Sun Belt Media Day Rewind

July 23, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, NCAA, Sun Belt Conference 

7-21_Release_GraphicThe 2014 Sun Belt Media Day is in the books and the Conference is in a good position to make some noise this season. Especially South Alabama.

This big headlines for this season so far is the number of new quarterbacks taking the reigns for SBC schools when the fall schedule begins. Over half of the teams in the conference will be starting new quarterbacks. South Alabama is not the exception either. Ross Metheny played very well last season and, most notably, played very smart. He threw for over 1,300 yards as he helped lead the Jaguars to a 6-6 season and 4-3 conference record. Now it may be Brandon Bridge’s turn to help lead the Jaguars to a new level of success.

Bridge sits at the Number 1 quarterback after spring pratice but will have to continue to prove himself as the stable of returning quarterbacks will continue to fight for playing time. However they will also have to prove themselves against two new quarterbacks that will join the team this fall in HuCo transfer Hunter Vaughn and former South Florida quarterback Matt Floyd.

Only five Sun Belt schools have a returning starting quarterback and the biggest name is Louisiana-Lafayette’s Terrance Broadway. Broadway was voted the preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors. Along with him is Georgia State’s Ronnie Bell, Texas State’s Tyler Jones, Appalachian State’s Kameron Bryant and Georgia Southern’s part-time starter last season Kevin Ellison.

When Jaguar head coach Joey Jones arrived at the 2013 Sun Belt Media Day last summer, his team was picked to finish next-to-last in their first season as a full SBC and FBS member. After a season-opening loss to Southern Utah, the Jaguars regrouped and found their game. They finished the season with a three-game winning streak including a season-finale win over Sun Belt Conference Co-Champion Louisiana-Lafayette.

This season it toally different. Coach Jones’ team is picked to finish third in the conference. The potent Jaguar offense returns nine starters from last season. The two starters they lost were Metheny at Quarterback and Matt Calcagnini at center.

The story is a bit different on the defensive side of the ball as they are returning six starters, most of them in the defensive backfield.

But the conference acknoledged the talent that is on the Jaguar roster as nine student-athletes were named to the preseason All-Sun Belt Team.

The following was some of the things that Coach Jones had to say while speaking with the media in New Orleans.

Jones talking about whether he feels USA as good as any team in the conference. “I feel that we are starting to get closer in terms of talent. Two years ago we weren’t Division I quite yet and the talent wasn’t there. But last year was much closer and now we are probably getting to the point where we are comparable to the other teams in the league. But it all comes down to how you play, talent only does so much. you have to play well to win football games.”

Jones talking about quarterback Brandon Bridge: “I feel real good about Brandon.  He is a great character young man, he works hard at his craft and he cares about it. He’s very talented, I expect big things out of him. He understands his role isn’t to be the biggest playmaker in the world, it’s to be the starting quarterback at South Alabama and win football games for us, that means taking what the defense is giving you. He’s done a great job this spring.”

Jones spoke about the expectations of being picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll: “The way we finished last year definitely helped going into this season. We realized if we play well and do our part we’ll have a chance. One thing I know about the Sun Belt Conference is there are a lot of good football teams and a lot of great coaches. You better be ready to play every week.  You look not only at our games, a lot of one- and two-point decisions, but around the league and the other teams are going through the same thing.”

One of the most interesting questions for Jaguar fans is what it will take for USA to win the conference championship. Jones said, “The key in my opinion is we have to win close games, and we have to win on the road. Winning on the road is probably the biggest thing in this conference, most teams were .500 or below on the road last year. You have to find a way to win on the road in this conference to win the championship.”

Last season the Jaguars lost four games by two points or less, two of them by just one point. The Jaguars game against Tennesse was decided by just seven points and USA had a chance to tie or go ahead with under two minutes left in the game in the red zone.

Jones also spoke about the season-ending win over conference co-champion ULL and what it means as they head into the 2014 season. “Louisiana-Lafayette has been the team that everyone in our conference has looked at the last three or four years. Them and Arkansas State. To be able to have a chance to play well against them last year certainly helped our confidence going into this year. But this is a new year with different players and different coaches, we can’t look back, we have to keep looking forward.”

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