On Saturday, South Alabama began with the day practicing fundamentals and rotating between coaches that worked with each group with those fundamentals. Later the offensive and defensive units would work against each other during two 10-minute segments.
Early in the practice they worked on puntings, later they worked on punt coverage and to end the practice they worked on field goals.
However the interesting part was in the second half of the practice when the offensive and defensive units came together for what Coach Jones called a “mini-scrimmage”.
The starting offensive line played well overall, but had their ups and downs. Trey Clark continued to do well at center, however he had problems with snaps. As the Jaguars participate in the Sun Belt, they now must also use the Official Sun Belt football, which differs from what the Jaguars have been using. In previous seasons, the Jags used a ball from Nike however the Offical SBC football is quite slick in comparison. This lead to quite a number of bad snaps.
Tremain Smith did fairly well at left tackle, however he did allow a few guys to get through much easier than expected. Drew Dearman played solid at left guard and I don’t remember actually seeing him get beat on the line. Meggs the right guard and Artz the right tackle had some problems on occasion. I think Artz got beat a few times which allowed defenders to get to the quarterback pretty quickly.
Bryant Lavender seems to be the go-to receiver for C.J. Bennett. They hooked up for a big touchdown pass of around 60 yards or so, as well as a
few other completions during the scrimmage.
Corey Besteda made a few catches as well and took one in for a touchdown. The ball was snapped from around the 20 and he ran an out route around the 5 yard line, he caught it turned towards the end zone and broke the first tackle and dove into the end zone while another defensive back made a hit on him.
Anthony Ingram caught a few passes on the right side of the formation and showed some acceleration and quickness.
Greg Hollinger’s move to tight end will probably be a good one. He is big enough to make some blocks but has the speed and hands to be able to really exploit mismatches against linebackers or smaller safeties.
An noted above, C.J. Bennett made some good passes with Lavender. But he started the scrimmage slow but improved as the day went on. His playing time with the receivers definitely shows in his timing with them between the whistles.
Myles Gibbon was the quarterback who started well. After Bennett’s first series went no where, Gibbon helped to move the ball down the field. While what I saw of Fetner’s series were a bit uninspiring it was made up by Brandon Bridges scrambling. He has long legs that can cover lots of ground in a short time, but his throwing motion seemed to be weak.
Line the offensive, the defense had times when it did well but also times when it didn’t play well. They would have the offense in 3rd and longs and would give up a play to allow a first down. Romelle Jones, who came on midway through the year and played in beast mode, continued to play well. Charles Watson was covering Lavender and allowed a number of catches but did step up from time to time with a good play.
The coaches had headsets on and were practicing some of what they will need to do on gameday. Coach Matthews went up in the scissor lift just before the scrimmage began to call plays while a contingent of coaches and assistants on the sideline signaled in the play. On offense, tempo was key as we have been hearing through all of the previous practices. Lots of shouts encouraging them to go up to the line and get ready for the next play. The tempo of the offense combined with the quarterback’s hard count drew the defense into the neutral zone a few times. But it also accounted for several penalties on the offense. A receiver moved too
early once and a running back next to Bennett in the shotgun moved early as well. But the line movement seemed to be isolated to the right side of the line.
Overall the “mini-scrimmage” was good. Coach Jones was pleased with the effort, except once when he was quite furious with a player for being a bit lazy on a play. He understands that these players heads are spinning still as many are transitioning from a power offense to the spread and from Coach Gregory to Coach Matthews. But that has been the norm for this staff over the previous three seasons, they throw a lot at them, they make their head spin, then they work with them and help them understand what they are doing and where they need to be.
In the post-practice huddle, Coach Jones re-emphasized that their time on the practice field is limited and that they need to work hard. Leadership was a key, he said he saw more leadership this year but told the players if they see a guy doing something wrong, help them to understand and correct the problem.
One that stands out is B.J. Scott. While he will not work out this spring, he has been helping the coaching staff work with the secondary. During drills he has been coaching the guys along helping to reset the drill for the next player. During offense-vs-defense drills, he has been observing, making suggestions and commments, and further encouragements to his fellow players.
After two days off after the scrimmage, the Jags hit the practice field again on Tuesday for their sixth out of 15 practices this spring. With a multiple 3-4 system that has been in place for the program’s first three seasons, this spring the staff is working on developing depth that will be needed as they play a full FBS schedule.
Coach Clark explained, “For us right now, it’s identifying players. We’ve got a lot of guys back, but we’re looking to be two-deep. We’re looking for two guys at every position who could be considered starters. If you can get further than that, great. We’re also looking for a sense of urgency, a sense of competition. Obviously, spring is for fundamentals and all the coach speak that you hear about getting better at all the little things, that’s what we’re doing.”
The secondary has been something of a concern over the last two seasons. In 2011, half of the starting secondary were unavailable by the end of the season. However, this was addressed very heavily in the offseason. Darrius Morrow and Charles Watson came in as transfers while Terrell Brigham and Jonatham Cameron are back with the Jaguars. Qudarius Ford, Eddy Cabrera, Gabe Loper, Charles Harris and Alonzo Long are all back with the team too.
“We’re really excited about our secondary, the group has a lot of ability,” Coach Clark continued. “We’re asking them to do a lot of things. We probably were a little more basic last year because we had so many changes, losing guys from the spring to the summer for different reasons, so we scaled it back just a hair. We’re throwing the kitchen sink at them right now. Along with the tempo our offense brings, it’s tough on them, but they’ve responded really well.”
Coach Clark says that the depth chart can change every day, so the players need to bring their competition every day. If Coach Clark’s strategy works, then the Jags will have depth at those positions entering the fall.
South Alabama will have Wednesday off before returning to the practice field on Thursday morning. They will then have their first official scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at 2:45pm at the Jaguar Practice Complex on the South Alabama Campus.
It was reported this morning that Ken Barefield has been dismissed from the team for breaking unspecified team rules. He was the fourth leading tackler last season and started every game for the Jags in it’s three season history.
Barefield ends his Jaguar career with 114 total tackles, 63 solo, 7.5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions. But his experience, knowledge and passion will be missed the most. However, the Jags focused their recruiting efforts in the secondary this offseason so from a numbers standpoint, the Jaguars should be fine.
The Seeds have been set for the Sun Belt Tournament that will be held in Hot Springs Arkansas March 3-6.
1. Middle Tennesse (14-2)
2. UALR (11-5)
3. Denver (11-5)
4. UL-Lafayette (10-6)
5. North Texas (9-7)
6. South Alabama (8-8)
7. Western Kentucky (7-9)
8. Florida Atlantic (7-9)
9. Arkansas State (8-10)
10. Florida International (5-11)
11. Troy (5-11)
The matchups for Saturday, March 4 are:
Game 1: #6 South Alabama vs #11 Troy
Game 2: #8 FAU vs #9 ASU
Game 3: #7 WKU vs #10 FIU
Sunday, March 4
Game 4: #1 MTSU vs Winner of Game 2
Game 5: #4 ULL vs #5 North Texas
Game 6: #2 UALR vs Winner of Game 3
Game 7: #3 Denver vs Winner of Game 1
Monday, March 5
Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs Game 5 Winner
Game 9: Game 6 Winner vs Game 7 Winner
Tuesday, March 6
Championship game, Game 8 Winner vs Game 9 Winner
Jags hit the practice field for their fourth practice of the spring and their first in pads. They practiced for about two hours.
They worked on lots of things during practice. The offense worked for about 10 minutes on screens, then another 10 minutes on routes, 10 minutes on down and distance plays, 10 minutes on third-down situations. Some where 11-on-11 some skeleton passing.
During a 45 minute period in the second half of the practice, the offensive and defensive lines worked in one-on-one pass rush drills and later offensive linemen against two defensive linemen. While that was going on, skeleton passing drills were being worked on.
Coach Jones was satisfied with the practice. “It was real lively, I thought the kids got after it a little more than the last practice,” he said. “We have a ways to go offensively, but I thought it was better. The guys have to remember that it is not going to happen overnight, they have to come out every day and work. If they learn to do that, then we are going to be a really good football team. The tempo of our offense is just great. The kids are doing pretty well picking it up even though they have a lot of things to think about. What we have to shore up is technical — who we are blocking and how we are blocking them. But they are getting lined up and understand what they are doing. They have done a good job studying their playbooks.”
Practicing in pads is extremely valuable to the coaches. “It was good because that’s the only way you can evaluate these guys, and one of our goals is to try and fill our one- and two-deep. The only way you can evaluate them is by putting pads on and blocking full speed. That’s valuable for us. They were ready to hit somebody. They’ve been lifting weights and running, so it makes for a more fun practice as well.”
“We’ve only got so many chances in the spring, you’ve really got about eight days that you can tackle,” Coach Jones continued. “Other than that, it’s just skelly and one-on-ones with no tackling. It’s kind of hard to get better on the offensive and defensive line. So we’ve got to take advantage of each chance we have to get better.”
While the Jags are a week into their spring practice, they are far from where Coach Jones wants them to be in learning the spread. But there is no panic, it’s expected by the coaching staff. “We’ve probably gotten better in some areas, but if I’m asked whether it’s anywhere close to being a cohesive unit I would say no. That’s to be expected. I want to look at the end of the spring to see where we are as compared to the first one [practice], because what you want each day is just a little bit of progress. It’s not enough to be great, but if we can do that by the end of the spring we will be decent.”
The next practice will be Saturday at 9am in full pads again. It will not be one of the three scrimmages scheduled by the Jags. “It won’t be a total scrimmage, it will be much like today except with tackling,” he said. “Any time you put them under the lights, so to speak, you can watch and see. They know the film is on them, it’s live and in color, so you can evaluate much better.”
South Alabama Athletic Director Dr. Joel Erdmann officially announced a two-game contract between the Jags and the Nebraska Cornhuskers from the Big Ten conference.
The jags will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska twice. Their first game is scheduled on September 12, 2015 and the second game is set as the season opener on August 31, 2019.
In 2015, the Sun Belt will the first year conference schools will have a nine-game schedule. The Jags non-conference games that year already include hosting NC State in Mobile and a trip to Annapolis, Maryland.
As for the 2019 season, the Jags are schedule to also have the nine-game conference schedule with the only other non-conference game confirmed is a September 28th trip to New Orleans to play Tulane.
In the upcoming 2012 season the Jags have non-conference games again NC State, Mississippi State and Hawaii on the road plus University of Texas-San Antonio and Nicholls State both in Mobile. The 2012 season will feature 13 games for the Jags as a NCAA rule allows teams to schedule an additional game if they travel to Hawaii to play.
Other teams the Jags will face in the near future are LSU (2016), Tennessee (2013), Georgia (2014), Ole Miss (2017), Mississippi State (2012, 2014 in Mobile, 2016), Oklahoma State (2017 in Mobile, 2018, 2020), NC State (2011 loss in Raleigh, 2012, 2015 in Mobile), Southern Miss (2020, 2021 in Mobile), Navy (2013, 2014 in Mobile, 2015, 2016 in Mobile), Louisiana Tech (2017, 2018 in Mobile), Tulane (2013, 2019, 2020 in Mobile) and Kent State (2011 loss in Ohio, 2013 in Mobile, 2014).
Head football coach Joey Jones remarked about the addition of the Cornhuskers to the Jags future schedule. “We’ve got another team to add to the list of many that we’re playing, big-time schools. This excites our players and everyone else in the football program. We know that every year we are going to play two or three big-time teams around the country. That’s what we want to do, we are looking forward to it. I don’t think it’s so much the conference than just looking to play the top-20 type teams in the country. We’d love to play USC or Oregon one day too, we want to play those caliber of teams, to get to that level, we have to face them. That’s why we’re doing it.”
South Alabama completed their fourth practice of the spring this morning and will hold their first Saturday practice in two days with their spring football game scheduled for 2pm on Saturday March 24th.
The new incoming Sun Belt commissioner made the rounds last Friday after the announcement of his selection to replace the retiring Wright Waters.
He said that his immediate priority as the new commissioner would be to upgrade the league’s brand during this time of flux in college football. Currently Sun Belt schools who participate in football are Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy and Western Kentucky with South Alabama playing a full Sun Belt schedule in 2012 and joining as a full member in 2013.
Benson said, “Today is the beginning of the message that the Sun Belt Conference is going to be a player on the college landscape. We believe we provide opportunities for our existing institutions, but for any future institutions, (we) compare favorably to our peers.”
A couple Sun Belt schools have been mentioned as possible targets by the as-yet unnamed conference born out of the merger talks between Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference. Those teams mentioned have been Florida International, Florida Atlantic and North Texas.
But Benson said that maintaining a presence in both Florida and Texas is important for the conference. But he also mentioned that the conference will be in conversations with unnamed Conference-USA members about moving to the Sun Belt.
The appeal of the Sun Belt would be to allow those unnamed schools to remain in a regional conference that is more beneficial and logical to them while allowing the Sun Belt to expand to at least 12 football-participating schools.
Louisiana Tech, who is currently a member of the WAC, has publicly expressed their desire to be a part of the new Sun Belt Conference. If Louisiana Tech joins the conference, only one more football playing school would be needed for the required 12 to have a conference championship game.
While Benson was at it, he talked with Tony Barnhart and Wes Durham on their radio show on 790 The Zone. He said he was aware of other schools in the region such as Georgia State and UNC-Charlotte. While Georgia State does not have plans on moving up to the FBS, UNC-Charlotte does want to move up to FBS but does not have a timeline to do so and will only be playing their first season of football in 2013, a full year away.
While Benson’s priority would be to add existing FBS members to the conference, he would be open to schools with aspirations for FBS play if the attempted addition of current FBS schools was not fruitful for the conference.
South Alabama made up their lost practice Monday morning due to weather on Saturday. They hit the field even earlier than normal for the Jags. Their practice went from 5:30am – 7am as they wore shells for the first time.
They opened practice with work on the punt team. They then transitioned to working on the running game. After that, they worked on screens.
The offense and defense then came together to work on perimeter runs and passes. Following that, they went 7-on-7 passing drills.
Later the offense and defense came together once again to work on third-down scenerios, picking up blitzes before final drills to end practice.
After practice, Coach Jones spoke about practice. “This football team is hungry and they think they have a lot to prove. But on the flip side of that, we have a lot of work to do. Defensively right now, we are ahead of the offense and that’s fine. That’s what we want, a great defense. Offensively, we are still putting things in and trying to establish a running game, passing game and quick-tempo offense. Their heads are spinning, but I’m proud of where we are.”
Coach Jones continued speaking about the players progress. “It’s not going to happen overnight, we just have to keep working. And we have to keep in the back of our minds that our goal is to be great this fall. If we work every day and do what we’re supposed to do, then we’ll get there. We just have to keep that mindset.”
The Jags will have Tuesday and Wednesday off before hitting the practice field again on Thursday at 6:30am.
As reported, Karl Benson was officially introduced as the Sun Belt’s new commissioner when Wright Waters officially steps down from his 12 years as commissioner in the coming months. Mr. Benson will join the SBC in April and will be full-time on July 1.
Troy University’s Dr. Jack Hawkins delivered the opening statement giving a history of the Sun Belt since it’s inception in 1976. The SBC is one of 11 BCS conferences since they added football in 2001. He also mentioned how the SBC is ranked sixth among the 32 Division I conferences.
He also mentioned that 90% of SBC teams have earned a multi-year progress rate of 925 or higher. But he touted that the real strength of the conference was it geographical distance between its schools being a regional conference. He said its proximity to each other fosters natural rivalries, helps to save money by reducing travel costs and makes sense for each schools fans. It also makes sense for student-athletes who have to take time away from campus to participate in athletic events.
Mr. Benson opened with a statement thanking the Sun Belt school presidents and chancellors for choosing him for his position. He mentioned that it is an uncertain time in college sports and that the Sun Belt is well positioned to take advantage of it.
He then praised Mr. Waters’, the previous Presidents and Chancellors for their leadership in continually shaping the the conference into the conference it is today.
The Sun Belt schools are gaining national attention as they build new stadiums and arenas, winning contests by both men’s and women’s teams, fan attendance at contests continually rise, and operating budgets are getting larger while more contests are being televised.
They then opened up to questions from members of the teleconference.
One of the first questions was about future plans for adding teams to the conference. “Again as we settle in and look at the potential and looking at the future of membership is an important one,” Benson said. “The Sun Belt currently has ten football-playing schools and one non-football-playing school in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Without getting specific in terms of numbers, I think that there’s an advantage to getting to at least 12 to take advantage of additional post season opportunities. Know that in the coming weeks, the Sun Belt board will establish a committee that will look to evaluate the current membership and the future membership. Chancellor Hawkins mentioned the Sun Belt footprint in terms of geography and how conducive that is for the student-athletes from a travel standpoint, a participation standpoint, and fan travel. The Sun Belt footprint also provides a pool of possible numbers that are already in that footprint: current FBS members, as well as FCS members that have indicated interest in perhaps in moving to FBS. Again it will be a very important piece in the coming months.”
Another question was about what things are attractive for current members to remain in the Sun Belt. “The fact that there has been Sun Belt members mentioned as part of the Conference USA-Mountain West merger is a testament to the program growth that the Sun Belt individual institutions have made along with the Sun Belt as a conference in general,” Benson said. “The Sun Belt has established itself as a credible, as a bona fide Division I BCS conference. I think that we hope to be able to demonstrate in the coming weeks that the future is bright for the Sun Belt that in light of the changes that have occurred in Conference USA, in the Mountain West, in the WAC, that the Sun Belt position in terms of the hierarchy of the so-called non-AQ conferences has increased tremendously, and the opportunity for the Sun Belt to succeed in a manner that will provide the current membership with greater bowl opportunities, with greater television opportunities, with greater revenue opportunities that we will be able to demonstrate that the Sun Belt is on par with any other of the non-BCS conferences.”
Another question was about how he would approach potentially adding teams from the WAC to the Sun Belt. “Right now I’m focusing on the 10 football playing members of the Sun Belt along with the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and focusing on how to make the Sun Belt a stronger conference, a more attractive conference and once I officially move into the chair, into the position, there will be a transition period where Wright [Waters] and I will be working together in the Sun Belt office,” Benson began. “At that time I will then focus on the bigger picture. It’s not the first time a commissioner moving from one conference to the other. There may be sensitivity and perhaps some awkwardness. I think everyone understands that once you change positions that you are now responsible and obligated to that conference. I will certainly do that with the Sun Belt.”
South Alabama Baseball Opens the 2012 Season Friday at 6:30 PM vs. College of Charleston!
The South Alabama Baseball Team will host the College of Charleston in a weekend series at Stanky Field. The weekend series will begin Friday, February 17 at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, February 18 at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, February 19 at 1 p.m. Saturday is $1 Hot Dog Day…purchase $1 hot dogs from 1-2 p.m. Sunday is “Family Day”…You can purchase (4) tickets, (4) hot dogs, (4) Pepsis and (2) Jaguar T-shirts for only $30. Come out and support Head Coach Mark Calvi and the Jaguars. Season tickets are on sale now starting at only $50 per seat, and when you purchase the family deal…one adult season ticket you get one child’s season ticket for free. The 2012 schedule includes home games versus Alabama, Auburn, Southern Miss and the Sun Belt Conference. Call 461-1USA to secure your seats today.
You may purchase your tickets in advance at the Mitchell Center ticket office M-F 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. or at the ticket sales windows as you enter Stanky Field. Ticket prices are as follows: Box Seats $10, Chair Back Seats $8; General Admission: Adults $5; Seniors $4; Children 2-12 $4 and Children under 2 are free. Group tickets for 15 people or more starting at $3 per ticket.
For more information please call 461-1USA or visit for a full season schedule and further information www.usajaguars.com.