USA Media Day Coverage

August 15, 2012 · By · Filed Under Football 

South Alabama hosted their annual media day on Tuesday at the football fieldhouse on campus. They discussed the team’s progress this preseason and their expectations for the coming season.

Head Coach Joey Jones, Defensive coordinator Bill Clark and first year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews fielded questions from the media along with Seniors Jake Johnson, B.J. Scott, Trey Clark and sophomore Jereme Jones.

Below are some of the more notable questions and answers from their sessions.

Head coach Joey Jones opened media day with his opening statement. “We’re very excited about this season. Our kids have worked their tails off to get here. There’s a different look in their eyes right now, they understand the challenges we have ahead of us. And they’re competitors, they compete and want to compete with the best. It’s been very exciting to watch them during the offseason to get ready for this season.”

Coach Jones was then asked about this year’s team and how he thinks they will compete with other Sun Belt schools. “There’s no doubt that we’re better. We have better players. It’s going to be a year where we kind of feel our way through as far as knowing how good these [Sun Belt Conference] teams are. It’s a good conference, we know that. They’ve beaten some very tough teams in this country, so we understand that it’s going to be a very tough league. But we want to make a good representation for South Alabama. We want to go out and be very competitive. I want the other teams to respect us when they walk off the field. You certainly want to get to the point where you win a lot of games, but you can’t focus on that. We have to focus on the process of it.”

Jones then spoke about special teams when asked a question about it. “I think coach Perry has done a great job studying during the offseason. He went to a couple of NFL teams and picked up some great ideas, and we’re implementing those. We’ve emphasized the importance of it. I think we can help ourselves from the kind of unknown side of the game. I feel really good about where we are.”

He was then asked about the teams strength’s this season. “Our linebackers are very good football players, not that we don’t have good players at other positions. But if you look at our starters at linebacker, I think you start with Jake Johnson. He’s a great football player who I think will play in the NFL next year. He’s smart, can run and is a good tackler, he can do it all. Enrique Williams is looking really good and Clifton Crews is a very good athlete. I think those guys can compete with just about anybody.”

With the change at offensive coordinator after last season, it was only a matter of time before someone asked him about question about the offense. He spoke about their offensive philosophy. “We always want to be balanced, but if you can’t run the football then you can’t win in my opinion. You can throw the ball and win games, but you have to run the ball to be able to win championships. One thing I have noticed is that the kids have really bought in to this offense. They’re locked in when they come to meetings and go to practice. When you have that, good things are going to happen. We’re going to be successful in a lot of ways because they have bought in.”

Finally he answered a question about the quarterback position. “When I look at our players, I look at them and try to find guys who can help us win. I think both Ross Metheny and C.J. Bennett can win for us right now. The competition has been great. I think they have both sharpened each other and have made each other better. It’s good for us as a program, and it’s good as a quarterback to have the heat on you. But I think we have two guys at quarterback who have shown us they can win right now. They both fit this offense really well, and are both very similar in their traits.”

Next up was defensive coordinator Bill Clark with an opening statement for his segment. “You’re going to see a whole different set of guys on defense. Our options are opening up to a lot of guys now that we’re Division I. When you go out recruiting, those big defensive linemen go first, they are hard to find. We’ve got some guys who are undersized, but are the type of guys who play their butts off. We have to keep those guys healthy.”

Coach Clark fielded a question about practicing against an offense that will be similar to other Sun Belt teams they will be facing this season. “I think it’s key. Anytime you can go against similar people is good. You can practice as high-rate as you can, but to actually see it is its own deal. It’s going to make us a ton better. We want to be high-energy, highly-motored and we want to get off the field and get our offense the ball. When you’re guys are sucking wind, or you can’t get your subs on the field because they aren’t used to it, then that’s a problem. We’re glad we get to practice against them. It makes us a lot better.“

He also spoke about Jake Johnson and B.J. Scott as veterans and leaders on the defense. “You always count on your veterans. Everybody’s got another year, but the senior. Sometimes, as a junior, sophomore, or freshman, they think, ‘I’ll get my time.’ But a senior’s job is to say, ‘No, this is your time. This is for sure my time and I won’t get another chance.’ We want to bring [underclassmen] energy levels up to theirs. They are very good leaders. They lead by example, and they’re good people. They’ve been in big games and big stadiums. In front of a lot of people, like we saw with N.C. State, last year, people like Jake help you out there. We’re blessed to have them and we’ve got a lot of juniors that are like seniors since they’ve been with us when we started. We’ve got a pretty veteran group.”

Coach Clark revisited how he came to be with the Jags. “I tell the story all the time. Coach Jones called my office while I was in the second week of playoffs just checking in and seeing what we were doing. We talked a lot. He just mentioned that this was an opportunity and I, of course, said, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ I’d always heard about South Alabama, and through the long haul, it worked. We really feel like this is a family. I think you’ve seen us play like that. We were sitting here on a cement slab (four years ago) telling people what it was going to look like. To see the football facility, to see where we’re headed, changes at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, watching our guys grow, to finally be Division I, is pretty neat.”

Finally he spoke about the pressure to prove something. “As a high school guy, I always felt like I carried the banner for my guys. There are so many great coaches that just don’t get that opportunity, and we feel like we’re representing the kind of guys, like high school coaches who teach class in the day and coach because they’re doing what they love.”

The last of the coaches who spoke at media day is first year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews. He first spoke about the offense and what he hopes the fans will see this season. “Hopefully you’re going to see a lot of first downs and a lot of points. Offensively, we’re into the second week of camp, and we feel like we’re making a lot of progress. We have repped a ton of guys at a lot of different positions. We’re practicing really efficiently. We’ve got two team periods going at the same time, we have two 7-on-7 periods going on at the same time, and that’s helping to answer the question of depth from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. We feel like there are a lot of guys getting reps to help us this year, as well as next year. We’re in this for the long haul, not a one season and out kind of deal. Coach Jones is a Mobile native and we want this to be a proud program.”

“Hopefully, in our offense, a lot of guys are going to touch the ball. We’re rotating receivers, tight ends and running backs in and out, and we hope to snap the ball at a high rate and get it to our playmakers. That’s what this offense is about, so if Jereme is one of those guys, then he should definitely have a smile on his face. I think the kids have a good understanding of what we’re looking for. There are still certain plays that aren’t perfected yet, but I think overall the kids have put in a lot of time since spring ball through the summer, and we’ve had an efficient camp because of that. It’s more refining as opposed to re-teaching.”

Coach Matthews was then asked about the adjustment period for the players. “I think the kids are working hard. We’re getting better every week. Really, they don’t have a choice. If they want to play, they’ll do what the coaching staff asks of them. There’s a good camaraderie amongst the staff and the players, and I think it’s progressing well.”

Matthews also spoke about his growth as a coach up to his new position as offensive coordinator with the Jags. “In my first coaching job at a high school in Georgia, we ran the Wing-T offense. We were successful because we had good players and the kids believed in it. With the revolution of football as a sport, you have to score points. We utilize that philosophy using the one-back spread. I’ve been fortunate to have been around some really good coaches, and some really good guys that are prolific coaches have mentored me. Coach Jones has been involved in some good offensive schemes himself. I think we’ve done a really good job of meshing those ideas together and just putting together a product that will help us win.”

He was later asked about the quarterback competition during camp this year. “It’s been really fun to have a bunch of different guys working in that position. You have to have depth at that position. C.J. has been here and he’s played some games, and he’s getting better every day. Ross brings a different perspective, because he’s been in a different program, and Fetner and Peavey have all been working hard and they’ve all gotten better. That’s a testament to us getting guys a lot of reps during practice because you want to build depth.”

“You never want to look at it this way, but you’re always one play away from whoever the number two is to being a starter for the remainder of the season. You better prepare for it because it’s the reality of what could happen. It’s hard to compare from last year because they’re two different offenses. Everybody asks, ‘What about C.J. from last year?’ I’m not worried about C.J. from last year. I’m worried about C.J. and how the rest of the guys are doing right now. He comes to work every day and he’s being a good leader and he’s working hard at this offense. I think he’s progressing.”

Senior linebacker Jake Johnson was first up for the players. He first spoke about the progress of the defense so far during camp and the expectations on the season. “We’re a lot better at this point in camp than we were this time last year. We’re more complex on defense, which is good so we don’t look the same out there every play. We have a lot of players stepping up, a lot of new defensive linemen, Jesse Kelley. He’s 19 years old and is really stepping up at nose tackle. We also have a couple of corner backs who have stepped up. Alonzo Long has done well.  We’re really looking good halfway through camp.”

He was asked about how important it is for the defense to establish a personality on defense. “I think it’s real important. The intensity that you bring now during camp is going to translate in the games. We try to bring a high intensity, a high motor, a high effort everyday from every position, so that when the game comes, we are so used to going at that speed and that intensity and that is the face of our defense.”

Johnson was asked about the overall attitude of the defense this season as compared to previous seasons. “Our attitude is a lot better. We seem to be a lot more focused. We watch a lot more film and have a lot more meetings. Like I mentioned earlier, we aren’t running the same scheme. We have gotten more complex in some of the things that we have run in the past.”

He was also asked about how being exposed to the spread offense in practice will help the defnese when they start conference play. “The spread attack is what a majority of the teams in the Sun Belt are running. (Seeing the spread in practice) is going to help us get conditioned. Having seen it so much in practice, we are going to be prepared for it. It also really helps out the defensive backs. They’re getting so much work, not just on defensive drills, but they are working on so much man coverage, that I feel it’s going to help them in the games. I think it’s going to help us out greatly.”

Senior defensive back B.J. Scott spoke about the progress of the defense so far during camp and what expectations he has for the season. “Midway through camp, we have some players with some dings who are a little banged up and we’re trying to get them back as fast as we can, but I think our defense is looking good this year. We’ve prepared ourselves throughout camp.”

Scott also spoke about the improvements made in the secondary, also mentioning Alonzo Long as well. “We are more athletic at the corner position. Alonzo Long has really stepped up and is looking really good. Tyrell Pearson is doing a great job for us as well.”

Finally, he was also asked about facing the spread offense in practice. “Seeing a hurry-up tempo offense at practice makes the secondary and the defense as a whole get to the line and call our coverage in the secondary a lot faster. It helps us, just as much as it helps the offense.”

Senior center Trey Clark spoke about the progression of the offense in camp. “Right now we’re just working hard and staying focused on each practice right now. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be hot. I think it’s really important for us as a team to stay focused on each practice, improve on the fundamentals and get the ins-and-outs of our offense worked out before the first game.”

Clark was asked about the conditioning of the team. “The new offense we run is very fast paced and high tempo. That demands great conditioning. With our offseason, summer workouts and fall camp, I think we’re really making strides in that area.”

When asked about the state of the offensive line, he said: “Our strengths are our ability to play fast and utilize our athleticism. As far as our weaknesses, we have to get better at our pass protection and learning to play together. We have some guys that are stepping into starting roles, so getting used to playing next to one another is going to be important for us.”

Finally he spoke about the new starters on the offensive line. “We have several linemen that have stepped up this camp, especially Drew Dearman, Shaun Artz and Chris May. They’ve all done an outstanding job. We also have a transfer, Perry Meiklejohn, who has done a great job. For the returners, it will be important for us to bring them along a little bit, but for the most part, they’re doing a great job and have stepped up. I’m here to help them any way I can, but they’ve done a great job in learning the offense and working to improve every single day.”

Sophomore wide receiver Jereme Jones also answered the question about the progression of the offense in camp. “It’s progression really well. We have a dynamic offense. We go through our bumps and bruises, but overall I think  we’re doing what doing we have to do to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Jones was also asked about the conditioning of the team. “We do a lot of conditioning, but it’s not suicides or gassers, we do it while we’re doing plays. We do fast-tempo things like getting lined up fast, just like we would do in a real game.”

Specificially, Jones was asked about the receivers transition to the new offense was progressing. “When we first started in the spring it wasn’t easy. We had to really study the playbook, learn the plays and watch a lot of film. But when the summer came around, we knew what we had to do and where we needed to be. When the fall came, it wasn’t a big learning curve. Instead of having to learn, we just executed.”

Finally he was asked about the quarterbacks. “C.J. was doing a lot of what he’s doing now in practice, last year, it just didn’t correlate to the field like it was supposed to. C.J. is throwing the ball the way he’s supposed to, leveraging the ball the way it needs to be. Ross is a good quarterback too. He does a good job of running the offense. He’s similar to CJ, he leverages the ball well and puts it where it needs to be. There’s going to be some competition this year.”

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