South Alabama began spring practice this morning as they gear up for their first season as a full FBS member in 2013. Though the Jags are coming off a 2-11 season and have questions going forward, there is an excitement and eagerness to meet the challenge head on.
The Jags defense last year played very strong and surprised many for a first year FBS program. But they allowed too many big plays.
Out goes Bill Clark, who accepted the head coaching position at Jacksonville State, and in comes new defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer from Alabama. Sherrer will have experience on the defensive line with Romelle Jones, Montavious Williams, Randon Carnathan, Alex Page and Pat Moore all returning. Likewise, the Jags will return some linebackers that should be the core of a solid unit as well.
But the secondary will be where help is needed, which is where Sherrer will coach.
The offensive line will need to replace Trey Clark, who started every single game the Jaguars have played in the last four years. A group of experienced players return giving second year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews a lot to work with. Drew Dearman and Melvin Meggs return with redshirt freshmen Joseph Scelfo and Clay Machen, among others, looking to earn more playing time as well.
The position that gets the most attention year in and year out is quarterback. The Jags return Ross Metheny who won the starting job from C.J. Bennett last season, but cannot sit back and expect to keep that position with the stable of players behind him. Trey Fetner who came in at times last season on designed run plays on short yardage third and fourth down plays. Fetner has a strong arm, runs great strong with the ball and is settling into Matthews spread offense.
Many will be looking to Brandon Bridge to see what he does this spring. Bridge transferred in from Alcorn State and brings a big arm, but needed work on his accuracy. He is quick and could bring something extra to the spread offense. The key will be his accurancy, the Jags cannot afford many turnovers as a second year FBS program.
Redshirt freshman Grant Powell will look to get an opportunity to show what he has, and the same with Kolt Peavey.
South Alabama will need playmakers to step up and show what they have this spring. They lacked a big receiver who could be counted on to come through in key situations. They converted Gabe Loper to wide receiver from defensive back last season, but he has since graduated. Who will be able to fill that role this season?
Another big player at tight end is also gone as Greg Hollinger left after the season. Hollinger was a go-to guy who could make miss-matches against the defense.
More players will join the team in time for fall camp. But Coach Jones and his staff will be looking to see how the players have progressed from last season before looking at the the influx of mostly young talent this fall.
The Jags baseball team upped their record to 9-0 this season as they defeated Jacksonville State 8-3 Wednesday afternoon at Rudy Abbott Field. Matt Bell pitched five innings allowing three runs on four hits with three strikeouts. The three runs came on a three-run homer allowed in the first inning. But Bell would settle in and retire 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
Every Jaguar starter got a hit in the game, five of them recorded multiple hits.
USA struck early with two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run double by Jordan Patterson. Nick Zaharion would single later in the inning to score Patterson. Whitt Dorsey singled to center field to score the Jags final run of the inning to take a 4-0 lead.
The Gamecocks would cut the lead to 4-3 but would be shut out the rest of the way as the Jags cruised to the 8-3 win.
“We scored four in the first on five hits and that was good to see, because there wasn’t a lot offense yesterday,” Jaguar head coach Mark Calvi explained. “Then we gave up a three-run home run, but credit Matt Bell for coming back. He threw up zeros his next four innings, and we got every leadoff hitter out except for the ninth inning. He did what he had to do. He bent a little but didn’t break, and gave us a chance to score some runs. And we were pretty good out of the bullpen again.”
“We have to be good,” Calvi explains. “It gets tougher from here. College of Charleston is going to be good. We face a really good pitcher on Friday. They have some good arms and have some hitters returning, so we need quality starts. We need our starters to get us into at least the sixth (inning). We’ve used the bullpen a little and they have done a great job, but I want to see our starters get into the sixth or seventh inning and have a full cupboard for Saturday and Sunday.”
South Alabama will play College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. this weekend for a three-game series. The Cougars enter the game 3-4 and on a three game losing streak in the Auburn Tournament with close losses to Indiana State, Auburn and Middle Tennessee State.
As South Alabama gears up for the conference tournament, they still have some work to do with two regular season contests left to round out the season. The Jags have already wrapped up the #3 seed for the tournament, but there is a lot left to play for and finish strong.
The first up is Western Kentucky on Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky where the Jags are 11-16 all-time against the Hilltoppers. Though, USA holds a 33-29 edge all-time against WKU.
USA wants to keep their momentum going as they are 8-2 in their last 10 games, 16-10 overall and 13-5 in Sun Belt play. They also have a two-game winning streak going against the Hilltoppers dating back to last season.
With an injury and a dismissed player earlier this season, the Jags continue to fight and win though the roster is small and everyone is needed. Each player has their role, each player continues to play that role and the Jags continued to win.
Western Kentucky enters the game with a 15-14 record overall and 9-9 in Sun Belt play.
The key for the Jags is getting out to an early start. The Jags are a perfect 15-0 (11-0 SBC) when they are tied or leading at halftime. They are also 12-1 (10-1 SBC) when they have a higher shooting percentage than their opponent.
USA vs WKU will be broadcast on 105.5 FM WNSP, ESPN Full Court or ESPN3.com online.
On Monday, CollegeInsider.com announced the finalists for the Lou Henson Award. South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit is among the 25 finalists for the award given to the top mid-major player in the country.
Rubit is the only Sun Belt Player included in the list of 25.
Rubit is leading the Sun Belt in rebounding with 10.9 per game and is second in scoring with 19.0 points per game while also second in double-doubles with 15 this season.
He had a career-high scoring game against ULM in January when he poured in 34 points and has already set a new school record for free throws in a single season. He has scored 30 or more points three times this season.
The award will be presented at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet in Atlanta, which is also the site of the men’s NCAA Basketball Championship.
The award is named for former Illinois and New Mexico State head coach Lou Henson. Henson won 779 games, 11th in NCAA history, and is one of just 12 coaches to take two schools to the final four.
More good news for the South Alabama baseball team announced on Monday. They are ranked 30th in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 Weekly Poll. On Monday, they were one of the then 11 unbeaten teams in the Top 30.
Through the first seven games, the Jags are batting .345 with 73 RBI and had an on-base percentage of .470 so far this season. The pitching staff has an ERA of 2.71 with 78 strikeouts with only 20 walks.
Also senior outfielder Nolan Earley was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week by the conference office. He batted .700 with three doubles, eight RBI’s and scored seven runs and eight walks in four games last week.
This was Earley’s first time to be honored as Player of the Week.
The Jags improved to 9-0 on the season after Nolan Earley broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth inning with a two-out, two run double for a 3-1 win over Jacksonville State University. Jacksonville State fell to 3-6 on the season. South Alabama and Jacksonville State will play again today with first pitch scheduled for 3pm.
The University of South Alabama football will take advantage of it’s location to open spring practice early. They will be one of the earliest schools to open spring practice in the nation, thanks to the more mild weather we experience in the southern portion of the US.
The Jags are set to hit the practice fields at 6am on Thursday in shorts and helmets for a two-hour workout. If you know the Jags, it’s not the only time they will hit the fields early in the morning either. Their Tuesday and Thursday dates will hit the field around 6am each time. Of the 15 practices they are allowed during the spring period, nine of them will be on Tuesday or Thursday.
They also have practices scheduled on Saturday’s and Sunday’s with one Saturday practice scheduled for 9am and the rest of them scheduled for around 9:45am. The Sunday practices are scheduled for 3pm. As always, these are tentative dates and are subject to change. (See bottom for complete schedule)
The Red-Blue game will be the only practice session that is not held on campus, but rather at Ladd-Peebles Stadium as in years past. The spring game is set to be the Jaguars final practice session of spring drills and will begin at 2pm on April 6.
The week of March 18th is spring break for the University and the team will have a break from practices as well. They are scheduled for a scrimmage on Thursday, March 7 then return to the practice field on Tuesday, March 19 after spring break.
Seven Jaguars will not be able to participate in spring drills when they being on Thursday due to injuries or recovering from injuries from last season. Ucambre Williams and Shaun Artz will not practice. Both are recovering from surgeries. Defensive backs Anthony Harris and Montell Garner, defensive lineman Randon Carnathan, running back Desmond Jones and tight end Jared Palmer will all miss at least part of and possibly all of spring practice.
DaMon Husband has informed head coach Joey Jones that he has decided not to play football. Husband, a 6’1″ 340-pound offensive lineman was a standout player for Williamson High School. He will continue pursuing his degree at the University.
Ceasare Johnson, who missed all of last season with a blood clot, is expected to be ready for the Jaguars first practice on Thursday. Johnson was redshirted in 2011 after transferring Coahoma (Miss.) Community College. As a sophomore, the 6’5″ 275-pound defensive lineman collected 70 tackles, 51 solo, and six sacks. Last spring he was voted the most-improved defensive lineman but developed the blood clots before fall camp began.
The Jags are expected to have 96 players on the spring roster with 55 on offense and 41 on defense. Coach Jones and Coach Matthews will have their largest group of players on the offensive line (16) and wide receiver (15).
Ross Metheny is the returning starter from last season. with C.J. Bennett transferring after last season, the Jags will still have five quarterbacks looking to get work at the position. Brandon Bridge, who had to sit out last season due to transfer rules, is one to watch in the group. Trey Fetner, Grant Powell and Kolt Peavey will also be working to improve and get more time.
In addition to new student-athletes joining the team, they will have new coaches on the field, all on defense. Defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer takes over for Bill Clark who accepted the head coaching position at Jacksonville State University. Sherrer will coach the defensive backs as well. Travis Pearson will coach the inside linebackers while Freddie Roach will coach the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Coach Brian Turner, the lone coach returning on the defensive side of the ball, will coach the interior defensive linemen.
“On defense, it will be about getting our guys out there working together. We’ve got a great staff, guys who care about each other and the whole staff, but we need to get them to know our players and our players get to know them,” Jones explained. “Obviously we’ll have some changes with a new staff coming in, and we will implement those, but it’s very similar to what we’ve done so they are not wholesale changes at all.”
“The number one thing I was looking for on defense was hiring a great coordinator, and we did that with Kevin Sherrer,” Jones continued. “Then we wanted to hire a couple of energetic guys up front because I felt that Kevin could coach the secondary extremely well. We needed someone to coach the hybrid position, the drop end so to speak, and I expect Freddie to do a great job with that. I think all those guys will bring great energy to the staff.”
Coach Jones is also moving Chase Smith to help coach the offensive linemen with offensive coordinator Robert Matthews.
“Putting in a spread offense took time the first year, and now that our staff has been together a year they know each other and the players know what to expect from the coaches,” Jones continued. “The whole key for us is to just get better, we have to get better on offense to have a chance next fall.’
“I think moving Chase to the offensive line to give Robert help is critical because you have five positions and only one coach even though that is half your offense. Having two offensive line coaches is really going to help us, and it will also allow Robert to move around and watch receivers, running backs and quarterbacks, which will help him from the overall standpoint of coaching the offense.”
Coach Jones summed up the excitement by saying, “We’re looking forward to it, I’m real excited about our staff and the prospects we have for the future.”
Thursday, Feb. 28th, 6 a.m. (helmets)
Saturday, March 2nd, 9 a.m.
Sunday, March 3rd, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, March 5th, 6 a.m.
Thursday, March 7th, 6 a.m. (scrimmage)
Tuesday, March 19th, 6 a.m.
Thursday, March 21st, 6 a.m.
Saturday, March 23rd,9:45 a.m.
Sunday, March 24th, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, March 26th, 6 a.m.
Thursday, March 28th, 6 a.m.
Saturday, March 30th, 2:45 p.m. (scrimmage)
Tuesday, April 2nd, 6 a.m.
Thursday, April 4th, 6 a.m.
Saturday, April 6th, kickoff at 2 p.m., @ Ladd-Peebles Stadium
The Las Cruces Sun-Times reported that 15 schools have been contacted by the Sun belt about potential expansion. Reportedly, the 15 schools received emails from Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson about possible membership.
The schools reportedly contacted are Appalachian State (FCS Southern Conference), Delaware (FCS Colonial Athletic Association), Georgia Southern (FCS Southern Conference), Idaho (FBS WAC), Illinois State (FCS ), Jacksonville State (FCS Ohio Valley Conference), James Madison (FCS Colonial Athletic Association), Lamar (FCS Southland Conference), Liberty (FCS Big South Conference), Missouri State (FCS Missouri Valley Conference), New Mexico State (FBS WAC), Richmond (FCS Colonial Athletic Conference), Sam Houston State (FCS Southland Conference), Towson (FCS Colonial Athletic Association) and Tennessee-Chattanooga (FCS Southern Conference).
The Sun Belt Conference currently is set to lose four schools this summer which will leave the conference with 10 members, but only eight football schools. Two likely members that could join from the FCS ranks are Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. They both have a rich history in FCS play.
Two possible existing FBS members in Idaho and New Mexico State are looking for homes this coming football season since the WAC all but dissolved after the 2012 football season.
This could an interesting set of meetings during the basketball tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas coming up soon.
The Jaguar Men’s basketball team defeated North Texas at the Mitchell Center on Saturday night 69-57. Four Jags scored in double figures with Javier Carter earning his third career double-double on Senior night.
The Jags started their conference home schedule with a loss, but ended it against North Texas with seven consecutive wins. This improved the Jags to 16-10 overall and 13-5 in Sun Belt Conference play. UNT fell to 11-19 and 6-13 in Sun Belt play.
Senior Wendell Wright set a new career high in scoring with 10 points and a season best five rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Mychal Ammons led all scorers with 18 points. Augustine Rubit was held to nine points, but came down with 15 rebounds.
The Jags never trailed in the game.
USA continues to hold onto second place in the conference with a 13-5 record, one game ahead of Arkansas State who clinched the western division title with a 12-6 Sun Belt record.
The Jags basketball team travels to Western Kentucky for a Thurday night tip-off set for 7pm. It will be broadcast on ESPN3.
The Lady Jaguars defeated North Texas 65-61 behind Mansa El’s 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in her final game at the Mitchell Center.
The trio of seniors, Mansa El, Camille Reynolds and Mary Nixon combined for 44 points to lead the way for the victory.
The Lady Jags improve to 15-12 overall and 8-10 in Sun Belt play. They are fifth out of six schools in the Sun Belt’s Eastern division, one-half game behind FAU for a tie for fourth place and in eihth place overall in the conference.
The Lady Jags will travel to Western Kentucky and play the Lady Toppers on Wednesday night with tip-off set for 7pm.
The Jags set a new school record Friday night at Eddie Stanky Field by defeating former conference foe University of New Orleans 29-6 after a 13 run eighth inning.
Their Saturday game was rained out, but they were able to get in a double-header on Sunday which the Jags sweeped with more modest scores of 4-1 and 5-2.
The Jaguars baseball team improved their record to 7-0 on the season. They will return to action on Tuesday and Wednesday when they travel to Jacksonville, Alabama to face Jacksonville State University for a two-game mid-week series. First pitch for Tuesday’s game is set for 6:30pm at Rudy Abbot Field.
The Lady Jags traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the Jacksonville University Tournament. They went 4-0 before their final game was cancelled due to field conditions.
The Jags earned their seventh run-rule win of the season when they defeated Mount St. Mary’s 12-2 in 5 innings in the early Friday game. They then turned around and faced host school Jacksonville University and came away with a 7-0 win.
On Saturday, the Jags had another two game schedule. Their first was against Seton Hall which they earned their eighth run-rule win of the season with an 8-0 win in 6 innings. Their late game on Saturday was against Delaware which they won in a 1-0 decision.
The Lady Jags will be back in action on Thursday when they travel to Tuscaloosa for a make-up game against the University of Alabama. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00pm.
Track and Field
USA had two all-conference performances in the first day of the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Championships on Sunday. They also had a new school record set on the first day.
Nick Farrell came in first place and earned all-conference honors in the men’s pole vault when he cleared 5.00m. While his teammates William Henley and Connor Smith finished as part of a three-way tie for fifth place by vaulting 4.70m.
Briana Aiken also earned all-conference honors in the women’s long jump when she set a new school record of 6.01m. She finished in third place.
Complete results can be found here on the Jaguar Athletics website.
Day two will begin on Monday at 9am.
The South Alabama Men’s basketball team had their four game winning streak broken in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Thursday night by the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 85-50. With the win, MTSU clinched the #1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
The Blue Raiders scored the first 13 points of the game and held the Jags to a mere 28.6 percent shooting for the game. MTSU improved their overall record to 24-4 (16-1 SBC). South Alabama fell to 15-10 on the season (12-5 SBC).
The Jags only managed to shoot 26.1 percent in the first half while committing 14 turnovers before halftime. The Blue Raiders held USA to only one field goal over a 10-minute span and led by as many as 19 points in the first half.
The first 13 points of the game all went to Middle Tennessee before Trey Anderson got the Jags on the board with 14:30 left to play in the first half. MTSU also had a 12-2 run later in the first half to pull out to a 40-21 lead and would take a 41-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half was more of the first with MTSU putting together a 23-6 run with back-to-back three-pointers to pull out to a 36 point advantage.
Augustine Rubit earned his 15th double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Mychal Ammons also scored 13 points before fouling out of the game. Anderson scored 11 points off the bench for the Jags, a season-high for him.
MTSU had five players in double-digits for the game.
“We just didn’t play well,” interim head coach Jeff Price said after the game. “You can’t come in and play a team like this, in this environment, and play poorly on both ends of the floor. You have to do one or the other and I thought we did not play well on either end. I’m more disappointed than anything in our defense.”
“We turned the ball over and our turnovers led to their easy baskets,” Price commented. “When you come in here, you have to take care of the ball. We talked so much about throwing the first punch in this game, we know how well they do early in games, and we’re sitting there down 13-0. It’s just a big hole to climb out of here.”
“I didn’t think we stayed in front of the ball well, I didn’t think we were good in our transition defense and we didn’t guard the rim like we have been,” observed Price. “That has not been a normal pattern of our team and we just have to go back to work. We have a big game on Saturday. We have to get this one past us and move on to the next one.”
The Jags will host their final home game of the season on Saturday when they face North Texas for Senior night. Trey Anderson, Wendell Wright, Freddie Goldstein, and Javier Carter will be honored Saturday night.
The Jags final three games will determine their seeding in the Sun Belt Tournament. They continue to hold onto second place in the conference by one game over Arkansas State. The Jags have North Texas, @ Western Kentucky and @ Troy to round out the season.
Tip-off is set for 7:05pm on Saturday against North Texas and the student section is planning a special surprise at halftime.
During the Sun Belt Conference Basketball Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark., on March 9, the presidents and athletic directors of the member schools will meet to discuss future conference membership.
With the Conference loosing Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee and North Texas to Conference USA this summer. Even though the conference will add Georgia State, Texas State and Texas-Arlington this summer, it will still leave the conference with 10 total schools and only eight schools who participate in football.
No prospective schools have been invited at this time, but the meetings will center around possible invitations to Appalachian State, Deleware, Georgia Southern, Idaho, James Madison and New Mexico State among others.
Though the conference has reiterated over the last couple of years that they strive to be a strong regional conference, they will be considering some schools that are outside of it’s current footprint. The schools that are already in the current conference footprint stand a better chance of receiving an invitation.