Jones Previews USA’s Trip To Knoxville

September 24, 2013 · By · Filed Under Football 

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The South Alabama football team had Monday off, as they do every Monday. Head football coach Joey Jones met with the media to talk about the Jaguars upcoming trip to Knoxville. Below are some highlights from the press conference.

Coach Jones’ opening statement: “Tennessee is an SEC team that has played two really, really good opponents the last two weeks.  If you watch them on film you see how well-coached they are, how well they get after you on defense, how aggressive they are on the offensive line.  What I see is a really good football team that has played two great teams in the last two weeks.”

Jones then spoke about how different the Jaguars are from the start of fall drills back in August. “We have matured, I think we’ve grown. One thing that we have been harping on this whole time is that we have to get better fundamentally and get better at what we do. Our kids are doing that, they are going out and practicing hard, and I think they have gotten better. The thing I challenge my team with every week is that every team is going to have some weaknesses, our goal is by midseason to delete all of them. People are going to look at us and try to find holes.”

“When you look at great teams they get better week to week, weaknesses they may have had in week one or two they don’t have anymore. My challenge to the team every week is to keep those weaknesses from being a problem.”

Jones then spoke about his expectations for the team’s maturity. “Just an example of it came yesterday when we went out to practice, there were some seniors at the gate meeting guys as they walked in, talking about how we were going to have a great practice. They kept saying it over and over again, and because of their leadership we had a great practice. That goes back to the leadership and maturity of our senior class.”

Jones was asked about the team coming together, he answered by saying the following. “I have noticed that really throughout the season. I think that our offense, defense and special teams are all one now, it’s not a situation where one group is talking about the other. The defense went out on the field after we fumbled last week and said, ‘Coach, we got it.’ They weren’t complaining. The offense went on the field after we gave up a touchdown and said, ‘We got it.’”

“That means you’re part of the team. It doesn’t matter what the offense, defense or special teams do individually, it matters what we do as a whole, and I think our kids really understand that now.”

Jones fielded a question about his concerns facing Tennessee. “Probably just sheer size, they are huge on the offensive line, and the defensive line may be even bigger on the inside. They have big linebackers, they have done a great recruiting there. That will probably be the biggest thing you see.”

“And then just the fact that we are playing an SEC team. They lose by 14 points to one of the top 20 teams in the country last week, a lot of teams are going to lose by 14 points to a team like that, or by more. They have a real good football team, I’ve been impressed with their coaching. I watch film, I understand the guys are teaching technique, they are very well-coached in all phases.”

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but one our kids are looking forward to.”

He fielded a question about seeing the Jaguar fans react to the weekend. “One thing I know is that we will have great support from our fans, we always have. We went to New Orleans and had more fans than Tulane had in their home stadium, and our fans have supported us at N.C. State and Mississippi State or wherever we have gone. That’s exciting for our players.”

“We may have 1,000 people compared to their 99,000, but they will be in full support of the Jaguars.”

Jones spoke about how playing Tennessee on TV helps the program. “Being on a national stage, seeing the name South Alabama on TV for three hours, is great for us. It’s something we are striving for, we want to be nationally known, and this is one step in that process. We’re excited about it, but one thing I have told our players is that this is not about TV, radio, the crowd, all of that really doesn’t matter. What matters is how good we are, how well we practice and how much we bring from the practice field to the game.”

“All the other stuff is extra, though we certainly like having our name out there, for a young program in its first year in [NCAA] Division I, playing on nationally TV is exciting for us.”

Jones was asked about first-year players who have come in and made an immediate impact on the team. “We actually have a lot of new players in our starting lineup compared to last year. When you look on offense we have a couple of receivers out there doing very well and our top two running backs weren’t here last year.”

“On defense we have a few guys in the secondary. You’re looking at probably nine or 10 guys who have made a big impact on our football team that are either junior-college transfers or transfers from other four-year schools.  But that’s a part of recruiting, you recruit them to try and make yourself better and increase your talent at each position. We haven’t missed on many, we’ve hit some good players who have come in and been big factors on this team and a reason we have been successful.”

He also fielded a question about how pleased he is with where the program is right now. “I’m happy where we are, but you see so many things we can improve on. I think we are a team that has fought for what it has gotten, one that has fought and scrapped the last two weeks and had a mature presence about it to finish the game. I’m proud of that and happy where we are there.”

“But do we have to get better? Yeah, there are a couple of things we have to get better at. One is red zone defense, we are giving up too many points in the red zone, and vice versa, on offense, we are having to kick too many field goals. Those are a couple of areas we can really improve on, that’s giving up points and getting points on offense.”

Linebacker Clifton Crews spoke about Tennessee. “Florida’s defensive line got after their offensive line pretty good. Tennessee turned the ball over a lot, but this is another SEC game. I think we can capitalize if we can rattle them and get them on their heels.”

Crews the spoke about the bye week. “Mentally, it kind of took us back to day one when we were in (preseason) camp. We tackled in practice much more than we usually do. I think (defensive coordinator) Coach (Kevin) Sherrer took it back to the fundamentals. The bye week didn’t do anything but help us. We just looked at ourselves and didn’t really worry about the opposition. We just focused on what we can improve on so we can take that to the field.”

Placekicker Aleem Sunanon spoke about the team’s confidence level. “We really struggled with confidence after week one. But as we got past it and got to week two, the confidence-level just started rising. Once we had that taste of winning in our mouths, that confidence just sky-rocketed. We took that into the Western Kentucky game. I think our confidence-level will continue to rise, we just have to keep performing at a much higher level than what people expect.”

South Alabama and Tennessee kick off at 11:21am CDT and will be on the SEC Network which is locally available on UTV44. They are also available on 105.5FM WNSP in the Mobile area and http://wnsp.com/ worldwide.

Go Jags!

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