Coach Jones Very Pleased With Wednesday’s Practice

November 1, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Offensive lineman running position drills in preseason camp.

The South Alabama Jaguars hit the practice field again on Wednesday where they took part in position drills, offense versus defense drills along with work on special teams play. Head coach Joey Jones was quite happy with what he saw in practice.

“(This was) much better,” he said. “I thought we came to win today. Life’s about choices and they made a choice to come and have a good practice today. I think the second choice these young men have made is they are going to finish this season in a strong way, and we can control that. We can control what we do and that’s all we can do.”

“I thought that they came out and you see so much more leadership coming out right now,” Jones continued. “I thought offensively I was watching them and you see guys smiling and confident and believing in what they’re doing. You go to the defensive side of the field and you see the same thing. I’m watching a team grow and it was evident today.”

He even indicated that it may have been one of the teams best practices in recent weeks and that they made a big positive step forward. They will need that when Florida International comes to Mobile this weekend because their record is not indicative of how good they are. They may be 1-8 on the season, but they have a number of NFL prospects on their team.

Defensive end Pat Moore rejoined the team on Wednesday. Last week is mother passed away unexpectedly and her funeral was on Saturday, so he was not in Monroe with the team. He ranks second on the team with 4.5 sacks with 18 total tackles, eight of them being solo. Additionally he has 8.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup, two quarterback hurries and two blocked field goals.

During this weeks routine activities coach Jones talked about freshmen on the team and how only one true freshman has seen action for the Jags. Cameron Broadnax, a wide receiver, is the only true freshman who has seen playing time on the field, but the rest of the freshman class has seen action, just on the scout team.

Previously, freshmen who entered the program were immediately put on the depth chart. It was done as much for their talent level as it was the necessity to have them in the depth chart. But the key to building a program is allowing most of the incoming freshmen the ability to get acclimated, not only to the accelerated speed of the game, but also to college life in general. They need time to get used to the speed of life at University and to memorize the expanded playbook used in college football.

“Number one, it shows our program is finally growing a little bit to where we have older guys that have been fighting for positions and holding on to those positions,” Jones said. “In years past, we’ve had freshmen come in and play automatically. Pretty much all of them. But now a guy has to earn his way.”

“Now, if a freshman comes in here and earns his way on the field he’s going to play,” Jones continued. “We’re going to play the best players, there’s no doubt about that and we always will. But it’s good that we’ve finally got some depth on the team and we can allow guys to mature and grow and get over there on the scout team where the get a ton of reps. It’s amazing how much growth they have through that year. I think all the guys who have gone through it realize how good that year is for them.”

The most noticeable area for this is the offensive line. They are such a key piece every season, which is modified when you are a young program like South Alabama is. But they have been able to avoid using their freshmen offensive linemen in order to develop depth at those positions.

Daniel Aust, Joseph Scelfo, Clay Machen and Steven Foster have been able to take advantage of their redshirt year to lots of reps with the scout team. They will in essence have a years worth of study time in the offense and studying defenses before they ever hit the field on gameday for the first time.

“The bottom line is you’re going against the best. If you’re an offensive player you’re going against the best defensive players and if you’re a defensive player you’re going against the best offensive players every day,” Jones said. “You line up against a starter on a Division I football team every day and that makes you better just going up against good competition. Secondly, you get a ton of reps. As a scout team player you’re in there every play. We’re really not rotating many guys, so you get a lot of time on the field. You get better simply by reps.”

“It’s fun to talk to the coaches on each side of the ball about the guys on the scout teams that are getting better,” Jones continued. “Brandon Bridge is one of them. He’s really improved at quarterback. We’ve had guys on the offensive line who are learning a lot and who are playing good and the coaches have said they are really going to help us next year. The same thing on defense. There are some defensive guys who have really made a lot of progress.”

Brandon Bridge, a transfer from Alcorn State, isn’t a freshman, but is using the year to learn the system since he is required to sit out as a transfer student. He and Grant Powell both get to use their redshirt seasons to study and learn.

They are learning the process of the system. While it may be difficult to work every day without seeing the playing field on gameday, but it is best for them in the future.

“I know they don’t realize it right now,” Jones said. “It’s probably the worst time in their life, at least to them, but they’re really getting better. If they can be mature enough and really understand that, that this is a great opportunity for them to get better and to use it as a tool for that, yes, this is a big help. I’m not saying 100 percent of them are using it that way, but the guys that do take advantage of that will get better.”

“If you look at next year, I would think there will be about eight to 10 guys (who are being redshirted) who are going to be real contributors and are going to make our team better. So when you start stock-piling them like that, and this is the first year we’ve been able to do it, it will start showing up in years two, three and four.”

The future is bright for this program.

Jags Ready To Embark On Toughest Season Yet

August 31, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

On the eve of South Alabama’s season opener against Texas-San Antonio it’s a good time to look at what this season means to the program. After three seasons, the first two undefeated, and a 23-4 record the Jaguars are about to embark on their most challenging quest yet.

Last season they stepped up and faced two FBS teams, the first in the programs history. This season, they will face their first full Division I schedule. The only non FBS school on the schedule is FCS Nicholls State. Additionally, with the Hawaii rule, the Jags will play 13 games in 14 weeks this season including a full eight game Sun Belt schedule.

This is what the Jaguars have been working towards for the last several years. When they take the field, they will be a transitional FBS member.

Coach Jones can finally guage where his team stands in the FBS pecking order. “I think the biggest challenge for us, especially early, will be the depth on our team,” he Jones. “We’ve been recruiting to Division I really just this year. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t have any Division I football players, we do. But do we have the depth that everybody else has because they’ve been recruiting for a while and have 85 scholarships and D-1 players? I would think that will probably be the biggest issue, depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.”

What about this season’s schedule? “The most difficult thing is playing 13 games in 14 weeks for us and playing pretty much all Division I opponents,” Jones said. “Whereas in past years we’ve played seven, 10 and 10 (games per season), we had some off weeks and some time to get ready for games. You’re going to get your three or four days of practice and that’s going to be it, then you’re going to have to move on to your next game.”

Gone is offensive coordinator Greg Gregory and in is Robert Matthews brining the spread to South Alabama. Matthews, who learned the spread at Oklahoma State and Southern Miss, will bring a completely different attitude to the offensive side of the ball. The offense will run as quickly as possible with a no-huddle tempo that is designed to keep the defense off guard and guessing what is coming next. Plus it is designed to take advantage of the depth South Alabama has at the skill positions.

The offensive line is where the biggest unknown is located coming into this season. Gone are three starters from the previous two seasons. However back is senior Trey Clark and sophomore Melvin Meggs. In steps Drew Dearman, Chris May and Shaun Artz. Also a second string, Ucambre Williams and possibly Kentucky transfer James Elliott if he receives a hardship waiver from the NCAA. But this is the biggest offensive line the Jaguars have had in it’s short history.

Behind the line, there is plenty of talent on the roster. C.J. Bennett returns as the starter with Virginia transfer Ross Metheny as his backup and redshirt freshman Trey Fetner as the third quarterback. The South Alabama backfield is also stocked with talent. Back are Demetre Baker, Kendall Houston and Ellis Hill from last season along with Brandon Ross returning from a knee injury and redshirt freshman Terrance Timmons among others ready to contribute. At wide receiver back are Jereme Jones, Bryant Lavender, T.J. Glover, Corey Besteda and Tyrome Bivins with true freshman Cameron Broadnax who showed plenty of skill in preseason camp. With two tight ends graduating, Greg Hollinger moved over from wide receiver joining JuCo transfer Wes Saxton to fill their positions.

The defense is arguably the strength of the team. Led by Jake Johnson, the linebackers are the heart of the defense, with Clifton Crews, Enrique Williams, Maleki Harris, Bryson James, Ben Giles and Cordivido Grice to help him out.

The defensive front will need to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than in past seasons. Returning ends Anthony Taylor, Romelle Jones, Alex Page and Will Thompson will be joined by JuCo transfer Pat Moore to help towards that goal. At nose and tackle positions they return Randon Carnathan and Andy Dalgleish, who lead the group last season, with help from Montavious Williams, Rodney Thomas and Shane Doty (who moved from offensive line).

In the secondary, Alabama transfer B.J. Scott has stepped up as a leader. The staff focused their recruiting efforts to find more help there too. Darrius Morrow and Tyrell Pearson both come in and are expected to start. Alonzo Long will suit up next to Scott at free safety. Gabe Loper should get playing time as he is the returning secondary player with the most interceptions last season.

Michel Chapuseaux takes over the placekicking duties with Scott Garber also returning to handle punts.

“We want to be competitive. We want to win every game that we play,” head coach Joey Jones said. “That’s our goal. Now, is that going to be tough to do? Sure. I understand that it will be. The bottom line is I don’t want to cut our kids short in what we’re doing. We’re going to prepare and we’re going to go out there and prepare to win. But we also know there’s a difficult schedule ahead of us and we’ve got to step up each week. I think that our kids probably will play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder this year. Bottom line, every week that we play we’ve got to prove something. Anybody that we beat will be a big deal. We’re representing a lot of people, not just our football program but the university.”

The schedule will be tough. After UTSA and Nicholls State, the Jags travel to N.C. State again and Mississippi State before returning home for their first-ever Sun Belt Conference game against Troy. Troy, whom most expect will quickly develop into one of the leagues best rivalries, will mark the first part of the season. After their one and only off week, the Jags then visit the SBC defending champion Arkansas State. Then the downhill stretch of FAU (home), ULM (away), FIU (home), North Texas (away), MTSU (home), ULL (away) and their “bowl game” of the season at Hawaii.

If you only count wins and losses as the measuring stick for a season, it could be a difficult season. But if you expand your criteria for this team that will be completing it’s two year FBS transition at the conclusion of this season, you may be surprised.

Jags Work In Shells Preparing For Saturday Scrimmage

August 17, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

The Offensive line gets set while Coach Clark directs the defense during a practice early preseason camp.

The Jags hit the practice field on Thursday which marks exactly two weeks to the day that the South Alabama will open their season against Texas-San Antonio at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The two-hour practice was in shells.

Thursday’s practice had sessions where the offense worked on inside running plays, team blitz and blitz pick-up and some two-minute drills to close out the practice.

During the blitz session, C.J. Bennett completed passes to Kendall Houston, Corey Besteda and Terrance Timmons. Also Ross Metheny completed passes to Besteda, Cameron Broadnax and Houston. Drew Dearman was very impressive in pass protection.

During another 11-on-11 session, Bennett and Metheny both had big passes. Bennett found T.J. Glover for a touchdown while Metheny hit Bryant Lavender for a big gain. Also the defense made several interceptions; Charles Watson, B.J. Scott, E.J. May and Ben Giles all picked off passes.

During the two-minute drill, Demetre Baker broke a big run and Bennett hit on two big passes with Lavender. However the first team offense stalled and settled for a 50-yard field goal attempt. The kick missed it’s target though. The defense ended the drill with back-to-back interceptions by May and Terrell Brigham.

“It was a good day. We tried to back off a little bit and practice at about 90 percent where we’re getting to the football, and I thought we did that,” head coach Joey Jones said. “They’re starting to get a little tired, so we have to be smart about what we’re doing. We have a great special teams period lined up for tomorrow, and then we’ll bring them back Saturday for the scrimmage. I’m really looking forward to see how well we do when we start putting it all together and look at how everyone concentrates during a game-type situation.”

A highlight of the day for the defense was when Tyrell Pearson manhandled Rush Hendricks on his way for a tackle.

The Jags scrimmage on Saturday will be held at 8am at Ladd-Peebles Stadium but will be closed to the public. The Jags will not have practice on Friday.

Jags Return To Field After Scrimmage

August 14, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 
CJ Bennett in the rain

Quarterback CJ Bennett prepares to take a snap in the light rain at the Jaguar Practice Facility.

The Jaguars returned to the practice field on Monday to begin their second full week of practice as they are only 16 days away from their 2012 season opening game against Texas-San Antonio. After their day off on Sunday, Coach Jones thought they opened the second week with another strong effort after a rest day.

The practice on Monday spanned about two hours in full pads. Most of the first hour focused on individual skills drills before progressing to skeleton passing drills then full 11-on-11 team drills in the second half of practice.

The skeleton drills focused on open field and red zone plays while the 11-on-11 drills focused on the base playset. In the first four plays of team drills sophomore C.J. Bennett completed passes to four different Jaguar receivers.

Bennett and Metheny both found open receivers and enjoyed good protection as the offensive line only allowed two sacks during team drills. Jereme Jones hauled in an impressive one-handed touchdown pass. Wide receivers Cameron Broadnax and T.J. Glover both added some very nice catches as well. Kendall Houston and Senior Brandon Ross stood out amongst the running backs in individual drills.

Defensively the secondary allowed some receivers to get open during the skeleton drills. Safety Charles Harris broke up two passes while his counterpart B.J. Scott continues to be a vocal leader on the field. During individual drills Montavious Williams and Lucas Melo almost flipped a sled.

Also, the Jags got a visit from former Jaguar receiver Courtney Smith during practice.

“I thought it was great, it was one of our better practices,” Jones said after practice. “The kids came out ready to go and were mentally sharp.  I told them that if we can practice like this, we’re going to be a pretty good football team. But we have to continue to do that. They can’t worry about what happened in the scrimmage, on the last play or last week, all they can do something about is what is ahead of them. The kids understand that, and if they take each day and get better we will have a shot.”

“This week is a tough week, the second week of camp. There is no school and no game coming up this weekend, so we have to make sure it is a good work week,” Jones explained. “We’re going to finish this week getting a ton of reps, next week we will start backing off and focusing on quality reps. We just need to throw a lot at them and see what they can do.”

After Saturday’s scrimmage the coaching staff reviewed the scrimmage video and Coach Jones said he was pleased with what he saw. “I was real pleased, I thought there were some good things offensively. We executed much better, the offensive line is really starting to come along and the quarterbacks understand the offense,” he said. “Defensively we are real banged up right now, a bunch of starters are out but will be back by the middle of the week. Once we get all those guys out there I feel really good about what we are doing defensively.”

The players and coaches will return to the practice field on Tuesday morning at 7:40am and will keep that schedule all this week leading up to an 8am scrimmage on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

South Alabama’s Scrimmage Goes Well

August 13, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Wide Receiver Bryant Lavender waits on the ball during Jaguars preseason camp.

South Alabama’s first scrimmage of the season saw the ball flying through the air early and often on Saturday. Four quarterbacks combined to go 27-of-39 for 280 yards. The offense scored four touchdowns and a field goal during the hour-and-a-half scrimmage at the Jaguar Practice Facility.

Seventeen different Jaguars notched at least one pass reception during the scrimmage. Freshman Cameron Broadnax caught three for 35 yards and Greg Hollinger had a scrimmage-high 43 yards on two receptions. Jereme Jones, Bryant Lavender and Wes Saxton all hauled in multiple pass receptions as well.

Defensively, Ben Giles and Bryson James lead the first-team with six tackles each. Anthony Taylor added four more himself with 1.5 of them being tackles-for-loss. Terrell Brigham and Phillip Press both added five tackles with Jesse Kelley leading all players with eight total tackles in the scrimmage.

C.J. Bennett lead the retooled offense on an 11 play, 65 yard drive to open the scrimmage. Facing third-and-two, Bennett found Lavender for an 18-yard completion to cross midfield and to keep the drive alive. That gain was followed up with a 12-yard gain by freshman Terrance Timmons. After Bennett threw his only incompletion on the opening drive, he found T.J. GLover for 24-yards to set up Demetre Baker’s one yard touchdown run. Bennett went 4-of-5 on that opening drive and would end the scrimmage with 90 yards passing.

Both Baker and Timmons would finish the scrimmage with 26 yards rushing with the entire backfield totalling 124 yards on the day.

Transfer quarterback Ross Metheny lead the offense down the field on his drive to get into field goal range. He had completions to Saxton for 13 yards and Broadnax for 15 yards. However the drive would stall at the 32 yard line. Metheny would throw for 106 yards total in the scrimmage.

After Metheny’s drive, the Jaguar defense would tighten up and in the next four drives the offense would not allow the offense to get past the defense’s 45 yard line. Before the mid-scrimmage break, Julien Valentin would cap off a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run.

After the break, Metheny would lead the offense’s next possession. he would use three consecutive completions to drive inside the defense’s 10 yard line. He would then find Hollinger in the end zone for an eight yard touchdown.

Hollinger would also set up the final touchdown of the scrimmage. He would haul in a 35-yard pass from Bennett to set up Kendall Houston for a five-yard touchdown reception.

Aleem Sunanon added a 43 yard field goal to round out the scoring in the first scrimmage of the preseason.

“Overall it was good,” said head coach Joey Jones after the scrimmage. “The offense came out and made some plays today when they had to. Right now we’re beat up on defense, we held out three starters inside and some other guys are banged up, but I know that we are going to be really, really good. We have some great athletes over there, and once we get those guys back we’re going to be in great shape.”

“It’s tough to know exactly how each individual did,” Coach Jones continued. “What we are looking to do is find our depth chart, the guys who we are really going to give reps to. We’ll know more after watching film. It was a good day overall, but I was a little disappointed in special teams. We have to practice better there. It’s almost like we came out here for an offensive and defensive scrimmage and we weren’t ready for special teams. We’ve got to change that, and that starts with me.”

Coach Jones responded to a question posed asking if the break on Sunday will help to rest and rejuvenate the players. “There’s no doubt about it,” he responded. “We’re nine days into camp, the guys are pretty beat up right now. They need a day off, which will be good. We’ve got to be smart about what we do. We’ve had a good physical week, they need some time off.”

The players had Sunday off before returning to the field on Monday morning to continue preparation for the 2012 football season.

Jags Make Impression After Off Day

August 6, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Defensive coordinator Bill Clark working with Jake Johnson and the linebackers during individual drills on Saturday morning.

After the first three practices, although the Friday practice was shortened to about an hour by incliment weather, the Jags got a well deserved day off on Sunday. When the team returned to the practice field Monday morning, the Jags put on an impressive showing.

The players were in shells for the second straight practice which spanned nearly three hours at the Jaguar Practice Facility on the campus of the University of South Alabama. It began with almost 45 minutes of individual skill work by both the offense and defense. Then inside drills began with receivers and defensive backs going one-on-one.

Nearing half-way, the team took a five minute break from the increasing heat of the morning to cool off in the shade provided by an open sided building with cooling fans and gatorade. Before returning to the fields, the Jags had a quick warmup stretch and workout.

When they returned to the field, the offense ran about 16 plays against the defense in the first of two team periods during this practice. They also had a pair of skeleton passing drills which spanned about 10-minutes each. The first was in the open field and the second was near the end zone.

The final of the two team periods was over 20 plays in duration near midfield. C.J. Bennett completed passes to five different Jaguars during the period. Jake Howton caught passes from Bennett and Trey Fetner. But the highlight of the session was a great throw and catch from Bennett to Greg Hollinger down the left sideline. Hollinger made the move from wide receiver to tight end in the spring.

Jaguar head coach Joey Jones commented after practice about the improvements made after the day off. “I thought it was a very good day, we definitely got better in practice today,” he said. “There were some mistakes, they always happen, but overall I thought we improved. The kids came to practice. It was almost a three-hour practice out here and they gave great effort. We had a little lull in the middle, but they fought through and got better at the end. We’re learning and fighting through, we didn’t have anyone cramping today, so it was much better.”

Coach Jones also commented how much the secondary has improved. “In the secondary, at the corner position, our coverage is much better,” he continued. “They are playing a lot of man-to-man and able to cover guys. They got beat a couple of times, but the coverage there is getting much better in the secondary.”

The Jags will take the field on Tuesday in full pads for the first time in preseason camp. “I’m anxious to see what will happen,” Coach Jones said about donning full pads for the first time. “It’s not going to change much, we’re not going to tackle a lot, it’s going to be similar to today. Inevitably, when you get the pads on it livens up a little bit, I think something triggers in their heads that they are supposed to go a little harder. We’re looking forward to it, the great thing about it is you can have the ones go against each other on the line of scrimmage, you can really get something done without worrying about anybody getting hurt.”

Other players of note: Cameron Broadnax, a true freshman wide receiver, has looked good through the first four days of practice. The Jags have a number of smaller receivers, Broadnax’s size will definitely help the Jags.