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Sharks add depth on the field and the sideline

Former Jacksonville DB Bill Alford, shown here in a 2012 playoff game, will be coaching the defensive backs this season.
Former Jacksonville DB Bill Alford, shown here in a 2012 playoff game, will be coaching the defensive backs this season.
Erik Watkins

The Jacksonville Sharks started 2014 with big announcements: their coaching staff and two new signings.

First, the Sharks strengthened an already powerful offensive line by signing Ayo Ademiluyi to a one-year rookie contract.

At 27 years old, Ademiluyi (6’6”, 305 lbs.) will make is Arena Football League debut after spending time in minicamp for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. He started his collegiate career abroad, playing one year for Royal Holloway university in his native United Kingdom (he’s originally from Dartford, Kent, 16 miles east-southeast of central London). He came stateside to finish his collegiate career, playing for the Emporia State University Hornets. He was a mainstay on the NCAA Division II team, playing on the offensive line for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

To go along with the boost on offense, the Sharks boosted their defense with the return of defensive lineman Justin Parrish. He was assigned to the team after signing a one-year contract.

The 29-year-old Parrish (6’2”, 255 lbs.) enters his fifth season in the Arena Football League and has spent three seasons as a member of Jacksonville’s vaunted pass rush. Parrish appeared in six games last season, totaling 11.5 tackles (eight solo), 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Parrish also played in one game with the Orlando Predators during the second half of 2013 after leaving the Sharks.

Parrish’ first stint with Jacksonville was two season in 2010-11. As a member of the Sharks’ ArenaBowl XXIV-winning team, Parrish appeared in 17 games (starting 15), logging 23.5 tackles (13 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He was Jacksonville’s top pass rusher during the team’s three-game playoff run, as he notched two tackles for loss and a sack in the postseason. In 2009, his rookie season, Parrish broke into the league with three sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a rookie.

Justin Parrish spent the 2012 season with the Pittsburgh Power, where he appeared in 16 regular-season games. That season, he emerged as one of Pittsburgh’s top pass rushers, continuing his dominance by ranking second on the team with seven tackles for loss and third on the team with four sacks.

A Maryland native, Parrish spent his collegiate career at Kent State University.

Their 2014 seasons will see a slightly different coaching staff than Jacksonville fans have seen on the sideline in years past. On January 6, the Sharks announced their coaching staff for the upcoming campaign. Head coach Les Moss will return for his fifth season leading the team, and he’ll have some new assistants helping him this season.

Brian Ferguson is now officially the Assistant Head Coach. After spending his first two seasons coaching the defensive line, last season he was also placed in charge of the offensive line, yet led the Sharks to creating the best pass rush in Arena Football League history. The Sharks set a league record with 45 sacks in 2013, led by All-Arena LB Aaron Robbins and All-Arena DL Jerry Turner, who each set personal bests for sacks in a single season.

Robbins and Turner are just two of the five All-Arena players Ferguson developed for the Sharks. Derrick Summers and Scooter Berry went on to sign contracts with the Canadian Football League the following season.

Before arriving in Jacksonville, Northern Colorado University graduate Brian Ferguson spent time in the National Football League as an Assistant Strength Coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

When making the announcement, Les Moss praised Ferguson for his previous success. “Brian has done a tremendous job for us over the last three years,” Moss said. “After spending two years working with the defensive line, he was responsible for both lines this past season and handled those duties extremely well. He has become a very important part of our staff and we’re glad to have him back as Assistant Head Coach.”

Joining Ferguson will be new Defensive Backs Coach Bill Alford. He replaces Jake Grande, who had served as the team’s Defensive Coordinator for the past four seasons. Grande accepted a position as Defensive Backs Coach at Jacksonville University.

One of just four players to suit up for the Sharks in each of the franchise’s first four seasons, Alford appeared in 56 regular-season games with Jacksonville, making 49 starts in the secondary. This year, he’ll transition from player to coach.

“We’re very excited to work with Bill this season,” Moss said. “He has always been one of the most knowledgeable players on our team, and I believe his ability will seamlessly translate to the coaching side of things. Obviously, he has plenty of experience with our players and working within our system, and we’re glad to have him as part of our staff.”

In Alford’s Arena Football League playing career, he totaled 180 tackles (154 solo), 26 pass breakups, six interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in regular-season action.

His best moment as a Jacksonville Shark came in the 2011 American Conference Championship Game, as he pulled down an interception in the final minute against the Georgia Force to help send the Sharks to ArenaBowl XXIV.

A Native of Brunswick, Ga., Alford signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt University in 2005. He then spent two seasons playing in NFL Europe.

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