UPDATE: Previewing South Alabama vs Gardner-Webb

September 4, 2015 · By · Filed Under Football 


UPDATE:  Antonio Carter will miss 4-5 weeks with a broken foot. Danny Woodson Jr. will miss two games due to academic issues. Both were returning experienced players as mentioned in the original article, their contributions will definitely be missed on the field.

The Jaguars are less than 36 hours from their season opening game against Gardner-Webb University. With a very good preseason camp from all accounts and the addition of several UAB transfers and freshman class, it seems the Jaguars are ready to build on their success last season and attempt to improve on the foundation set during the previous five seasons.

But who is Gardner-Webb?

Gardner-Webb University is a private, four-year university in Boiling Springs, North Carolina west of Charlotte. It was founded as Boiling Springs High School in 1905 as a Baptist institution, it is the youngest NC Baptist university.

They have an enrollment of approximately 5,000 students including both undergraduate and graduate students. They have a total of five professional schools, two academic schools and 11 academic departments which offer nearly 60 fields of study. Their online programs have earned multiple awards and recognition.

The GWU sports programs compete in the NCAA Division I with football participating in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) as members of the Big South Conference. Their first football team was fielded in 1970 and play their home games in 9,000 seat Ernest W. Spangler Stadium.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs enter the 2015 with a seasoned defense but lots of questions on offense. Their top defensive linemen are 6’3″ 304, 6’2″ 280 and 6’1″ 293. Their defense allowed less than 400 yards per game last season and return 15 student-athletes with starting experience. Outside linebacker Aaron Cook had 92 tackles, including 13 behind the line of scrimmage and four sacks, to go along with five passes broken up and forcing a pair of fumbles. Preseason First-Team FCS All-American O.J. Mau had 60 stops, 10 for loss, from the nose guard position. Additionally they return inside linebacker Tanner Burch who led the team with 107 tackles in the 2013 season but missed the 2014 season due to injury.

“I know last year they had a really good defense — I think they were 20th in the country — and have a lot of those guys back, so you would think they would be good defensively,” Jones stated. “They are really good on the defensive front; to me, that’s the strength of their team based off of last year.  They know how to play and are very well coached.”

Offensively GWU has more questions that needed answering going into preseason camp. They return an experienced tight end in Mike Estes who had 34 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns last season. In all, the offense returns five upperclassmen on the offensive line, but they are replacing starters at every skill position on an offense that gained just under 75 yards rushing and 220 yards overall during the 2014 season.

They return their top scorer in placekicker Paul Schumacher, who had 46 points last season. They also return punter Andrew Komornik who averaged 38.8 yards per punt.

What about the Jaguars?

On the other side, South Alabama had more questions to answer on defense going into preseason camp. Entering the first game the Jags have a pair of starters back in the secondary in Roman Buchanan and Antonio Carter. Buchanan is a preseason second-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. He is the leading returning tackler with 74 stops last season which he also had seven passes defended. Carter returns from last season with 54 stops.

Seniors E.J. May and Margo Reed both made multiple starts and interceptions last season were listed as starters on the first depth chart released on Monday. Freshman phenom Jalen Thompson is expected to be a potential contributor as well with Devon Earl also contributing. Jeremy Reaves is listed as the starter in the Jaguars 4-2-5 defense.

The defensive front is where the Jags have to replace three All-SBC performers. Interior linemen Tre Alford and Caleb Butler along with ends DeMarion Harper and Akeep Lewis all saw action last season and contributed to a defense that allowed less than 400 yards per game on average last year. At linebacker Blake Dees (transfer from Texas Tech) and Kalen Jackson (transfer from UAB) come in with experience at the FBS leven to help fill those slots along with returners Demarius Rancifer and Raymone Wiggins they add freshman Bull Barge who may see playing time as well.

Aleem Sunanon returns after converting 33 field goals over the past two seasons and earning first-team All-Conference honors. Brandon McKee also returns after averaging a season-record 42.34 yards per punt with 28 kicks being downed inside the opponents 20-yard line.

Marvin Shinn returns from an injury shortened 2014 season to help the Jaguars new starting quarterback Cody Clements, who transferred from UAB. Also back are Danny Woodson Jr., Claude Garrett, Tony Ray Parnell and Cameron Broadnax and are joined by D.J. Vinson, Kevin Kutchera and Josh Magee.

Terrance Timmons is listed as the starting running back with Xavier Johnson  return from an offense last season who gained nearly 180 yards per game on the ground. Both Timmons and Johnson averagedd 5.4 yards per play and combined for 850 yards and five touchdowns. They are joined by JuCo All-American Tyreis Thomas and Dami Ayoola who started his career at Illinois.

Tight end Braedon Bowman returns with UAB transfer Gerald Everett, they caught 18 and 17 passes respectively last season.

South Alabama and Garnder-Webb is scheduled to kickoff at 5pm on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game will be available on Lite Mix 99.9 FM in the Mobile area as well as some affiliates elsewhere in the state of Alabama. It can also be heard on iHeartRadio. The game will be available for viewing on ESPN2 as well.

FanFest area of Jag City will go from 1-4:30 PM with free tailgating and food samples provided by Sonny’s BBQ and Moe’s Southwest Grill. Jaguar Prowl is scheduled for 2:45pm and will cross around the outside of the South endzone of the stadium through the tailgating area.


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