Jags Open Preseason Football Camp Today
South Alabama football student-athletes reported on Wednesday and will begin preseason camp this evening at the South Alabama practice facility on campus exactly four week prior to the kickoff of the 2013 season.
A first for the program this season is that they will be full FBS members and will be eligible for a conference championship and a bowl berth.
Another first in the programs’ short history is that the practices are now closed to the public and will only be open to select media for 30 minutes.
The competition will go to a new level this preseason as they have graduated their first “full” senior class and the roster has a new look to it. In previous seasons there was some competition for starting jobs, but as their recruiting continues to ramp up and they continue to bring is great talent then the competition continues to ramp up as well.
Last year the Jags finally started to see some dept at certain position, but this season Coach Jones sees guys who offer quality depth at each position while pressing the starters to work hard to keep their job.
Currently the only Jaguar that is known to be out as practice begins this evening is Melvin Meggs. Meggs, a three year starter at left tackle, will miss the entire season with a torn ACL sufferred in summer workouts.
Like previous fall practices, Coach Jones will spend the first two weeks of practice figuring out who will be playing in the first game by establishing their depth chart. The coaches want to spend those first 14 days figuring out roles so the next 14 days will be spent getting the most reps to those who will be seeing the most time on the field.
They will also be determining the final location for a few players. They have some that could play two or three positions so they will be evaluating them to see if they will play safety, linebacker or defensive end. The earlier they can get those decisions made, the more likely they can help the team in the first game.
As they take the field, 105 Jaguars will be suiting up. That number is the most allowed by the NCAA. Once classes begin, then 130 players will be able to take part in practices.
There are a few positions battles that will draw extra scruitny this preseason.
Quarterback, the most asked about and watched position on the field, will be a good battle this preseason. Ross Metheny is the returning starter from last season as C.J. Bennett has transferred, the only other Jaguar quarterback to start last season. But Metheny will be challenged by Brandon Bridge. Bridge is a tall, fast quarterback with a huge arm. He could become a big playmaker for the Jaguars, especially if his accuracy has improved. Bridge’s speed and arm could really make coach Matthews’ spread offense rack up yards and, more importantly, put points on the scoreboard.
Going hand-in-hand with quarterback is the offensive pace that coach Jones and coach Matthews want to play at. Last season they never really ramped the speed up to what they wanted to play at, but after a year of experience, the coaches will expect the players to pick up the tempo. They want to be able to take advantage of mismatches, confusion and tempo. But this will take every offensive player being on the same page and knowing their roles. It will take the sideline staff getting the plays into the team as quickly as possible and the quarterback executing. But the receivers must catch passes thrown their way as well. Last season there were several drops at key moments.
Kicking will see a new face as Michel Chapuseaux has graduated. Two redshirt freshmen will be vying for the positon in Aleem Sunanon and Logan Gunn. But freshman Brandon McKee could challenge as well. Punter Scott Garber returns for his fifth season but may be challenged by Sunanon and McKee as well. McKee averaged over 45 yards per punt as a senior in high school.
The defensive secondary will be something to watch as well. They allowed several big plays last season that hurt the Jags but in the offseason they recruited in adding depth adn talent to that area. Tyrell Pearson, Charles Watson adn Darrius Morrow all return as well as Qudarius Ford will return from his knee injury last season. They will be joined by Steffon Fuller, Anthony Harris and Montell Garner as well as others. This is probably the one area the defense needs to improve the most at.
The defensive front wants to get more pressure on the quarterback this season. They want more quarterback pressures, more sacks and more tackles for loss. The Jags may have the most returning depth at defensive line with Alex Page, Romelle Jones, Jesse Kelley, Montavious Williams and Randon Carnathan and they have all shown that they can get pressure on quarterbacks in previous seasons.
Who will step up and fill the large shoes left by Jake Johnson? Enrique Williams and Bryson James return and will be joined by Desmond LaVelle and redshirt freshmen Josh Carroll and Michael Adcock. Clifton Crews returns at outside linebacker with Maleki Harris and David Hawkins listed at outside linebackers and safeties. As the Jags will be facing other spread no-huddle offenses, these guys will be key to be able to fill either of those roles.
In 28 days we will have a much better idea of what to expect out of the 2013 Jaguars. That seems like a long time from now, but if you ask the coaches that seems like tomorrow.