Monday Press Conference

December 10, 2013 · By · Filed Under Football 


Head coach Joey Jones was joined by linebacker Bryson James and receiver Bryant Lavender for the Jaguars Monday press conference. They recapped the win over Louisiana-Lafayette and recapped the 2013 season. Below are highlights from the press conference.

Coach Jones opened by talking about the program’s next step. “The seniors in this program have done a great job of putting this program together. We improved drastically over last season. The challenge now is to improve that much more next year. We have set a standard for a lot of things. You have to build tradition, and we’re starting to build it. Obviously we are a long way from having a lot of deep tradition like most schools have, but we have some traditions intrinsically with the way we do things. Our staff and players understand that and are doing things the right way. But can we improve? Heck yes we can improve. That’s the challenge for the next season.”

Jones then spoke about moving forward to next season. “I have looked forward a little bit because I’m not a guy who is going to look back much anyway, win or lose. You have to move forward. But my mind is pretty heavy in recruiting right now to help us next season. We have thought about the different scenarios of who will play what and the shuffling around of positions, as well as who we have to recruit to make this 2014 team the best that it can be. We have certainly shifted our focus to next year. The answers to a lot of that will be in recruiting.”

Talking about what he will remember the most about this season he said the following. “I’ll remember the way we fought back. It was tough to come in on a Sunday and talk to the team after a one-point loss. You have to keep them going, but that was difficult. It was very hard for me. I had to put on a face in front of them to where they didn’t see any panic. When I went home at night I was distraught at times. But when I got up the next day and faced the (coaching) staff and players, we had to move on. That life lesson that they learned from being in that situation and fighting through it and finishing strong no matter what happened before, I have always preached those lessons but never really had to live them. I’ve been pretty fortunate as a player and coach to have been on a lot of winning teams. Some of those things were real, and we had to live through them.”

On the imporantance of next season relative to the growth of the program he had this to say. “I don’t know where it stands, all I know is we need to improve. Every year I am going to have a two-day staff meeting where we talk about ways we can improve for the following year in every facet. You have to assess yourself every year no matter how good you are or how the previous year went. You have to assess yourself and get better. That’s the essence of having a championship-type football program, by improving every year. Where that will be next year as far as wins and losses go, I don’t know. But we need to improve and set the standard even higher to become a conference champion. Our goal is certainly to get there, and we have to do a lot of things between now and then to get there.”

He talked about any disappointment on this season. “The way we finished made us feel a lot better. Sure we’re disappointed from some standpoint, but we did have a good year. We realize how close we are in our first year of Division I of achieving our goals. We achieved one out of the two, and next year we’ll have the same two goals. It’s disappointing because you are so close to having a ring on these guys’ fingers. But it’s a positive that we’re that close too.”

Finally, talking about replacing 28 seniors from this team. “I’m concerned about some positions, but the positive side of it is they have laid the groundwork for this next group of seniors who will come through. We’re starting to get normal-sized senior classes that we have never had before. Even though you lose them on the field, it’s almost like some of them are still there because of the things that they created in leadership and work ethic. It’s all still going to be there rubbing off on those juniors, sophomores and freshmen behind them to come fill their shoes.”

Bryson James spoke about the ULL win. “That game was very personal for me. I have a lot of high school teammates and classmates that go to school there. It was just very emotional. It was awesome being out there for the last time and getting a big win.”

He then reflected on the season. “We weren’t playing as a whole at the beginning of the year, but we were trying to get there. By the end of the season I felt like we came together and played as one team, as brothers. The seniors and a lot of the younger guys were playing the role of leader on and off the field, and that’s what brought us closer together. We played off the charts this season.”

James then spoke about the progression of the program. “There was nothing but red dirt and trees when we came in to the program. Just having to build this program and for Coach Jones to have to get all the guys on the same page is tough to do. It was crazy. People were coming from everywhere (to play). I actually didn’t know anything about Mobile or the University of South Alabama. But Coach Jones and (former assistant) Coach (Kurt) Crain came and talked to me and told me about the program. They told me it was a way to make history. And as the years went by and we were going into the last game, I just thought how amazing it’s going to be to come back 25 or 30 years from now knowing we helped start this program. Every year I have been around a bunch of guys who were positive. They helped lead me toward the right way of doing things. The coaches, trainers and the entire staff showed me the right ways and kept my head right. I felt like it was beyond the players. There was steady growth. We were expecting so much of a challenge this past season that we knew we had to step up our preparation. But it’s not about football. This is preparing you for life. I tried to instill that into the minds of the younger guys and let them know that it’s not all about you. It’s about bettering yourself and your life for when you have a family so you can pass it along to your kids.”

James talked about what he will remember most about the season. “The most memorable moment for me is how we finished strong. We showed everyone that we aren’t just a push-around – we’re not going to give up. We stayed focused even though we had some tough losses, and that’s what Coach Jones stressed to us. Were we going to lay down? And we responded each week. It was tough going through one-point losses and knowing we could have been in a bowl game this year. But I’m just happy that we finished the way we did this year.”

Finally, he spoke about looking forward as being a spectator for the games rather than a player. “It’s going to be tough knowing that I’m not going to step into that locker room and put on a uniform. But I’m always going to be close and will participate any way I can to help out. I’m going to be on the sideline supporting the program as much as I can. But it’s going to be different. It didn’t hit me until we were getting our plaques on Senior Night. Just having the fans, my loving family and teammates’ families there – there’s nothing like it. It’s going to be tough leaving my teammates, but I’m always going to be around.”

Bryant Lavender also talked about the win over ULL. “I have a former high school teammate who kicks at ULL. It was good to see and talk to him. It wasn’t as emotional for me as it was for Bryson, because he is from Louisiana. But it was emotional enough to go out and leave everything on the field because it was my last collegiate game and the last time I would put on a South Alabama uniform. It just meant a lot to go out with a bang the way we did, knocking off the conference champions. It was nice.”

He also reflected on the season. “We had a new motto coming into the season, and we wanted to make sure every time we stepped onto the practice field, the weight room or into meetings that we took that and used it as a reminder each day. That’s why we were so resilient in being able to come back after a loss. We took it and improved as the season went on. It was like boxing – we took a hit but kept on punching.”

Then he talked about the progression of the program. “I didn’t know anything about South Alabama heading into my senior year of high school. But I went to a camp and that’s when the coaches offered me. It was exciting because I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. There were people coming from everywhere. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but we were together every day in the summer in the heat lifting weights, running and just trying to get better. I thanked Coach Jones for allowing us to come help build this program into what it is now. The journey we have taken has been a pleasure, because we improved each year. If you look at the losses when we started playing a full FBS schedule, we didn’t lose by that much. There were maybe two or three games where we got blown out, but every year was a step forward. It’s a continuous growing process, but I feel like we set a great foundation for the house to be built. This football program is destined for greatness. We have opened a lot of eyes and caught a lot of people’s attention with the way we have played. Most of the teams we have played understood what we’re about once we played them. Respect is what we wanted more than anything because as the new kid on the block you don’t get respect. As a senior and captain, I tried to instill in the guys that regardless of how you feel about someone you have to do everything the right way. In the end, they’re going to remember how you did it. If they remember you doing it the right way, then you’ll always called back. It was very important for us as we got older to set the example for the younger guys. We pushed them and each other, and that’s why we became bowl eligible our first year in FBS. It was a great year for us mentally and physically as far as growing as a program. That’s something that the coaches and players that are still here can take and build upon. Everything has fallen into place for us to hand the reigns over and let everyone else take over and finish what we started.”

Lavender spoke about what he will remember most about the season. “I’ll remember the fight that we kept having to put up. We were in every game, besides the Navy game. We put ourselves in a position to win the ballgame (each week). That’s the only thing you can ask for out of yourself and the coaches. Just give us an opportunity to win the game, and we had that opportunity. Sometimes we came up short and sometimes we didn’t. But just the resiliency that we had as a group, coaches included, to keep pushing and not let up is what I’ll remember. We just wanted to fight and let everybody know that South Alabama isn’t going anywhere.”

Finally, he also spoke about what it will be like to be a spectator at future games rather than a player. “I’m looking forward to it just to see what bricks are going to be laid next after we leave. Am I excited about being a spectator? No, I hate watching football. I like to play. But this is something that is a part of me. It’s always a pleasure to see my alma mater do well. And I’ll always be around as much as I can because that’s what we’re here for. We’re the ones who are going to have to come back and tell guys how it started and what it was like. That’s something that comes with the territory. But spectating will be fun because I know where the coaches’ minds are. The hard part will be when none of the coaches are here and you don’t know any of the kids because you don’t know what’s going on; you feel out of the loop. But for right now we’ll still feel in the loop, we just won’t be able to put on the suit. It will be good, but the hard part will be in the next 10 to 15 years when they ask you to come back and you don’t know any of the coaches or players and they don’t know you. But you let them know if they need something, the players and coaches who started it are here for the program.”


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