Coach Matthews Speaks About Offense

August 10, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Offensive lineman running position drills in preseason camp.

One of South Alabama’s most daunting tasks this preseason is to solidify the offensive line. Three starters have graduated from last year’s squad. Gone are veterans Chris Brunson, Jon Griffin and Brian Krauskopf.

So far this preseason, offensive line coach and Offensive coordinator Robert Matthews, is currently rotating 13 different players on the offensive line. Trey Clark at center is the anchor to the line as he has started all 27 games in South Alabama’s history. Tremain Smith has earned playing time as a reserve in the previous two seasons.

“We do have some young guys, a lot who are getting reps, including some who have been here but have not been starters,” Coach Matthews said. “We have been rotating 13 different guys on the line right now, They have been changing positions because we are trying to find the best five. For the first week-and-a-half of practice there have been a lot of good things, and there have been some things we need to clean up. I think we are headed in the right direction.”

“Tremain and Trey have been tremendous leaders, they are vocal leaders and they lead by example, and a huge help to us,” Matthews continued. “They have been real good telling the young guys that it is going to be OK. It’s a big transition coming from high school, but our young guys have done a good job getting through that.”

On the right side of the line, Melvin Meggs is expected to continue solidify that side of the line. Meggs has started 19 games through two seasons. But coach Matthews doesn’t want Meggs to only settle for playing time, he wants him to keep getting better.

“Melvin’s biggest challenge is being the best Melvin he can be,” Matthews explained. “Everyone knows he is a good football player, he’s been a starter on the line. Any time you are that guy on a team, you have to push yourself to be better than just that. He’s been working hard on that. Melvin knows he is going to play, let’s be honest, everyone knows that. But he needs to play at a level he is capable of being at. Our challenge, and his challenge, is to continue to push himself to where he can be more than just a player. We want Melvin to be a great player.”

Drew Dearman and Shaun Artz entered camp with a golden opportunity to earn the starting left guard and right tackle positions respectively. Shane Doty and Ucambre Williams both could provide help as well. Chris May, who was redshirted last season, should be another contributor this season. Coach Matthews likes his footwork and also says that he has worked hard to study how the offense works and to discipline himself within the system. “He is very athletic, he was a state championship wrestler coming out of high school,” Matthews said. “I’ve been extremely happy with the progress of Chris, he is only a redshirt freshman so he has four years left to play. Certainly we want him to be game-ready in a couple of weeks, but his long-term future is really good.”

Four incoming freshman from the 2012 class have also been receiving reps on the line. Daniel Aust and Clay Machen have been working at outside positions on the line while Steven Foster and Joseph Scelfo have been working at interior positions on the line.

This is a fresh start for the offensive line. With no seniors and only two juniors, the line is stocked with young talent. With eight players weighing in at 300-pound or more, they also have size. What they lack is experience in the new system. In the spring, the Jags began the transition to a spread offense, while the players that were already in the program were accustomed to the pro-style offense that the team used in it’s first three seasons.

The fundamentals are the same, but the semantics and certain aspects of the position is different.  “We play a lot faster than they used to play, but some of the schemes are very similar. Football is football, pass protection is pass protection and run blocking is run blocking,” Matthews said. “Our terminology is a little different, but I would say there is about a 50-percent carryover from a skill set and things of that nature. We’ll see how it goes. I think they are headed in the right direction, but we have a way to go before we are any good. This is coaching cliché, but we have to come out to work every day. It’s the truth. We’re not great, but we’re not bad and we have to get better.”

As they head into the first scrimmage of the preseason, the offensive line get the most attention. “We’re going to find our best five,” Matthews said. “A guy that played guard today might be playing center tomorrow… We’ll start to narrow that down in the next week or so. … Saturday will be a big day for those guys to show what they’ve got and how they’ve progressed so far.”

Coach Matthews not only plays faster, but in practice he is constantly in motion and he keeps the players in almost constant motion. Like he is doing with the offensive line by rotating in lots of players and moving them around to see where they fit. He is doing that on a larger scale with the whole offense. “The thing I like is we’re moving a lot of guys around right now trying to see where everybody fits,” he said. “Nobody is backing away or turning away from that. Guys are learning two, sometimes three positions, and they are embracing it, so I really like the attitude of how they’re doing that. I think there’s no question we’re a lot better right now than we were in the spring. We’ll continue to be a work in progress and every day is important for us.”

Coach Matthews brings a thorough knowledge of the spread offense with him and a thick playbook to go along with it. Matthews came to South Alabama from Southern Miss through Oklahoma State. He is well steeped and is ready to unleash it’s potential at South Alabama. And the key is pace. Action needs to swift and constant and decisions need to be made quickly and correctly.

Matthews also spoke about other positions.

“People don’t realize how much you run in this offense as a wide receiver. They’re changing sides of the field, they’re running routes. We might throw a 6-yard route, but someone else may have had to run 30 yards to get that route open and he didn’t get the ball. He has to run back and get lined up. They have worked extremely hard and I’m proud of their progress.”

“It’s good to see Kendall (Houston) healthy again. We’ve been working about five [running] backs back there, and I think that’s good for competition.”

“We’ve been going two groups at once and we have five quarterbacks right now getting reps. Obviously, we’ve got to find out who our starter is, but even some of the younger guys on the roster, the reps they are getting right now are invaluable to them as they continue to learn the playbook.”

“I think they’re [tight ends] getting better every day, and we’ve got about two or three guys who hopefully will help us win on Saturdays.”

Trey Fetner returned to the field on Thursday after missing a day and a half with an illness. Senior linebacker Jake Johnson missed much of Thursday’s practice with a mild ankle injury but is expected to be ready for Saturday’s scrimmage. Tight end Wes Saxton missed part of yesterday’s morning scrimmage but should be ready for Saturday as well.

Saturday’s scrimmage is closed to public and the team will be off Sunday.

Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2011-08-23

August 24, 2011 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · 1 Comment 
Baker and Jones

Coach Jones looks on as Demetre Baker looks to the sideline before blocking for a field goal attempt.

The Joey Jones Radio Show started season three with host Lee Shirvanian and guest Joel Erdmann today.

They started the show off by talking about the depth chart now that they are finished with preseason camp and are into game prep mode. The first thing that Lee asked coach Jones about were there any surprises that emerged that he wasn’t thinking about. Coach Jones said that they don’t have many changes.

He mentioned on the offensive line that Levi Slaydon did not return so they had to fill that position. Jermaine Smith and Brian Krauskopf have stepped up and are neck-and-neck for that starting job. Other than that change, the offensive line is the same as last season. At tight end it is pretty much the same with Kevin Helms and Paul Bennett there. A little bit of a change will be the backfield with the addition of Georgia transfer Demetre Baker with Kendall Houston. He indicated that they would be co-starters in the backfield.

When coach Jones moved onto receivers, he mentioned that they have more names out there than they did last year. Last year Courtney Smith was the big name and the other receivers were ‘the others’.

Lee then started talking about the defense and mentioned that there were many familiar names on that side of the ball. He first mentioned Cori Barnett at the Sam position with Ken Barefield as his backup. Barefield played defensive back last season for the Jags.

When asked about how Cori emerged as being a starter, Coach Jones said that he had a great spring and awarded him with a scholarship for how well he did in the off-season. He mentioned that he is a bit undersized but still plays very well, he’s smart and knows all the answers to questions over on defense. Ken will still play alot.

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Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2010-10-19

October 20, 2010 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · Comment 

Coach Jones looks on from the sidelines as the Jaguars take on Lamar University.

Chris Brunson out for the year with a broken ankle. When asked, Coach Jones said that we are not deep at that position. Brian Krauskopf was used at center in practice, but he will probably move into Brunson’s spot. Brian is probably the most valuable player on the line because of his flexibility and ability to do whatever the team needs.

Kendall Houston rushed for more yards himself than Lamar’s entire team in the game. Mitch Rodrigue is the other coaching guest on the show.

Caller asked about the logistics of traveling to California. Coach Jones said that they are flying out of Mobile Airport at 9am on Friday and land in California around 12:40 pacific time. When they went to Lamar for the game, they carried everything they needed in trucks mostly.

Everything they needed for the game but not necessary for practice, stayed on the truck and went on to California. Shoulder pads and helmets obviously was needed for practice, so they came back with the team to Mobile. Jersey’s and such went out to California. The stuff they needed for practice they will carry with them on the flight in bags when they leave on Friday.

It’s a very tedious process and has to be well thought out. Even more so when you have to get on a plane. They even continued to have meetings on Tuesday to tie up loose ends.

Lee asked about how USA uses tight ends. Most teams use one tight end if they use one at all. Typical teams that run the spread offense don’t even use a tight end. Coach Rodrigue said he thought Tight End was one of the most important positions on the field. They can be utilized in so many ways and South Alabama uses them in all of them. As a receiver, as a blocker and in the back field as a full back.During the course of a game, coach Rodrigue estimated that they probably use four different tight ends.

Lee asked Coach Jones why they use the tight ends so much. Coach Jones said that they want to be different. Coach Jones went to the spread in the late 90’s when everyone was running the I formation. Now seemingly everyone has transitioned to the spread with four wide.

So when they began to form the program, he knew he wanted to be different. They knew they had Brandon so they had a big strong back for a good running game, which is one thing they wanted to do, run the football. Coach Jones believes that championships are won by running the football. You can run out of the shotgun, but when you use tight ends, you spread the defensive front out. With four wide-outs, that defensive front shrinks and makes it harder to run.

But with a tight end detached from the line, you have more running lanes and also more passing opportunities. With tight ends in the game they have to still be concerned about the run. You can’t block a tight end with a cornerback and you can’t cover a tight end with a linebacker.

Coach Rodrigue also chimed in by noting that defensive coaches want to know, first off, what personnel are in the game. When a defensive coach first hears that they have two tight ends in the game they immediately think that they will be attached to the line and think run. But the South Alabama offense, by utilizing tight ends the way they do, they can pretty much do anything they want. USA can line up with two tight ends but an empty backfield.

With such a good running game, the tight end can easily get open for a pass on a play action pass.

A person emailed a question about the last two games and the Jags being 1-for-20 on 3rd down conversions. Coach Jones didn’t know about the stat but did say that they got quite conservative in the red zone and need to try to do that better.

Coach Jones previews some information about UC-Davis. They are a really good, sound football team. They won their conference last year and picked to win it again this year. They beat Stanford a couple years ago. Defensively they play really hard. While they may not be as athletic as some of the teams that USA has played, he said that they played better as a team. Special teams are good and limit turnovers. They aren’t going to make mistakes and give you the game. You have to go out there and beat them.

UC-Davis is really efficient throwing the ball, but they are trying to find a running game. Sometimes they run it well but it’s not consistent. When you are not balanced, teams try to exploit that and that’s what has happened to the Aggies.

Coach Rodrigue attributes their good practices and success in games to practicing early in the morning. He thinks they are wide eyed and haven’t gone through a day to have stuff lingering in their mind from a normal day of class and stuff. They are out there focused on football. Good practices leads to good games.

Someone asked how competitive the coaches think we would be against a Division I-A team. Obviously we have a ways to go to be competitive against the BCS schools but Coach Rodrigue thinks we could be competitive against some Division I teams, including being competitive in the Sun Belt. He thought our Achilles heel would be our lack of depth. Experience and depth would be negatives for our team.

Spring Scrimmage A Resounding Success For South Alabama

April 11, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

 

players, managers, trainers and staff have been involved. To come to a game like this, where I was expecting 1,500 people to be out there, to see 8,000 fans is a great testament to the city of Mobile and how they are going to support this program. I think that this town is ready for football, and they are excited about Sept. 5 coming soon.”

 

The first team offense dominated their second team opponents in the defense on Friday. Richard Ross and Matt Saucier both scored twice as the first team offense scored points on all five of its possessions. Similarly, the first team defense dominated its opponents in the second team offense by only allowing six total yards and no first downs.

The first team offense did not waste any time getting on the scoreboard. They drove 70 yards on four plays in 1:47 with Ross bouncing off two tackles to finish a 25 yard run for a touchdown. Turner sparked the possession with a 36 yard gain on a reverse to open the series.

With just over four minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Ross scored again on a one yard pludge into the endzone to cap off an eight play, 59 yard drive. On third down, Saucier found Lim Windham for a 14 yard strike to keep the series going. Later, Saucier set up the Ross score with a 12 yard scamper.

On the first units’ next drive Saucier accounted for most of the yards running the ball. He had a 14 yard run early in the series. Then one play after Saucier ran for 33 yards down the sideline, he hit Kevin Helms for an eight yard touchdown pass. The 2:13 drive spanned 60 yards on five plays.

The first team offense also put together a long drive that ended with a field goal. The drive lasted for more than eight minutes with Saucier keeping the drive alive with two big plays on third down. First was a scramble for a first down and the second was a key thrid down completion to Paul Bennett for another first down. Lawson McGlon capped off the drive with a 42 yard field goal.

Saucier would score the final points of the game with a one-yard quarterback sneak with 4:08 left in the ending quarter. In all on the final drive, Saucier ran four times. The drive covered 47 yards on eight plays including a 27 yard pass to Anthony Mostella.

The only first down the second team offense saw was on a pass interference call on its first play from scrimmage. Then two plays later they came the closest they would all game to gaining a first down when they faced a third-and-one at their own 44 yard line. Dunn hit Marquis Chapel and dropped him for a two yard loss forcing them to punt.

In total, USA gained 278 yards of offense on 43 plays with an average of 6.5 yards per snap. However, the first team offense accounted for 272 of those yards. Saucier was the leading rusher with 76 yards on 10 rushes including a touchdown. He was also 7-13 for 78 yards and a touchdown through the air.

Santuan McGee gained 41 yards on three attempts and Ross had 29 yards on three rushes while scoring twice. Ralph Turner gained 52 all-purpose yards, running for 35 and catching two passes for 17 yards. Turner was the only Jaguar player to have more than one reception.

Justin Dunn and Eric Dalgleish each had four stops, both accounted for two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, in leading the first team defense. With Dunn and Dalgleish leading them, the first team defense forced five three-and-outs with the last one seeing Richard Courtney score on a fumble return of 21 yards, which was forced by Dalgleish.

Following the scrimmage, Coach Jones announced the winners of the program’s first ever spring awards as voted on by the coaches. Trey Clark (offensive line), Andy Dalgleish (defensive line), Justin Dunn (linebacker), Tim Harvey (defensive backs), Kevin Helms (tight ends), Santuan McGee (running backs) and Courtney Smith (wide receiver) were presented with the Outstanding Performance Award at their position with Michel Chapuseaux, Eric Dangleish, Jordan Means, Anthony Mostella and Ralph Turner sharing the honor on special teams.

Paul Bennett (tight end), Josh Chestang (linebacker), Chris Cooke (linebacker), Lamontis Gardner (wide receiver), Anton Graphenreed (defensive back), Cory Pittman (offensive line), Richard Ross (running back), Matt Saucier (quarterback), Anthony Taylor (defensive line) and Lim Windham (wide receiver) were named the most improved players at their position.

The Jaguar Leadership Award was given to Bennett on offense and Harvey on defense. Dunn, Brian Krauskopf, Jerron Mitchell and Erling Riis earned the Jaguar Strength Award. Bennett and Clark were also given Outstanding Academic Awards.

The Jaguars Sign Another Offensive Lineman From JuCo

January 7, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Coach Jones announced that Jon Griffin, Offensive Lineman from Ventura Junior College from Ventura, California, has signed a National Letter-of-Intent. Griffin makes him the 10th Junior College player to commit to the USA Football Program.

As a freshman, Griffin and Ventura JuCo won the conference championship and claim the Southern California Bowl title. Last season they finished 5-5 overall going 5-3 in the Western State Conference. Their offense averaged 350 yard of total offense and just under 29 points per game. Griffin will join the other Junior College recruits, Heath Blount, Chris Brunson, Kevin Helms, Early James, Brian Krauskopf, Chris Payne, Steven Pease, Corey Pittman and Levi Slaydon as the first Junior College recruiting class for the USA Football program. All 10 players will begin class on Monday, January 12th and will participate in Spring practice scheduled to start in February.

Go Jags!