Happy Thanksgiving #JagNation

November 27, 2014 · By · Filed Under Commentary · Comment 


Happy Thanksgiving to all of JagNation!

Come out and support your Jaguars on Friday for their 2pm game against Navy at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Reminder: If you ride the shuttle, it will be operating from Lipscomb Field on Michael Blvd. NOT Bel Air Mall. Shuttles will begin at 10AM and will continue until 90 minutes after the game is over.

Go Jags! Beat Navy!

Weaver: Evolving media landscape expands Thunderjags coverage in 2012

November 7, 2012 · By · Filed Under Commentary · Comment 

Guess who’s back –

Not Domonic Tilford but wouldn’t that be a charm? No, I’m something a little less fulfilling but just as provocative — or at least, that’s what I hope.

My name is Matt Weaver and you may remember me as the former sports editor of some student newspaper at the corner of Old Shell and University, and I’m here to alter the face of Thunderjags and South Alabama reporting. Kind of like the President of the United States, CM Punk and that cute bank teller, I’m here to offer change.

That’s no disrespect to Brian and everyone else who has legitimized Thunderjags over the years. That’s a large part of why I’m here. I just want to see if I can take this little slice of the internet and be a part of something special and ultimately revolutionary.

So here’s the deal. The media landscape at South Alabama is much different than what it was the last time I wrote about Jaguar athletics — the end of the 2011-12 basketball season.

The Mobile Press Register fired over half of their newsroom including long-time South Alabama beat reporters Kim Shugart and Cassandra McAboy — professional friends of mine. So while it saddens me to write that, it definitely opens up the possibility that a new form of journalism can arrive and thrive at Ladd-Peebles, the Mitchell Center, Stanky Field and wherever South Alabama athletes compete. While blogging is a relative accepted art form in 2012, it hasn’t yet taken root at South Alabama.

We at Thunderjags expect to change that.

We hope to be more interactive with the fans. We plan to site courtside in the student section and provide live feedback to the webpage following every game, providing live content that no one else cares to acquire or devote appropriate time to. When it comes to college athletics, we endeavor that Thunderjags can and will become the top reporting body on all things red, white and blue. The current media landscape gives us that opportunity and we’re going to take it.

This is just the beginning and we hope that you guys provide us a lot of feedback. For example, what sort of content are you not receiving and what kind would like us to provide? Consider yourself our boss. You can opine by either dropping a comment in the appropriate section below or giving us a note on Twitter @USAThunderjags.

Let’s rock.

“Still Undefeated” is a state of mind

September 19, 2011 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 
Gibbon looks out of the tunnel

Myles Gibbon takes in Carter-Finley Stadium before the team takes the field for warm-ups.

With South Alabama’s first loss in the record books, is it time to bury the “Still Undefeated” tee-shirts?

I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why. “Still Undefeated” goes beyond the win-loss record. It began as a bit of a joke before the first Letter-Of-Intent was signed and before the first scholarship was given. It was finally printed on some shirts by the school and given away at some special events and eventually sold by the bookstore.

Then the Jags opened with their huge win over Hargrave and they didn’t stop throughout the first season. The bookstore then printed some nicer shirts and sold them throughout the off season between the first and second season.

More and more fans wore them to games during the second season. Again, the Jags continued winning, week in and week out, at home at Ladd-Peebles stadium or on the road in Dothan, Texas and California.

Again the bookstore printed more “Still Undefeated” tee-shirts with the games and scores from the first two season and a big 17-0 as well.

But now, after the first loss, what happens to South Alabama’s catch phrase for the first two seasons?

I would say that “Still Undefeated” has gone beyond a statement about wins and loses and has become a mentality. Against the odds, the Jags traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina in some less than stellar conditions and gave the Wolfpack much more than they bargained for. NC State came into the game looked for a cupcake so the coaching staff could play their reserves. However Glennon was still in the game with about four minutes left in the game.

The Jags weren’t defeated as much as they killed their own chances to win. Interceptions, penalties and a couple big plays on blown coverages or mismatches cost the game. Several chances to stop the Wolfpack on third and long or fourth down plays also hurt.

Even though the final score was 35-13, South Alabama never let up and never gave up. They were never defeated. They played as though, given enough time, they would find a way to win the game.

That attitude comes from the coaches, it comes from the players and it comes from the fans. The coaches recruited good players with the right attitude that have worked hard to bring this program from being non-existent to being a legitimate FBS caliber time in only it’s third season. The fans have supported the team in every step of the process.

Until I see a team that thoroughly defeats the Jags, I will continue to wear my shirt. NC State did not do that; though they played well. I hope those players wearing the South Alabama red, white and blue take this to heart. You lost a game, but you weren’t defeated. If you play at your best you will never be defeated. You may be behind the other team when the final horn sounds but given enough time you would win the game because that is who you are. You are Jaguars. You bleed it red every game. Every opponent has walked away with some South in their mouth.

Now get in there and look over that game film, make adjustments and go up to Kent State and show another team who South Alabama is and what kind of game they bring to the field.

Go Jags!

Commentary: Jaguars Winning Ways Similar To National Championship Contender

October 24, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 

There is no doubt the Jaguars first season of football has already exceeded many peoples initial vision. They thought that if the Jags could win a couple games, it would be a pretty good season. But with the Jags 4-0 and dominating every opponent in all phases of the game, this was unexpected by many local observers.

South Alabama is starting to get noticed around the state too. UAB and Troy fans are already talking up their programs and talking down to the Jaguars. This started after the first game and again after the second game. Are they already worried about their place in the state’s college football pecking order? If not, then maybe they should.

Looking at the Jaguars and the current #1 team in the state, the University of Alabama, you can see some parallels between the two teams (overlooking the last two or three games by Alabama). The Jags and UA are both led by good defensive play based on stopping the run.

The Jags Justin Dunn would probably be the Jags closest player to parallel the impact of Dont’a Hightower. Hightower played (out for season with a knee injury) inside linebacker and made lots of tackles and stuffed the run. Charlie Higgenbotham would be the closest Alabama’s Rolando McClain. He does a good job helping to stop the run and is able to drop into coverage as well. Although Josh Chestang could also be tagged as a possible McClain parallel too.

In the secondary, Jerron Mitchell is probably the closest cornerback to the skill and ability to match Javier Arenas in coverage and tackling. Althought I haven’t seen him blitz the quarterback like Alabama does with Arenas. While Zach Brownell seems to have the same nose for the football as Alabama’s Mark Barron. They seem to put themselves into the right position to pick off an opponents pass.

Even the Jags and Alabama seem to have somewhat similar strengths and weaknesses on offense. Both teams run the ball very well with a good stable of running backs, but both are somewhat struggling in the passing game. The Jags don’t utilize the ‘pistol’ formation nor do they use the ‘wildcat’ formation either. Coach Jones and Coach Gregory feel that freshman quarterback Myles Gibbon is athletic enough that they do not need to use those formations. So they are too different to be compared to each other beyond the fact they are both starting quarterbacks.

Courtney Smith is big, fast and is a threat to score anytime he gets the ball, which is exactly what you would say about Julio Jones. Its hard to compare the rest of the receiver corps because of how few passes have been thrown and how many receivers have caught passes.

Again, both teams are very strong in the rushing game. Obviously Alabama’s Mark Ingram is quite a spectacular player, but so is Trent Richardson too. There are many traits that are shared by Ingram and Richardson for Alabama and Brandon Ross, Santuan McGee and Anthony Mostella.

I strongly urge you not to misconstrue these comparisons. It’s not meant to further praise Alabama or to proclaim the Jaguars just as good as Alabama. It’s merely meant to go towards showing what a good job coach Jones and his staff are doing here in Mobile. Alabama is currently ranked in the top two spots in all of the polls and rankings. Both teams are winning with fundamentals, strong defenses and a lots of rushing yards.

As mentioned in the Coach Joey Jones Radio Show, the Jags need to work on their passing game to be a more complete team. They are definitely dominating by running the game, but a football team wants and really needs to be able to move the ball by passing or running the ball.

Something else the Jags need to work on lately are their penalties. In the first two games the Jags did not commit many penalties. Against Hargrave they committed 4 for 30 yards and against Army prep they committed 5 for 40 yards. But against Georgia Military they committed 10 for 158 yards and against Louisburg they committed 6 for 52 yards. The Jags improved against Louisburg by reducing their number of penalties and yards but it is still more than the first two games. The Georgia Military game is obviously the low point of the Jags season thus far. If you subtract their penalty yards from their offensive production, they only gained 93 yards.

With this type of play out of such young players the Jaguars have quite a bright future ahead of them. With increasingly better opponents coming in the near future, the Jags will be in the position to play competitively and win.

A Deeper Look At The 3-5-3 Defense

September 24, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · 3 Comments 

The 3-5-3 is a relatively new defense that has picked up popularity over the last few years. Its a good scheme to distract the offense both before and after the snap. Its meant to create doubt for the quarterback in coverage reads. It allows the defense to either drop eight people into coverage or rush eight. It allows the linebackers and safeties to constantly move in and out of the line-of-scrimmage. Plus, its great against both running teams, passing teams and in goal-line situations.

The three down linemen typically never change their alignment and play the heads-up technique. The noseguard plays straight-ahead while the tackles line up against the offensive tackles and typically loop outside. The linebackers stack behind the down linemen at a depth of about 4 to 5 yards. This makes it hard for the opposing team to draw up blocking schemes against a stacked defense.

The strong safety aligns seven yards off the line for both a tight end or a split end. But against a tight end he will play two yards inside or four yards inside versus a split end. But he will have a 45 degree shoulder tilt towards the quarterback no matter where he lines up.

The cornerbacks will line up one yard inside of the receiver and nine yards off the line, again with a 45 degree shoulder tilt to the quarterback. The free safety will align on the strong side A gap about 12 yards deep.

The 3-5-3 defense is basically a disguised Gap 8 defense. The front eight will all have gap responsibilities. In the base defense, the nose will have one A gap while a middle linebacker will have the other A gap depending on the blocking scheme. The outside linebackers will have the B gaps to their side and the tackles will have the C gaps to their side. The strong safety will be responsible for the D gap on their side as well.

Versus the run, the front eight play gap responsibilities. Against the veer, the middle linebacker and free safety will play from dive to quarterback to pitch responsibility.

Some keys is that the nose guard needs to force a double team and the tackles cannot get cut off. Pressure is also put on the linebackers because they must read and react with no false steps.

The secondary’s base coverage is cover 3 and they must be able to read and break on the ball. The free safety must be a good tackler and play intelligently.

Against the pass, the base defense will drop eight into coverage. The nose guard will be responsible for a push up the middle while looking for the screen pass or the draw. The two tackles are responsible for containing the quarterback during the rush. The middle linebacker has the middle zone while the two outside linebackers cover the hook and curl zones to their side and the safeties have the flat zones to their side. The cornerbacks have the deep third to their side and the free safety plays deep middle zone.

Since this defensive scheme is balanced, the offense has no choice but to run to the strong side since they are outnumbered on the weak side. If the offense runs a balanced offense, then the defense will have to find their tendencies and work from there. It is almost impossible to trap against this defense because of the threat of the linebackers running through for a tackle for loss.

There are only a few ways to attack this type of defense so you can work against the same plays every week. The base defense has a multitude of stunts, pressures and coverages built into it, but really it is only limited by the imagination of the defensive coordinator.

This video will show you the basic alignment of the front 8 for the 3-5-3 defense. Notice how they stack behind the nose and ends. Remember this is to disguise the defense and to confuse the quarterback.

The following video shows how the 3-5-3 can defend against the option play to the weak side.

The following video is not the best video but it shows a team running the 3-5-3 defense and some of their highlights. It is the 2007 Petersburg PORTA Bluejays. They are a high school team Illinois but their defense only gave up 6 points in 10 games. NOTE: You may want to mute the sound on this video.

Lagniappe Questions

September 23, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 

Lagniappe sportswriter Johnny Davis contacted us here at Thunderjags.com as well as several others with a couple questions about South Alabama’s first game. Since today the new issue is available on news stands, here is my complete answers to Mr. Davis’ questions.

Go out and grab yourself a copy of the new issue of the Laginappe, not just because there will be a couple quotes from my answers but because it is a great publication in its own right and its free.

1) What are your thoughts on the first game?
I thought the coaching staff and players did great in the first game. They performed better than most people expected, considering it was the programs first game. While about half of the team are still walk-ons, they had the benefit of practicing in the spring with the coaches and working out with the strength and conditioning coach. The first recruiting class seems to be pretty spot on in terms of what the coaching staff was looking for and the transfers they brought in gave them experience and maturity at key positions.

As for the game, they excuted their gameplan very well. They planned to run the ball more in the first game in order to take the pressure off of freshman quarterback Myles Gibbon which worked. There were a few times when Gibbon looked a bit nervous and it showed. But that is to be expected when he goes from Canadian football with a small number of spectators to over 26,000 for the Jags first game. Overall he played very well.

The offensive and defensive lines were outstanding considering they were outsized by Hargrave. Dunn and Higgenbotham are key for the Jags at linebacker with their experience and ability. However, the secondary seemed to be a bit shakey at times particularly in the second half. It will be interesting to see how they improve over the course of the season.

2) What do you see in the future for USA football?
The future of South Alabama football is a bright one. We are in a hotbed of talent here in Mobile. If you look at the quality of players that have come out of here in the last several years you can see what kind of advantage South Alabama has in the recruiting game. Then throw in the first class facilities they have on campus for the team and that just helps both preparing for games and recruiting players.

The measuring stick has been set pretty high by South Florida over the last several years since they started their program. Could South Alabama match or beat those levels? I don’t know. But I think Coach Jones has put together a great staff in a great area and their potential is through the roof.

3) How do you think USA football will affect the city of Mobile?
South Alabama football will be a huge plus for the city of Mobile. They already have Navy, Mississippi State and North Carolina State all scheduled to play at least one game in Mobile (with Navy coming here twice). MSU and NC State both have fans that will travel pretty well and will spend money whenever they travel to see their team play.

But beyond how well fans travel and how much they spend, its going to positively impact Mobile. People will look at Mobile in a different way. I think it will much easier to convince people and companies to invest in the area because they (the people of Mobile) can support a Division-I football team as well as the many other things we already do here on the gulf coast. One indication of that is while tailgating at the first game, I talked to a woman with two children who came all the way over to Mobile from Pensacola to “support their team.” This was for a team who had yet to play a single game. How exciting is that?

Thanks Johnny Davis and the Lagniappe for contacting us and mentioning our site in your article.

Defending The Triple Option

September 15, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · 5 Comments 

A very crude diagram of the triple option. It gives the quarterback three options: hand off to the fullback, pitch to the tailback or keep it himself to run.

The Jags will start preparing this week for their game against Army Prep on September 26. Army Prep, like Army, runs the triple option offense. In both teams first game of the season, Army gave Ohio State a handful before the Buckeyes sealed the win when an Army two-point conversion attempt to tie the game was intercepted and returned for two points for the Buckeyes, for the final score 31-27.

The triple option is a very tough offense to prepare for and defend from a mental standpoint. Blitzing and stunting can easily be punished by an observant and well run offense by taking advantage of personnel being out of position. Its pretty easy to rack up yardage on the ground playing sound triple option football.

The best philosophy, which is really what any defense wants to do against any offense, is to limit production on first down and to try to keep the offense in third-and-long situations. Basically against the triple option, keep things vanilla and play assignment-sound football.

One popular way to defend the triple option is by modifying the base 3-4 defense into a 5-3 type defense using the 5 technique for the defensive tackles and the 0 technique for the nose guard. The 5 technique aligns the defensive tackle at the outside eye of the offensive tackle, keying first the tight end then the offensive tackle. Typically this technique has four duties or uses: 1) keep the offensive tackles off of the linebackers, 2) the defensive tackle cannot be blocked singularly by the offensive tackle, 3) to check for the trap, and 4) rush the pass. The 0 technique has the nose guard line up directly in front of the center and he will read and react to both of the offensive guards and the center.

In this scheme, the five defensive linemen line up against the five offensive linemen with their assignment being to tackle the fullback in the dive play and to keep the offensive linemen from getting to the linebackers. The two linebackers line up about five yards off the line with their outside leg splitting the crotch of the 5 technique linemen, basically lining up half a body to the inside. This way they can play the B-Gap and the fullback on the dive play or they can scrape and play the quarterback on the pitch. The outside linebackers, if a tight end is present, will use a heads-up technique on the tight end, which will allow them to play the quarterback or the pitch.

That only accounts for seven of the eight players in the box. The biggest adjustment is moving the strong safety into the box seven yards behind the nose guard. This allows him to scrape inside out on most plays. His deeper alignment allows him to move without running into the linebackers. His job to pursue from the dive play to the quarterback rolling out to the pitch.

Obviously, this puts a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks who will be in man-to-man coverage most of the time. They will normally line up about seven yards off the line and either straight on with the receiver or one to two yards inside so they can use the sidelines as an extra defender. The free safety plays the deep middle with his job to get depth and play the ball on the pass or give run support once the ball has passed the line of scrimmage.

Obviously, with the free safety playing deep middle with eight in the box, the seven yard cushion by the corners is to protect from a receiver engaging the corner and getting the inside position for a quick pass with a long run for a big gain or touchdown.

I do not know if this is what the South Alabama defense will employ for this game. It will be interesting to see what Coach Jones and Coach Clark put together to defend Army Prep’s triple option.

Here are some videos demonstrating the triple option in use.

Nebraska running the triple option in the 1995 Orange Bowl. Quarterback keeps the ball.

Florida running the triple option with Tebow pitching to Harvin.

Highlight video of Navy running the option.

Reflecting Back On Saturday’s Game

September 9, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 

The Jaguars were undersized in comparison to Hargrave Academy, but matched up well and won the game. – Photo by Doug Roberts.

Saturday’s game is just now sinking in for many people in the Mobile area. Unfortunately several people had the impression that the Jaguars would be pushovers in their first season and would be lucky to win any. Or at least that is the impression that many of the uninformed masses gave.

But now that the Jags have won their first game against a team with such talent as Hargrave Academy, more people are getting excited about Jaguar football, which is great for the program and for Mobile area sports. This is exactly what the school needed, to energize the fan base in Mobile that is historically known to be a bit lethargic.

As for the game itself, the game plan worked pretty well. Coach Jones and Coach Gregory used the running game to play some smash mouth football. This took alot of pressure off of freshman quarterback Myles Gibbon. However it was still obvious at times that he was nervous on several pass attempts, but still played very well.

The defense was very good in the first half at shutting down the Tiger offense. In their seven possessions in the first half, the defense forced two interceptions, a fumble and four punts. The second half was a little different, they gave up two touchdowns in Hargrave’s first two drives but forced an interception and turnover on downs to end the game and preserve the victory.

Another thing that was quite obvious was the staff’s lack of confidence in their kicker. Instead of attempting a long field goal, they decided to go for it on fourth down which ended up turning the ball over on downs. Then again with time running down in the first half and already leading 13-0, the coaching staff could have attempted a field goal to extend their lead to 16-0 but instead they let Nick Owen run the offense and eventually turn the ball over on downs when time expired.

Probably the most biggest game changer was penalty yards, USA was only flagged four times for 30 yards while Hargrave racked up 15 penalties for a whopping 135 yards.

The Jags are going to build on their success in this game. With a game under Gibbon’s belt and with the offensive line passing the test, they can start to expand the playbook some to include more passing during game situations. On defense, they just need to continue what they have been doing already. The defensive line and linebackers did a great job. The secondary looked good at times but they still need some work.

Special teams will get more work in the next two weeks. They gave up more return yards than Coach Jones wanted to see. Plus the kickers need to work on field goals, particularly mentioned was longer field goals of around 38-42 yards.

With the next game scheduled for September 26th, this gives Coach Jones and his staff more time to work the second and third stringers before Army Prep. Which is a luxury most teams do not have, but with so many young players this will help develop depth.

Mike Herndon Commentary On USA Football Approach And Times

August 25, 2009 · By · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 

On August 12, the Mobile Press-Register writer Mike Herndon wrote a commentary article titled “South Alabama football has right approach, questionable times.” He talks about the widespread thought that Mobile is not really a great sports town, but is a good sports-event town.

In the article he points to minor-league franchises that have come and gone in Mobile. Then points out how the Senior Bowl and the GMAC Bowl have both thrive as one-game commitments each year and that USA is building up its seven game home series as events in their own right.

South Alabama has several special promotions for the games such as Parents Day on September 26 against Army Prep, Military day on October 10 against Georgia Military and the first homecoming day on November 7 against Milford Academy. Even the first football scrimmage was billed as an event for Family Fun Day.

At the time of the writing of the article, more than 6,000 season tickets had been sold and the usagameday.com website showed less than 20,000 tickets were available for the September 5th season opener against Hargrave Military Academy. A look today shows that 18,743 tickets are still available for the game.

Travis Toth, USA’s associate athletic director for marketing and promotions, said that he feels pretty good that they will fill the 40,000 seat Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the opener. But he is not going all out and saying that all seven games are going to sell out as well. “We’re not naive. We know we’ve got our hands full with that second game, third game and afterward to maintain that momentum. We’d be comfortable with 20,000 to 25,000 from there on out.”

He then talks about how that is similar to how UAB has been faring, averaging about 19,062 fans per game last year. UAB has a big struggle against the draw for the University of Alabama as well and Auburn, which will also be problem for South Alabama as well. However, I would point out that UAB has never really fully committed itself to football. It is somewhat known for its basketball program, which isn’t garnering the attention it did a few years ago either.

Birmingham and Legion Field was huge once as being the home for most of Alabama’s big football games as well as the annual Iron Bowl contest. But Birmingham became a place that you don’t really want to go to anymore. The politics there has been sketchy for years and Legion Field’s maintenance was sorely lacking. In recent years the upper decks were condemned and had to be removed, making it a shadow of its former self.

Coach Jones makes no bones about it. Alabama and Auburn have established themselves as the top two teams in the state. They can get the players they want because of the names and exposure. The other battle could be game schedules. The Jags kickoff at 4pm on September 5th with Auburn kicking off at 6pm against Louisiana Tech and Alabama takes on Virginia Tech in Atlanta at 7pm.

USA could have set a bad precident by scheduling around those two games, but they didn’t. With national broadcasts of SEC games, kickoff times change every week and moving times around could confuse some people or become something expected every week for the Jaguars. The only thing USA really scheduled around was giving fans plenty of tailgating time and avoidance of morning youth sports.

Herndon was correct that playing chicken with SEC games is something they can’t really win. USA could have scheduled the game earlier to avoid overlap with the Tide or Tigers, but realistically, should they? At some point you have to stand up and ‘be your own man.’ Its easy to record or tivo an Alabama or Auburn game these days. But when you have college football in your back yard how can you not justify going?

Mobile’s so called ‘fickle sports market’ isn’t really as fickle as one might think. I think they are looking for something they can really get behind. When the Jaguar basketball team was having a stellar season in 2007-08, the Mitchell Center was packed. But during the 2008-09 season attendance dropped off when the Jags could not produce the same results as the season before.

But basketball, and baseball for that fact, is not what Mobile is itching for. We southerners really like our football. If you haven’t been out to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in previous seasons or UMS-Wright or McGill-Toolen for high school football games, you have missed rather large crowds out there watching them play. I think the product that South Alabama and Coach Jones will put on the field this fall and in the coming years will definitely draw the ‘fickle sports fans’ out of Mobile and into the stadium. But its a step-by-step process and Mr. Herndon and I agree that USA is starting on out on the right foot.

You can read Mike Herndon’s article in its entirety on al.com here.