high school in Lexington, Ky., was a PCL all-star this year. He entered the weekend batting .311.

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While DeWitt was sent down to the minor leagues, another local product continues to have a spot on the major league level.

Justin Christian, who played just one season at Southeast — in 2003, earning All-American honors — remained with the New York Yankees even after they made a trade to strengthen their outfield.

That meant either Christian or highly regarded prospect Brett Gardner would have to be demoted, and the Yankees elected to send Gardner down to Class AAA.

Christian, who has seen action in both left field and right field, has primarily been used as a pinch-runner or late-inning replacement. He entered the weekend hitting .280 (7-for-25) with two doubles, five RBIs and four stolen bases in five attempts.

Christian was called up by the Yankees several weeks ago for his first taste of the big leagues, then briefly was sent back down to Class AAA before being recalled again. He was not drafted out of Southeast and began his career in the independent Frontier League before being picked up by the Yankees' organization.

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The Southeast women's basketball program has picked up a verbal commitment for the 2009-10 season.

Shelah Fields, a 5-foot-6 point guard who will be a senior at Riverview Gardens High School in suburban St. Louis, recently accepted Southeast's scholarship offer.

Fields, who according to the North County Journal newspaper was also recruited heavily by Southern Illinois-Carbondale, averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals the past two seasons.

The earliest Fields can sign with Southeast is November.

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Congratulations to the Charleston Fighting Squirrels for winning the Senior Babe Ruth Midwest Regional title last week on its home field.

The Squirrels now advance to the Babe Ruth World Series later this week in Ohio.

Charleston's coach is Cape Girardeau native Michael Minner, who I have known for years and is a great guy. He has really built up the baseball program at Charleston High School and has also worked tirelessly to develop Charleston's Senior Babe Ruth team.

While the Squirrels primarily consist of players from Charleston, there are three local products on the squad.

Oran's Steven Dooley was the winning pitcher in the regional championship game, Notre Dame graduate Blake Gaddis is the Squirrels' shortstop and Scott County Central product Mark Freed is their first baseman.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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