South Alabama opens their second week of spring practice Tuesday morning for their fourth practice session.
The staff continue to get as many players repetitions as time and circumstances allow them to do. They continue to add some new wrinkles to the offense and evaluate players as much as they can. With over 100 players taking part in spring practice, the focus continues to be on fundamentals and evaluation.
But the learning process continues. The new plays have been filmed and reviewed. The coaches have broken them down, players have reviewed them and mentally prepared for Tuesday’s workout.
Offensively, running back Jay Jones has garnered attention in the Jags first three practices. He has showcased his speed to get to the edge but also the ability to run off-tackle up the middle as well. That was something the Jags staff wanted to get when they recruited him.
He joins some experienced players in the backfield in Kendall Houston, Demetre Baker and Terrance Timmons among others. Cristobal Dinham and freshman Kaleb Blanchard will join them this fall.
Jay actually ran a similar offense in his first season at Northeast Mississippi Community College, which has helped him grasp it quicker than anticipated. While he still has a long way to go, he believes that coach Matthews’ scheme fits him well and factored into his decision to come to South Alabama.
Jay will definitely have the upper hand on the players who will join the team this summer. He will know more about the offensive playbook and will have plenty of time in the weight room and conditioning program ahead of the newcomers.
Coach Jones likes having competition at positions on the team. He believes the players work harder and allows the staff to get a good evaluation of the players from that competition. Plus it’s good to have more options and styles to choose from on game day. Competition will make the team better.
Injury wise, the Jags have had only one serious injury. Cornerback Eddy Cabrera will miss the rest of spring practice with a broken fibia. Cabrera’s had another players leg whipped into him, breaking the fibia in the process. He had surgery performed by Dr. Albert Pearsall, the team physician, and is expected to be ready by fall practice.
Two other players are recovering from concussions. Defensive back Charles Harris suffered his on Saturday while defensive end Ridge James suffered his on Sunday. Once they are cleared by the medical staff, they will return to the practice field for the Jags.
The players will hit the field looking to improve their execution in preparation for what coach Jones referred to as a “half-scrimmage” coming up on Thursday. The Thursday session will begin as a normal practice, but with the scrimmage at the end. It will also be the last practice session for over a week as the team will have spring break off before returning to the practice fields on Tuesday, March 19 at 6am once again.
Trey Clark has been one of the most consistent players for the South Alabama Jaguars football team over the program first four years of existence. He is the only individual in that time to start every game in the program’s existence. But he is also a consistent performer off the field and in the classroom.
For his accomplishments off the field, Clark was named to the second-team Capital One Academic All-America team by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
In order to qualify for the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team, Clark had to be selected first-team academic All-District, to be nominated for the organization’s academic honors, individuals must carry a minimum of a 3.30 cumulative GPA, have sophomore status both academically and athletically, and be a starter or important reserve.
Trey has been voted first-team academic All-District each of the last two years and was also selected to the FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Start Team in 2011. South Alabama’s district includes the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Clark is one of only two players to start every game on offense this season for the Jaguars. But he is the only Jaguar from the offensive team to be on the field for every one of the school’s 938 snaps in all 13 games this season. He earned a season-high 91% mark at 23rd ranked Mississippi State on September 22. He went on to finish the season with an 89% grade. He averaged more than six knockdown blocks per game as well.
Trey was the lone individual from the Sun Belt to be named to the 2012 Capital one Academic All-America team.
Trey is a native of Prattville, Alabama.
The University of South Alabama held their weekly press conference on Monday. As the Jags are very busy preparing for their trip to Hawaii, the offensive and defensive coordinators filled in for head coach Joey Jones. The coordinators were joined by quarterback Ross Metheny and defensive lineman Romelle Jones. Below are highlights from the press conference.
Defensive Coordinator Bill Clark began with an opening statement. “We’re going to lose a day in travel, so we have had to kind of tighten our belts coming straight off the last game and get the game plan in even earlier than we normally would. It’s a different feeling this week, you’re at the end of a long season; as a player, you just have to fight through that. From a preparation standpoint, it’s a time crunch trying to get ready, I think we have done a good job the last couple of days.”
Clark then spoke about going up against a program that is run by Norm Chow, a well known coach. “It’s like the trip, it’s a great experience. Of course, these are the things that keep coaches up at night, going against a guy who has been at Southern Cal and with the Titans. And that’s who they are; it’s a pro-style offense. That has been a point of interest for our players given his history and how well he has done as a coordinator.”
“They came into their own last week and scored a lot of points,” he continued. “They have played against a lot of great opponents their first year he has been running the program, so I hope they are not hitting their stride right now.”
Clark then spoke about what he has seen from his players the last few weeks. “The thing that we have talked about is fighting, and before last week I felt really good. You can sit here and talk about us being banged up, injuries and playing 13 games, but we can’t do that. I will promise you one thing, I know our guys are going to fight. We’re going over there to get a ‘W.’ We really want to see these guys finish strong, and finish on a good note for the seniors and next year’s team.”
“Our guys came out last night to practice just like it was week six or seven, and they did the same thing today. I think as a fan you have to like what you see on both sides of the ball and the kicking game, the effort that they have put in this year. Hopefully that can translate to a win.”
Finally Clark spoke about how important it is to finish the season strong in Hawaii. “We’re going to see their maturity level. Can you go do these things, have some down time and still be about your business? We have a lot of guys who have been through the wars, but they haven’t been through this though. It will be interesting to see how handle the long travel, the different time zone and one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
First year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews began with his opening statement before the press. “I think one of the things we have to make sure we are good at this week is monitoring the maturity level of the team with the travel, the long trip, the changing of the schedule and being in a place like Waikiki Beach. Certainly it’s a place where most of the guys on our team have not been before so they are going to see some sights and it will be a life-changing experience for them. While they are excited about being able to go and see a place like Hawai’i, they need to understand that we are going to play a football game. That’s our ultimate job, to go there, play the game and get a victory. Making sure our team is mature and that they handle it the right way, which I’m sure they will, is real important for us.”
Matthews then spoke about what Hawaii does defensively to create problems for opponents offenses. “They are a pressure defense, they try to create pressure situations on the quarterback and try to pressure your run game. It’s based out of a 3-5 [formation], and they are using multiple fronts and multiple coverages. They really just try to create confusion up front, give your quarterback different looks and wreck your run game with movement and blitzes.”
He then spoke about what he wants to see from the offense in the last game of the season. “I want them to finish strong. We have done some good things at times, and certainly there are things we would like to take back and work to correct. I want them to play with great energy, and I want them to enjoy playing the game of football. These guys don’t realize how lucky they are to be playing Division I football and to have the experiences they are having. I want them to embrace this opportunity, this is our final game of the 2012 season, and play with the passion that got them started in the game.”
“Obviously we want to execute, score points and move the football, but if they play with a high energy level and with that true passion that got them playing the game in the first place, then I think we will be successful.”
Quarterback Ross Metheny spoke about what he hopes to accomplish in the final game of the season for the Jags. “It’s a big trip, and we’re excited about it. We’re excited about playing a new opponent, but we have to keep in mind that it is a business trip and we are going there to win a football game and take care of business. We’re going to have fun with it, but again it is a business trip and we’re looking to play our best football.”
“It would be big for us to get a win going in to the offseason, just to have some momentum,” he continued. “The coaches and players always preach finishing strong, and I think a win at Hawaii would definitely be a good finish especially for our seniors who have put in so much hard work in building this program and getting this thing going. Finishing [the season] with a win would be great for them.”
Metheny then spoke about the importance of getting a win moving forward. “It just leaves a positive taste in your mouth going into all of the offseason work. This season has been up and down with a lot of close losses, and to be able to look back and say we finished strong with a win would be positive for our guys and a good motivator going forward.”
He also spoke about the Jaguars close losses this season. “Eventually, being so close isn’t enough. That’s kind of what has happened all season. We have been close in so many games, and haven’t been able to put a whole game together. Enough of that. We want to put one together, finish strong and take that into the offseason knowing that is what South Alabama football is going to be.”
Metheny then addressed where he thinks the program fits into the Sun Belt Conference. “If you look at the games we have played this year, we have been close in so many. It has kind of been a learning experience with everyone involved with this program. But one thing to take away from it is our competitiveness and our competitive spirit of this team and coaching staff. We have never quit in any game, and my hat’s off to my teammates and our coaching staff. You don’t want to take moral victories, but I think we have established ourselves and we can say that we can be competitive in this league especially going forward. There is a lot of respect for the teams in the Sun Belt, but we’re excited about the future going forward.”
Finally he spoke about going to Hawaii. “A lot of guys wouldn’t have this opportunity if they didn’t play Division-I football. It’s a neat experience. For me personally, I get to see my sister who lives out there. I’m excited about that. It’s going to be fun. It will be a new environment, but we will absorb it all then get down to business and go win a football game. We’re excited about it as a team. This is what Division-I football is – making big trips, travelling and going and playing football.”
Defensive lineman Romelle Jones began by talking about what he hopes to accomplish in the Jaguars final game of the 2012 season. “Our number-one goal is to definitely get a win. That is always the most important thing. It is a business trip. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A lot of guys probably would have never had this opportunity without being a part of this great thing we have going at South Alabama.”
He continued by talking about the importance of getting a win for the program moving forward. “College football is built on momentum, and that would be great momentum going into the offseason. It would give guys something to look forward to. To have a win to finish the season and leave us with a great taste in our mouths going into the offseason would be great.”
Jones also spoke about the Jaguars close losses this season. “It’s not enough coming close every game. I feel like we shouldn’t look back at the past as much, but just look forward and use it as a building block as something great that we can build on this offseason. We can definitely have something to look forward to and build off of.”
He then spoke about where he feels the South Alabama program fits in the Sun Belt conference. “This season was a great building block. It wasn’t a great season, but I know it was a confidence-builder for a lot of guys. That let us know that we can compete with guys on any level and can pretty much go toe-to-toe with anybody in the Sun Belt.”
Finally, Jones also spoke about going to Hawaii. “It’s something that growing up I never thought I would be able to experience at such a young age. It just really warms my heart. It’s a great thing, but at the end of the day we still have to focus and realize that it is a business trip and we need to take care of our business and finish this season off in the proper way.”
South Alabama and Hawaii will kickoff at 10pm Central time.
The Jags offense has been improving over the last few weeks. When offensive coordinator Robert Matthews evaluated where the South Alabama offense rated at the beginning of the season and how it rates now, he said they were getting better.
“I think we’re getting better,” Matthews said. “We’re certainly not where we want to be yet, but there’s been a lot of improvement. Really, we’re still learning. Every game you should get better. We’re in Season One of this offense and obviously the first four or five games we were rotating two quarterbacks and that was the plan we had. I think since we’ve had just one guy in there we’ve shown a lot more consistency. I think that we’ll continue to get better as the kids continue to work hard.”
The Jags began the season with a 1-4 record before they dumped the two-quarterback rotation. At the time they averaged 13.4 points per game and 300 yards of total offense per game. However since they chose a starting quarterback to play the entire game, the Jags are 1-2, is averaging 30 points per game and 364 yards of offense per game.
More consistency has been achieved from Ross Metheny working with the offense and getting a majority of the snaps in practice, rather than splitting the reps with the first team offense 50-50. This has helped bolster his confidence and the teams confidence around him.
“I think the guys need to know who the guy behind the center is,” Matthews said. “I think that’s important. And that’s not to say that playing two quarterbacks can’t work because a lot of teams do it and it is very effective. Look what Troy is doing with (Deon Anthony) and (starter Corey Robinson). It is a nice change of pace for them.”
“I think every team needs to find what their niche’ is,” Matthews continued. “For us and for this offense, one quarterback is the way we want to go with it. I think it helps the guys just from a practice reps standpoint. It’s hard to get two quarterbacks ready for everything. We still practice two quarterbacks for each game, but Ross gets the majority of the reps and the reps aren’t split as much and I think that helps his productivity too.”
But the changes to the offense has not been limited to choosing a starting quarterback. Defensive back Gabe Loper has made the move from defense to wide receiver in the last few games. That allowed T.J. Glover to move from receiver to running back to give the Jags backfield another speed option to get to the edge.
“That’s what our job as coaches is, trying to get the players in the best position as possible so they can make plays,” said Matthews. “I know that sounds really generic, but it’s true. We try to evaluate it every day. Certainly getting Gabe has helped us. It gives us another guy who can stretch the field. He has good height and great ball skills and that move has helped us. Its freed up some other guys to play some different positions which has been able to keep us more balanced.”
In the 10 teams that comprise the Sun Belt, we will compare the statistical rankings between South Alabama and FIU.
South Alabama ranks 9th in scoring offense with an average of 19.6 points per game through eight games while FIU ranks 7th with an average of 21 points per game through nine games.
The Jags rank 8th in the conference in scorind defense by giving up an average of 29.5 points per game through eight games. FIU ranks last in 10th place with an average of 34.8 points per game through nine games.
South Alabama ranks 10th in the conference in total offense with 324 yards per game average through eight games. FIU ranks 8th in the conference with an average of 386.4 yards per game through their nine games this season.
The Jags rank 3rd in the conference in total defense by allowing an average of 368.5 yards per game. FIU ranks 8th in the conference as they are allowing an average of 416.8 yards per game.
The Jags rushing offense has moved up to 9th in the conference with an average of 133 yards per game while FIU is just ahead of the Jags in 8th place with an average of 140 yards per game.
South Alabama’s rushing defense is ranked 3rd allowing 142.9 yards per game while FIU allows an average of 167.2 yards per game. The Jags pass defense is ranked 4th in the conference by allowing an average of 225.6 yards per game while FIU is ranked 7th while allowing an average of 249.6 yards per game.
The Jaguar pass offense is ranked 10th in the conference with an average of 191 yards per game while FIU is ranked 4th in the conference with an average of 246.4 yards per game.
In special teams stats the Jags rank 6th behind FIU’s 3rd place rank in kickoff returns. FIU averages 22.6 yards per return while the Jags average 20.5 yards per return. Again South Alabama ranks 5th place behind FIU’s 2nd place rank. FIU averages 8.1 yards per punt return while the Jags averaged 7.1 yards per return.
FIU is ranked 8th in 3rd down conversions while the Jags are ranked last in 10th place. The Jags average is 29.8 percent conversion average while FIU is converting 37.1 percent of their attempts.
South Alabama is tied for last place in the conference with Troy with penalty yards per game average. Both schools average 74 yards per game in penalty yards while FIU is one spot ahead of them in 8th with an average of 73.2 yards per game.
In time of possession stats the Jags rank 6th place with an average ToP of 29:28 per game while FIU is ranked in 5th place with an average ToP of 31:02 per game.
In the turnover margin stat, South Alabama ranks 9th in the conference with a -5 turnover margin which is one spot ahead of FIU who ranks 10th in the conference with a -6 turnover margin.
In red zone stats, the Jags rank 5th in red zone offense while FIU ranks 8th in the same stat. THe Jags are converting 81.2 percent of their trips to the red zone while FIU is converting 75.9 percent of their trips.
In red zone defense the Jags rank 1st in the conference by only allowing their opponents to score 73.7 percent of the time they get into the red zone. FIU ranks last in 10th place allowing opponents to score 88.6 percent of the time.
The debut of South Alabama’s new spread offense played well enough to win, however turnovers negated that win. It produced 31 points and 308 yards.
The first drive went exactly as offensive coordinator Robert Matthews expected. The offense moved the ball quickly, CJ Bennett released the ball quickly, the plays were signaled in smoothly and the players made plays. The drive went 75 yards in eight plays. It was like clockwork.
Unfortunately on the Jaguars second drive, an interception in the end zone ended the drive. It was actually a 14 point swing as UTSA drove 80 yards for a touchdown.
In all, the offense committed three turnovers. The interception in the end zone, a fumble on a mishandled snamp under center and another fumble when Bennett and running back Demetre Baker collided.
“We had a lot of positives,” said Matthews. “Obviously, there were a couple of plays we wish we had back. It’s like we told the guys after the game on Saturday; it was all about us and our mishaps, and if we just fix a couple of things, there’s a totally different outcome. And we’ll just leave it at that. Our No. 1 goal is ball security. It’s something we talk about every day and something we practice every day, and we had a couple of things that you could watch a football game 100 times and never see. But you saw it twice on Saturday. It is what it is. We’re going to come back this week and keep improving.”
Coach Matthews was particularly critical of the Jaguars third down conversions. The Jags were 5-of-13 on third downs against the Roadrunners. That was something he pointed to as a definite area where improvement was needed. “The thing I was disappointed about is we were 38 percent on third downs,” he said. “One third down was a bad quarterback-center exchange for a half-yard quarterback sneak. And then the other we converted, but we got called for a holding penalty. You change those, now you’re 7-of-13, you’re around 55 percent, and you feel good about your third-down conversions. But the fact is we didn’t and those things did happen, so we’ve got to work on our third-down conversion ratio and get it back up over 50 percent, which would make us one of the top teams in the country. That’s our goal, and we didn’t get that done on Saturday.”
Both Bennett and transfer Ross Metheny played in the game, however Metheny played sparingly. Coach Matthews indicated that we may continue to see both quarterbacks in the game. “I think you’ll see both of them continue to play,” he explained. “There was some good and some bad. The first game is always tough, and it’s probably toughest on the quarterback position because you’re seeing things in game speed again. You try to replicate it in practice and we did the best we could, but until you get those game reps under your belt it’s hard to be sharp. You wish you had four preseason games like the NFL does, but unfortunately we don’t. You’ve got an intrasquad scrimmage and then you’re in Game one. I think we’ll continue to improve at that position and we’ll press forward and you’ll see both guys out there.”
The offensive line, who had three new starters this season, played well after learning the new blocking scheme that Matthews installed over the offseason. In addition to offensive coordinator, Matthews is also coaching the offensive line. “Overall, I thought they were pretty solid,” he said. “We moved the ball pretty well and had good time to throw the ball. But that was just Game one. We’ve got to come back this week and prove ourselves again. We’re just a blue-collar group and that’s kind of what we talked about (Sunday). We’ve got to prove ourselves every week up front.”
Jereme Jones and Corey Besteda both had three receptions and combined for 91 yards. Six other players caught at least two passes. Demetre Baker ran 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown while Kendall Houston rushed 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown himself as the Jags rushed for 126 yards against UTSA.
The offense showed spurts of brilliance. It took several possessions for the Jags to get back in rhythm after the interception in the end zone. But when Bennett got a couple quick passes off for some positive yards on a drive, the offense would exude their confidence and ability to march down the field.
They will regroup and improve this week. The improvements between the first and second game of the season is probably the most dramatic improvement you will see during the season. And they will need it with the schedule coming after Nicholls State.
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.
C.J. Bennett and Brandon Ross lead the Jaguar offense in Saturday morning’s scrimmage for the South Alabama. Ross scored three touchdowns on four carries while Bennett threw for 117 yards and two touchdowns while going 9-of-10 in the scrimmage at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Ross’ first rush of the scrimmage was a four yard gain before crossing the goal line from one yard out on his second carry in a red zone possession for the offense. On the second snap after the mid-scrimmage break, Ross took the ball down the sideline for a 55 yard touchdown. Later in the scrimmage he got one more carry for a two yard touchdown. He racked up 62 of the 141 yards of rushing offense on the day to lead all Jaguars.
Ross is returning from a near one-and-a-half year absence following a knee injury in the 2010 season. Ross was the Jaguars’ leading rusher in 2009 and 2010 at the time of his injury.
Bennett led the first team offense on a 97 yard, 11 play drive for its first possession of the scrimmage. He completed six passes for 80 yards of the drive. He opened with a seven yard pass to T.J. Glover, he later found Bryant Lavender for 13-yards on two occasions and also found Tyrome Bivins for 12 yards to get to midfield. Demetre Baker added a two yard run before Bennett hit Jake Howton for 23 yards. Bennett rounded out the drive with a 25 yard strike to Cameron Broadnax for a touchdown.
Bennett only led the offense one other time. That drive spanned 65 yards in seven plays and it was capped off by a 31 yard touchdown pass to Baker.
The first team defense only surrendered two field goals on the day. The final field goal allowed came on a red zone possession at the 15 yard line.
Ben Giles and Anthony Taylor both lead the team with seven tackles each. Taylor added two pass-breakups to his total as well. Jesse Kelley added six tackles. Giles and Kelley both were credited with 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Randon Carnathan and Enrique Williams recorded three tackles each while Davin Hawkins led the reserves with five tackles.
Offensively, Terrance Timmons rushed five times for 29 yards, Ellis Hill had four rushes for 18 yards and Baker added 17 yards on the ground. Broadnax, Glover and Lavender along with Nathan Sassaman all had two catches each as they combined with four different quarterbacks to tally 181 yards through the air.
Michel Chapuseaux made field goals from 37, 42 and 39 yards. Aleem Sunanon convered the final score of the scrimmage with a 32 yard field goal.
“Offensively and defensively, it was good,” Head coach Joey Jones said about the scrimmage. “Overall I’m sure we’re going to see some things on film that we need to correct. But we’re not quite where we need to be on special teams, and our sideline organization needs to get better. It wasn’t terrible, but there are some things that we have got to shore up. That’s why we do this. I think we will come out next week and do it again, and hopefully we will be perfect at it when we come out on Thursday.”
“We are evaluating our players and will see where we are on the depth chart, and make those decisions this weekend,” Jones continued. “Monday we’ll starting putting the game plan in for Texas-San Antonio, we’ll have a few extra days to getting ready for them.”
“I was monitoring a couple of spots, but we still had to do things against our offense,” said defensive coordinator Bill Clark. “We got our first guys a lot of good work, I thought we tackled well and got to the ball. Our goal was to go 100 percent on our assignments today, we’ll have to see the film, but I think we looked pretty sound. It’s basically what we wanted to see. We’ve still got work to do, but it was a good finish to camp.”
“I thought the defense came out and stopped the run pretty well and I thought they got after it,” coach Jones said about the defense.
Senior Safety B.J. Scott felt that Saturday’s scrimmage was better than the first one of the preseason. “We just had that in the back of our heads and we came out here and just got after it,” he said. “I think we all as a whole feel a little bit more comfortable and focused. It’s all mental at this point. We’re pretty much done beating up on each other.”
“Fundamentally we have improved a lot since camp started,” offensive coordinator Robert Matthews said. “We were able to execute a lot of base plays early today, in the second part of the scrimmage we tried to do some different things that we have been working on. Our guys know what to do, now it is just doing it at the speed and the tempo we expect. I think we are getting closer but are not there yet.”
The Jags returned to the practice field on Sunday so the student-athletes can take Monday off for the first day of fall semester classes.
South Alabama hosted their annual media day on Tuesday at the football fieldhouse on campus. They discussed the team’s progress this preseason and their expectations for the coming season.
Head Coach Joey Jones, Defensive coordinator Bill Clark and first year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews fielded questions from the media along with Seniors Jake Johnson, B.J. Scott, Trey Clark and sophomore Jereme Jones.
Below are some of the more notable questions and answers from their sessions.
Head coach Joey Jones opened media day with his opening statement. “We’re very excited about this season. Our kids have worked their tails off to get here. There’s a different look in their eyes right now, they understand the challenges we have ahead of us. And they’re competitors, they compete and want to compete with the best. It’s been very exciting to watch them during the offseason to get ready for this season.”
Coach Jones was then asked about this year’s team and how he thinks they will compete with other Sun Belt schools. “There’s no doubt that we’re better. We have better players. It’s going to be a year where we kind of feel our way through as far as knowing how good these [Sun Belt Conference] teams are. It’s a good conference, we know that. They’ve beaten some very tough teams in this country, so we understand that it’s going to be a very tough league. But we want to make a good representation for South Alabama. We want to go out and be very competitive. I want the other teams to respect us when they walk off the field. You certainly want to get to the point where you win a lot of games, but you can’t focus on that. We have to focus on the process of it.”
Jones then spoke about special teams when asked a question about it. “I think coach Perry has done a great job studying during the offseason. He went to a couple of NFL teams and picked up some great ideas, and we’re implementing those. We’ve emphasized the importance of it. I think we can help ourselves from the kind of unknown side of the game. I feel really good about where we are.”
He was then asked about the teams strength’s this season. “Our linebackers are very good football players, not that we don’t have good players at other positions. But if you look at our starters at linebacker, I think you start with Jake Johnson. He’s a great football player who I think will play in the NFL next year. He’s smart, can run and is a good tackler, he can do it all. Enrique Williams is looking really good and Clifton Crews is a very good athlete. I think those guys can compete with just about anybody.”
With the change at offensive coordinator after last season, it was only a matter of time before someone asked him about question about the offense. He spoke about their offensive philosophy. “We always want to be balanced, but if you can’t run the football then you can’t win in my opinion. You can throw the ball and win games, but you have to run the ball to be able to win championships. One thing I have noticed is that the kids have really bought in to this offense. They’re locked in when they come to meetings and go to practice. When you have that, good things are going to happen. We’re going to be successful in a lot of ways because they have bought in.”
Finally he answered a question about the quarterback position. “When I look at our players, I look at them and try to find guys who can help us win. I think both Ross Metheny and C.J. Bennett can win for us right now. The competition has been great. I think they have both sharpened each other and have made each other better. It’s good for us as a program, and it’s good as a quarterback to have the heat on you. But I think we have two guys at quarterback who have shown us they can win right now. They both fit this offense really well, and are both very similar in their traits.”
Next up was defensive coordinator Bill Clark with an opening statement for his segment. “You’re going to see a whole different set of guys on defense. Our options are opening up to a lot of guys now that we’re Division I. When you go out recruiting, those big defensive linemen go first, they are hard to find. We’ve got some guys who are undersized, but are the type of guys who play their butts off. We have to keep those guys healthy.”
Coach Clark fielded a question about practicing against an offense that will be similar to other Sun Belt teams they will be facing this season. “I think it’s key. Anytime you can go against similar people is good. You can practice as high-rate as you can, but to actually see it is its own deal. It’s going to make us a ton better. We want to be high-energy, highly-motored and we want to get off the field and get our offense the ball. When you’re guys are sucking wind, or you can’t get your subs on the field because they aren’t used to it, then that’s a problem. We’re glad we get to practice against them. It makes us a lot better.“
He also spoke about Jake Johnson and B.J. Scott as veterans and leaders on the defense. “You always count on your veterans. Everybody’s got another year, but the senior. Sometimes, as a junior, sophomore, or freshman, they think, ‘I’ll get my time.’ But a senior’s job is to say, ‘No, this is your time. This is for sure my time and I won’t get another chance.’ We want to bring [underclassmen] energy levels up to theirs. They are very good leaders. They lead by example, and they’re good people. They’ve been in big games and big stadiums. In front of a lot of people, like we saw with N.C. State, last year, people like Jake help you out there. We’re blessed to have them and we’ve got a lot of juniors that are like seniors since they’ve been with us when we started. We’ve got a pretty veteran group.”
Coach Clark revisited how he came to be with the Jags. “I tell the story all the time. Coach Jones called my office while I was in the second week of playoffs just checking in and seeing what we were doing. We talked a lot. He just mentioned that this was an opportunity and I, of course, said, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ I’d always heard about South Alabama, and through the long haul, it worked. We really feel like this is a family. I think you’ve seen us play like that. We were sitting here on a cement slab (four years ago) telling people what it was going to look like. To see the football facility, to see where we’re headed, changes at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, watching our guys grow, to finally be Division I, is pretty neat.”
Finally he spoke about the pressure to prove something. “As a high school guy, I always felt like I carried the banner for my guys. There are so many great coaches that just don’t get that opportunity, and we feel like we’re representing the kind of guys, like high school coaches who teach class in the day and coach because they’re doing what they love.”
The last of the coaches who spoke at media day is first year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews. He first spoke about the offense and what he hopes the fans will see this season. “Hopefully you’re going to see a lot of first downs and a lot of points. Offensively, we’re into the second week of camp, and we feel like we’re making a lot of progress. We have repped a ton of guys at a lot of different positions. We’re practicing really efficiently. We’ve got two team periods going at the same time, we have two 7-on-7 periods going on at the same time, and that’s helping to answer the question of depth from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. We feel like there are a lot of guys getting reps to help us this year, as well as next year. We’re in this for the long haul, not a one season and out kind of deal. Coach Jones is a Mobile native and we want this to be a proud program.”
“Hopefully, in our offense, a lot of guys are going to touch the ball. We’re rotating receivers, tight ends and running backs in and out, and we hope to snap the ball at a high rate and get it to our playmakers. That’s what this offense is about, so if Jereme is one of those guys, then he should definitely have a smile on his face. I think the kids have a good understanding of what we’re looking for. There are still certain plays that aren’t perfected yet, but I think overall the kids have put in a lot of time since spring ball through the summer, and we’ve had an efficient camp because of that. It’s more refining as opposed to re-teaching.”
Coach Matthews was then asked about the adjustment period for the players. “I think the kids are working hard. We’re getting better every week. Really, they don’t have a choice. If they want to play, they’ll do what the coaching staff asks of them. There’s a good camaraderie amongst the staff and the players, and I think it’s progressing well.”
Matthews also spoke about his growth as a coach up to his new position as offensive coordinator with the Jags. “In my first coaching job at a high school in Georgia, we ran the Wing-T offense. We were successful because we had good players and the kids believed in it. With the revolution of football as a sport, you have to score points. We utilize that philosophy using the one-back spread. I’ve been fortunate to have been around some really good coaches, and some really good guys that are prolific coaches have mentored me. Coach Jones has been involved in some good offensive schemes himself. I think we’ve done a really good job of meshing those ideas together and just putting together a product that will help us win.”
He was later asked about the quarterback competition during camp this year. “It’s been really fun to have a bunch of different guys working in that position. You have to have depth at that position. C.J. has been here and he’s played some games, and he’s getting better every day. Ross brings a different perspective, because he’s been in a different program, and Fetner and Peavey have all been working hard and they’ve all gotten better. That’s a testament to us getting guys a lot of reps during practice because you want to build depth.”
“You never want to look at it this way, but you’re always one play away from whoever the number two is to being a starter for the remainder of the season. You better prepare for it because it’s the reality of what could happen. It’s hard to compare from last year because they’re two different offenses. Everybody asks, ‘What about C.J. from last year?’ I’m not worried about C.J. from last year. I’m worried about C.J. and how the rest of the guys are doing right now. He comes to work every day and he’s being a good leader and he’s working hard at this offense. I think he’s progressing.”
Senior linebacker Jake Johnson was first up for the players. He first spoke about the progress of the defense so far during camp and the expectations on the season. “We’re a lot better at this point in camp than we were this time last year. We’re more complex on defense, which is good so we don’t look the same out there every play. We have a lot of players stepping up, a lot of new defensive linemen, Jesse Kelley. He’s 19 years old and is really stepping up at nose tackle. We also have a couple of corner backs who have stepped up. Alonzo Long has done well. We’re really looking good halfway through camp.”
He was asked about how important it is for the defense to establish a personality on defense. “I think it’s real important. The intensity that you bring now during camp is going to translate in the games. We try to bring a high intensity, a high motor, a high effort everyday from every position, so that when the game comes, we are so used to going at that speed and that intensity and that is the face of our defense.”
Johnson was asked about the overall attitude of the defense this season as compared to previous seasons. “Our attitude is a lot better. We seem to be a lot more focused. We watch a lot more film and have a lot more meetings. Like I mentioned earlier, we aren’t running the same scheme. We have gotten more complex in some of the things that we have run in the past.”
He was also asked about how being exposed to the spread offense in practice will help the defnese when they start conference play. “The spread attack is what a majority of the teams in the Sun Belt are running. (Seeing the spread in practice) is going to help us get conditioned. Having seen it so much in practice, we are going to be prepared for it. It also really helps out the defensive backs. They’re getting so much work, not just on defensive drills, but they are working on so much man coverage, that I feel it’s going to help them in the games. I think it’s going to help us out greatly.”
Senior defensive back B.J. Scott spoke about the progress of the defense so far during camp and what expectations he has for the season. “Midway through camp, we have some players with some dings who are a little banged up and we’re trying to get them back as fast as we can, but I think our defense is looking good this year. We’ve prepared ourselves throughout camp.”
Scott also spoke about the improvements made in the secondary, also mentioning Alonzo Long as well. “We are more athletic at the corner position. Alonzo Long has really stepped up and is looking really good. Tyrell Pearson is doing a great job for us as well.”
Finally, he was also asked about facing the spread offense in practice. “Seeing a hurry-up tempo offense at practice makes the secondary and the defense as a whole get to the line and call our coverage in the secondary a lot faster. It helps us, just as much as it helps the offense.”
Senior center Trey Clark spoke about the progression of the offense in camp. “Right now we’re just working hard and staying focused on each practice right now. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be hot. I think it’s really important for us as a team to stay focused on each practice, improve on the fundamentals and get the ins-and-outs of our offense worked out before the first game.”
Clark was asked about the conditioning of the team. “The new offense we run is very fast paced and high tempo. That demands great conditioning. With our offseason, summer workouts and fall camp, I think we’re really making strides in that area.”
When asked about the state of the offensive line, he said: “Our strengths are our ability to play fast and utilize our athleticism. As far as our weaknesses, we have to get better at our pass protection and learning to play together. We have some guys that are stepping into starting roles, so getting used to playing next to one another is going to be important for us.”
Finally he spoke about the new starters on the offensive line. “We have several linemen that have stepped up this camp, especially Drew Dearman, Shaun Artz and Chris May. They’ve all done an outstanding job. We also have a transfer, Perry Meiklejohn, who has done a great job. For the returners, it will be important for us to bring them along a little bit, but for the most part, they’re doing a great job and have stepped up. I’m here to help them any way I can, but they’ve done a great job in learning the offense and working to improve every single day.”
Sophomore wide receiver Jereme Jones also answered the question about the progression of the offense in camp. “It’s progression really well. We have a dynamic offense. We go through our bumps and bruises, but overall I think we’re doing what doing we have to do to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Jones was also asked about the conditioning of the team. “We do a lot of conditioning, but it’s not suicides or gassers, we do it while we’re doing plays. We do fast-tempo things like getting lined up fast, just like we would do in a real game.”
Specificially, Jones was asked about the receivers transition to the new offense was progressing. “When we first started in the spring it wasn’t easy. We had to really study the playbook, learn the plays and watch a lot of film. But when the summer came around, we knew what we had to do and where we needed to be. When the fall came, it wasn’t a big learning curve. Instead of having to learn, we just executed.”
Finally he was asked about the quarterbacks. “C.J. was doing a lot of what he’s doing now in practice, last year, it just didn’t correlate to the field like it was supposed to. C.J. is throwing the ball the way he’s supposed to, leveraging the ball the way it needs to be. Ross is a good quarterback too. He does a good job of running the offense. He’s similar to CJ, he leverages the ball well and puts it where it needs to be. There’s going to be some competition this year.”
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.
If you were at the Red & Blue Spring Game and went onto the field for autographs, you may have noticed a player wearing the honorary #5 jersey. The Jaguar players chose Brandon Ross to wear that number in honor of Anthony Mostella, who passed away in the summer of 2010.
Mostella’s number 5 jersey is given to a graduating senior that is chosen by his teammates to honor his memory.
Also Drew Dearman was chosen as the Most Improved Lineman for the spring. Dearman has solidified the left guard position as he has moved into the starting lineup heading into the fall.