Commentary: Jaguars Winning Ways Similar To National Championship Contender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Letdown In Practice After The Programs First Victory

September 10, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Myles Gibbon scrambling for a touchdown in Saturday’s historic 30-13 win in South Alabama first-ever football game against Hargrave Military Academy. – Photo by Doug Roberts.

Coach Jones was concerned on Tuesday that the team might have a lack of focus and intensity in practice. But on Tuesday he could tell they had leftover energy from Saturday’s big win over Hargrave Academy.

Wednesday’s practice began with about 15 minutes of special teams work, then it was following special teams was about 30 minutes of position drills. Next the offense had a 10 minute session of recognizing and picking up blitz’s from the defense then a 15 minute session of skeleton passing drills.

Then the Jags went into some situational work. They spent about 15 minutes in red zone situations with drives beginning at either the 20 or 25 yard lines. The first possession was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Eli Smith on fourth-and-goal. The very next offensive possession saw Myles Gibbon find Courtney Smtih for a 25 yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone.

The defense forced a field goal attempt, which was missed. Then Gibbon found Kelly Vail on a crossing pattern which scored another touchdown when Vail found the pylon on the left side of the end zone. This touchdown was followed up by a defensive stop with another missed field goal attempt. Brennan Sim also threw for a touchdown.

Practice ended with 20 minute scrimmage with the Jags utilizing the second and third string players to develop experience and depth for the squad. Zach Rone sacked Brennan Sim twice to force a three-and-out on the first drive. Sim would lead the offense into the red zone on the next possession. Eli Smith started the drive with a nine-yard run to get a first down. Then Sim would complete passes of 21 and seven yards to Donte Rome to get two more first downs on the drive. A two yard run by Jeremy Pacillo would put the offense at the 18 yard line, but an Eddy Cabrera interception after an incomplete pass would end the drive at the five yard line.

The defense would force another three-and-out after a tackle for loss, a sack and a broken-up pass on third-and-16.

Gabe Graham would hit Josh Dees for a 12 yard first down pass to get to the Offense’s 49 yard line. A three yard pass to Rome would move the offense across midfield, but he was sacked on fourth down to end the day.

Coach Jones spoke after practice about the teams intensity, “Practice has been really good, we’ve come out here twice and got after it. We’ve tried to keep the intensity level up, and they have done well responding to that. I’ve been real surprised, to be honest, because when you’re three weeks away from a game right after a big win you expect a letdown – they haven’t done that. In the back of their minds, I think they would like to have a game this Saturday, but they’re not letting that show in practice.”

Even though the season has officially started, Coach Jones and his staff are going through a practice schedule that is similar to what they did during preseason camp. “We feel that the format is a good for learning in practice,” Coach Jones said. “We change things up with the situations that we cover, but we feel that it is a format we want to use most of the time.”

“We’re trying to get our young kids to watch film, to teach them and let them learn,” Jones said about second and third stringers scrimmage at the end of practice. “We’re going to let them go again tomorrow. We feel that we have a good hour and 45 minutes to practice with the older guys, and since the younger guys are working hard as well this gives them 20 minutes to get out there for live action.”

The Jaguars will practice again Thursday afternoon with a tentative scrimmage set for Friday, but will have the weekend off. The next game will be Saturday, September 26 against Army Prep with kickoff at 4pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Reflecting Back On Saturday’s Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2009-09-08

September 8, 2009 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · Comment 

Unfortunately I missed the first half of the show, but I have covered what I did get to listen to of the Joey Jones Radio Show.

I tuned in just in time to hear coach Jones talk about how USA was smaller than Hargrave up front however they matched up very well. The defense did a good job stopping the run except for a few plays and the one big pass play for a touchdown.

Coach Crain came on the program and said that he was pleased about how the defense played. They were good enough to win but were not perfect, which is what they strive for. He said that USA has been blessed with players that want to go out and play hard and do the best that they can. He believes in having pressurized practices. He also said that if you can get to the point where practice is the hard situation and the game is not, then you can be very successful.

Several callers mentioned the great time they had on Saturday. Coach Jones thanked them for coming out and giving the players a great environment to play in. He said he loved the atmostphere and had to take off his headset a couple times just to hear the crowds reaction to some plays. USA had some top recruits in for the game and that they look forward to making some calls to them to guage their reaction. it should make a good impression on them.

Another caller said he was very impressed with how the Jaguars played. That they were only called for four penalties for about 25 yards which is not what you would expect for a first game.

Another caller asked when they were going to upgrade the scoreboards at Ladd they wanted to see replays. Coach Jones said he thought that both the GMAC bowl and the Senior Bowl both brought portable big screens for that but he did not know of any plans for that to be installed at Ladd.

Lee asked again if USA had a wildcat like formation. Coach Jones said they do not. Several teams use it, mostly when they don’t have a quarterback that can run well. The Jags have some very mobile quarterbacks and they don’t need to use that formation because of that reason.

Jaguars Win Impressively In Schools First-Ever Game

September 6, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

#6 Courtney Smith scores the first touchdown in South Alabama football history on a 60-yard reception late in the first quarter against Hargrave Academy. – Photo courtesy of Doug Roberts.

The Jags came out to play in their historic first game. Some would just be content to have glimpses of good play on such a historic day. The first set of recruits stepped on campus two months ago while transfers and walk-ons got here in January. It might have been asking a bit much for a team to come together without any returning leadership to play against a team such a Hargrave and dominate from the first snap. But Coach Jones, his staff and team had other plans.

The day was already exciting enough, but when news that Chris Fowler of ESPN College Gameday mentioned South Alabama’s first game, it sent the excitement and celebration even higher. While doing the run down of important stories in the opening weekend of college football, he said “We want to salute a couple of programs playing their very first game today, Old Dominion and South Alabama.” But this wasn’t the highpoint of the day by far. The true high point of celebration came later.

The Jaguars took a little stroll, the Jaguar Prowl, from their bus to the stadium through the student tailgating section, to much ovation from fans. Then a group of musicians from the marching band made the rounds in the parking lot at the stadium, entertaining all of the tailgating fans along their way.

Later before kickoff, the band took the field for thier pregame show where, again to much ovation, spelled out the script USA logo that was recognized immediately by most people in the stands. Once they finished their play, they paused for the national anthem and the U.S. Coast Guard flyover. They then took their place near the northeast corner awaiting the Jaguars entrance to the field.

President Gordon Moulton stood at midfield on the nice new Jaguar logo and thanked the students, the fans and the board of trustees. The team captains from both sides approached midfield for the coin toss which Hargrave won and elected to receive. So the choice of end zones to defend was left for the Jaguars to decide. It did not take long for them to decide to defend the south end zone either.

The band then began playing the fight song as the cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field with flags waving. As the Jaguars went to the sidelines, the cheerleaders remained spread out across the field with two Jaguar logos and flags for U S and A prouding waving them to the stadium.

The Jaguars finally got to line up for the opening kickoff to a cheering crowd and another loud cheer when they tackled the returner quickly. The Jaguar defense would hold Hargrave and force them to punt early. On a bad snap, the punter mishandled the ball allowing the Jaguar defense to close in and seemingly partially block the punt, which drew another loud cheer from the crowd. However, the cheer would turn to jeers when the officials announced USA was being penalized for roughing the kicker.

The Jaguar defense set the tone by holding Hargrave scoreless in the first half and forcing turnovers in the Tigers’ first two possessions. The Jags came close to scoring on a drive about midway through the first quarter, however Santuan McGee fumbled at the two yard line after a 22 yard run, turning the ball over.

With only seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Jaguars had the ball at their own 40 yard line. Gibbon dropped back and found an open Courtney Smith running a go route for a 60 yard touchdown on the left sideline for the first points for the Jaguars.

Shortly after the first score, Brandon Ross capped off a five play 24 yard possession with a one yard run with 12 minutes left in the opening half to extend the Jaguar lead to 13-0. Another promising drive with about five minutes left in the first half was cut short by an interception of Gibbons pass at the goal line.

At the end of the first half, the Jaguars had another opportunity to put points on the board but without any time outs, quarterback Nick Owen could not stop the clock to allow a field goal attempt as time expired.

Early in the second half, the Jags extended their lead further when Myles Gibbon scored on an 8 yard run. With the score at 20-0, observers were excited yet amazed at how well the Jaguars were playing.

However the shutout would not last as Hargrave finally found the endzone on a 16-yard run. The extra point was blocked by the Jaguars though to make the score 20-6. The Jaguars would respond with a 25 yard field goal by Chapuseaux with 2:39 left in the third quarter to make the score 23-6. The Tigers scored another touchdown on a 35 yard reception to cut the lead to ten points, 23-13.

However, the Jags would seal the game with a hard nosed Brandon Ross run for 22 yards, stretching out at the goal line for the touchdown, with 4:19 remaining in the game to reach the final score of South Alabama 30 – Hargrave 13.

But the true celebration came after the clock hit all zeroes, after the two teams shook hands. It happened when the players went into the stands to celebrate with the Jaguar fans with the band playing ‘Jaguar Pride’ and the Alma Mater.

Gibbon finished the game going 7-for-13 for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Owens went 4-for-4 for 38 yards. Ross had 19 attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns. McGee had nine carries for 58 yards with one lost fumble. Courtney Smith had five catches for 105 yards with 60 of them coming on the schools first touchdown.

Hargrave Academy’s leading rusher, Tahron Goods rushed seven times for 46 yards and a touchdown. Evan Ingram carried 9 times for 43 yards. Evan Ingram went 17-for27 with two interceptions and a touchdown. Dlapo Macarthy went 4-for-7 with an interception as well. Sean Farr caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

In total, the Jaguars had 29 rushes for 299 yards and went 11-for-17 passing for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While the Tigers ran 27 times for 133 yards and 21-for-34 for 238 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Justin Dunn lead the team with eight tackles followed by Charlie Higgenbotham and Zach Brownell both with seven.

Other notable stats: Punter Scott Garber punted once for 47 yards and pinned the Tigers near their own 10 yardline. Erling Riis returned 3 punts for 44 yards, including a 39 yard return to set up a Jaguar touchdown.

Coach Jones spoke about the game afterwords, “We challenged the kids this morning about making this a day to remember, and they did that,” he said. “Our kids played extremely hard, our staff coached extremely hard, and we would not have had that success today had the staff not done what they did and the players bought into the program. It’s as simple as that. The players did a great job today, and I’m really proud of them. We certainly have some things we can work on, but we can go back and correct those things. I’m very proud of them coming out – a bunch of new guys and a new team – and doing what they did today.”

Defensive coordinator Bill Clark spoke about the Jaguar defense, “We were tickled to death in the first half. It was one of those deals where you come in at halftime and you’re almost scared that the other shoe is going to drop because you know they’re going to make adjustments. To come out and really not know what they were going to do – we had a base idea that they had a lot of two-back runs in the first game – our guys really hounded them, and we had a bunch of takeaways. We came in at halftime really excited, and we told our guys it was zero to zero. We were disappointed in the second half because our goal is a shutout, and we know that’s a big goal. We know we’ve got some things to work on because we want to be really stingy, but there were a lot of good things tonight.”

Also Hargrave coach Robert Prunty spoke well of South Alabama’s effort, “The thing with our kids is that they enjoyed it and South Alabama is a class act. You can tell by how they’re putting their facilities in order – we were impressed with it. Coach Jones has this program in the right direction. We’ve played against other JV programs and you can tell that what coach Jones has going on here is a good thing. Their kids played hard and you can tell they’ve been in the weight room. It was a great performance by South Alabama.”

The game was truly one of historic value. South Alabama went all out to make sure it was just that. This was a storybook beginning to what should be a long and successful novel.

Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2009-09-01

September 1, 2009 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · Comment 

Coach Jones and Lee Shirvanian were at Wings Sports Grill on Airport Boulevard for the Joey Jones Radio Show and covered several interesting topics. Coach Jones strayed from his ‘unofficially’ named ‘Joey Jones Special’ (the black and white chicken platter) to get the chopped steak.

The first thing mentioned was Hargrave played their first game over the weekend against Radford, which they won handily 63-3. However the score does not indicate the level of talent they played. Radford is merely a club football team in their second year. However on the other hand, don’t let that disuade you about the level of talent that Hargrave puts on the field.

Coach Jones has talked to many people in the area and each one has said that they plan to be at the first game against Hargrave. Many people said they are staying home to watch USA instead of traveling to watch Alabama take on Virginia Tech. But Coach Jones said he is still going to estimate a crowd of about 35,000 for the first game if the weather is nice.

Lee then asked Coach Jones to talk about how good Hargrave is. He made sure to reiterate that Hargrave is a very talented team with lots of Division-I players. They are capable of big plays. The offensive line is better this year than it was last year and possibly in the last couple years and it is a concern of Coach Jones and his staff. The defensive front and secondary has some good players. The team has to stay focused and work to prevent big plays from happening on both sides of the ball.

Hargrave has only lost two games in the previous two years and Coach Jones also said that they have been a very good team over the last few years. But he doesn’t want the team to get caught up thinking about how Hargrave is going to play, but focus on how they are going to play themselves. He thinks the conditioning factor and their preparation will benefit the Jags and help lead them to a victory. Hargrave has the ability to choose from a vast number of players, not many schools has that luxury. They had read somewhere they Hargrave gets to school from about 3,000 players a year at about five different camps.

Comparing the Jaguar defensive line against the Hargrave offensive line, the defensive line may be a little under sized but the Jags play very hard, they are quick and agile. He thinks they can keep pace with Hargrave because they have worked so hard for so long already and they have the footwork to use their speed to cause problems.

Its very hard for the Jags to get a sense about Hargrave’s team because they have such a huge player turnover each year. But similarly, Hargrave will have a difficult time preparing for South Alabama since they have yet to play a game. It will be critical for South Alabama to make good, effective halftime adjustments.

To start the second segment offensive coordinator Greg Gregory joined Lee and Joey. Lee asked Coach Jones about injuries, was there anyone out for the first game? Coach Jones answered that the Jaguars are healthy for the most part, there are two or three players who are pending right now. The thing he is worried about most is the flu, there are a couple guys with flu-like symptoms that he wants to get healthy quick.

Lee then asked how did Coach Gregory come to the decision to start true freshman Myles Gibbon at quarterback, since its the most asked about position on a football team. Coach Gregory affirmed that Gibbon won the job. Each of the quarterbacks received equal number of reps during camp. They all worked hard and Myles was very mature for a freshman, he is 20 years old. While he has separated himself from Brennan Sim and Nick Owen, they are still very close to each other competition wise.

Lee followed up asking if he was worried about the level of competition Myles saw since he is from Canada. Coach Gregory flat out said no. At first he would have, but after seeing him face the Jaguar defense for the last several weeks, he has done very well and that is not a concern at this point.

Coach Gregory followed that up by saying that Myles is a guy that could go into most places and compete from the beginning. He may redshirt the first year at some established programs, but he can compete with the best of them.

Lee asked about possibly rotating quarterbacks. Coach Jones said no, they want to go with one quarterback and he is not one to rotate quarterbacks. He continued by saying that Sim and Owen are close to Gibbon’s talent and they feel that either one could step in and win the game for the Jags in needed. Coach Gregory said that there are two very important things when evaluating a quarterback. The first thing to look for is a quarterback that won’t get you beat. Then the second thing is for a quarterback that gives you the ability to make some big plays to help you win.

Lee asked “what does Myles bring to the table?” Coach Gregory said his size (listed as 6’3″ 210 lbs), his speed (he will run a 40 between 4.5 and 4.6) and his strong arm can throw the ball deep. They will have to wait and see how accurate he is until he is in a game situation.

Lee asked about how they go about putting together an offensive game plan. Coach Gregory said that you start with what you do best. There are things that they do well and that they will do in all of their games, they try to fit them into the game by formation against the defense. Then you find and install some wrinkles that you can use to try to get some big plays to help you win.

Having a young quarterback and a young defense on the field, the Jags must execute well. Coach Jones told us that he asked the players to think about how they were going to respond. How were they going to handle the crowd and how are they going to respond if they miss a block or commit any number of possible mistakes on the field. Both teams are young and inexperienced so both teams will make some mistakes. But Coach Jones thinks whoever minimizes the number of mistakes will win the game.

Lee asked Coach Jones about leadership and he responded by saying that he thinks Myles is a great leader. He is a bit soft spoken but he has a winning swagger about him that rubs off to all of the other players.

A caller asked how do they monitor players to keep them out of trouble. Coach Jones said they cannot monitor them all the time. The NCAA does not allow schools to have football dorms like Coach Jones and Coach Gregory had when they played in college. They had to check in with their monitors all the time. Students now stay in general student dorms or apartments and they just can’t be monitored all the time. So part of the recruiting process is to make sure you get kids that are well disciplined and to discipline those when and if they warrant it.

Lee Shirvanian mentioned that he was at a high school game on Saturday and there were lots of kids cramping up. So he asked what precautions is USA taking to try to prevent this. Coach Jones said that they will get plenty of fluids leading up to the game and there will be plenty of fluids available on the sidelines. Another thing that has been overlooked by many but they are doing is to get more salt in their diet and to make sure they have a good amount of fat on them as well. Kids with low body fat, once they burn through their carbs, will start burning muscle and they will cramp up. The forecast shows that it should be about 85-88 degrees for the game, Coach Jones would actually prefer 95-98 because he feels it would benefit them over Hargrave.

Lee then asked about the running game, if they had a clear number one running back. Coach Gregory said that their clear #1 running back is Brandon Ross. However they have two or three backs, that if something happened, could easily step up and give them a good chance to win. The will rotate running backs and spread the carries around, however Ross should get the majority of the carries. They do have situational backs because some block better than others, some catch the ball better out of the backfield than others. He also reaffirmed that the Jags are a one back offense, but not to be confused with being a spread offense. They are a one back team with power running and passing but also some option thrown in.

Lee then asked if they have something akin to the ‘wild cat’ formation, something like the ‘wild jaguar.’ They both said no, Gibbon can run with the best of them and could get as many yards or more than the running back so they don’t need that type of formation for him.

Lee then asked how they found Gibbon. Coach Jones said one of the coaches saw him in a football camp and started recruiting him. Many schools stay away from Canadian players because they take different classes up there as opposed to in America. So they have to take some time and take extra courses in order to be eligible by the NCAA.

Coach Jones commented that they know of about 9 of 13 players on defense that have committed to Division-I schools. Also Coach Gregory has been recruiting from Hargrave for about 20 years, so he knows Hargrave pretty well. He has a good relationship with Hargrave’s head coach and when he told him that he was taking the job at South Alabama, his response was that he wanted to come down and play.

Another question from Lee was about footwear for the game. What kind of shoes do they wear. Coach Jones said that they use just normal cleats. The turf at Ladd-Peebles Stadium is actually a little shorter than on the practice field and that makes it a little faster. He does want to get the player out at Ladd one more time before the game because of that difference.

The final question was how many players were going to suit up for the game. Coach Jones said they were going to dress out about 96 players. Lee followed up asking how many of those were scholarship players, which Coach Jones answered that about 50 of them were scholarship players. He went on to say that their team is about 50/50 scholarship and walk-ons right now.

Jaguars Hit The Practice Field Early To Begin Their First Ever Fall Camp

August 4, 2009 · Filed Under Football, News · 1 Comment 

Coach Jones looking on during the Jaguars first practice of fall camp. Photo by Doug Roberts.

The Jaguars had two firsts today for the program. This marked their first preseason football camp for their first season. But it was also the first time the Jags used their new field turf practice field on campus near the new fieldhouse.

Everyone was so excited that more than 150 people, including graduate and student assistants, managers and training staff were on the field before the 6:30am schedule and were ready for the day. The Jags practices for over two hours and worked through team and individual drills dressed in helmets and shorts.

Practice began with about 15 minutes of special teams work. Players not involved with this were working with position coaches around the perimeter of the field. Next they had about 25 minutes of individual drills for all players. Then the majority of the remaining practice time was focused on team drills with the offensive and defensive units separated on either end of the field. About midway through this portion of the practice, there was about 15 mintues of skeleton passing drills which was 7-on-7 drills. Then there was about a 10 minute session of 11-on-11 practice which included running plays.

Probably one of the biggest questions coming into practice is who will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. With Saucier, the most experienced quarterback in the Jaguars system, making the move to safety leaving that question without a definite answer right now. It wasn’t decided on the first day of practice, but coach Jones has said that the staff has a definite timeline in mind for deciding who will be where on the depth chart. Coach Jones reiterated, “By the end of week two we would like to have our ones and our twos picked. That doesn’t mean it will be over for the other players, but at some point we do have to make decisions.”

Coach Jones continued about the quarterback position, “Quarterbacks need a lot more reps than other players, it’s much more of a mental game at the position. Receivers and running backs need a lot less reps to get ready to play a game.”

Kyle Stewart, freshman from Tallahassee, FL, was quoted saying, “We’re all new to this, we don’t know the playbook very well but are learning. We’re equally talented, whoever picks it up the quickest and makes the biggest plays during camp is probably going to get the first shot.”

Myles Gibbon, freshman from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, also spoke about the quarterback position, “I think the coaches want to see someone who has some experience and can make the right reads. We have some great competition here between guys who have come from all over the place. It’s friendly and we’re having fun, but you want to make sure when you get in there you make the throw. I’m going to do my best and see what happens from there.”

Probably the player that somewhat has a leg up on the competition is Junior transfer Brennan Sim. His time spent at Oregon State has potentially given him two years of collegiant experience and maturity over his freshman counterparts. He has had two years to learn and understand the rigors of collegiant football.

Both Gibbon and Stewart spoke about the challenges they face in their transition from high school to college level football.

“It’s pretty big, so it was overwhelming when we were first given the book,” said Gibbon. “But, we’ve been working all through the summer in 7-on-7 drills so I’m used to the passing plays even though there’s a lot of concepts and many plays with receivers in different spots.”

“It’s a lot different than high school. The playbook is much bigger with a lot more formations and motions,” Stewart observed. “Plus, you have to read defenses a lot better than you need to in high school, and you need to learn many more signals. With all of this coming at you, you just have to keep working and studying the best you can.”

Coach Jones was quick to caution everyone about how much information one is able to get out of a single workout in helmets and shorts. “We’ll know more when we get into pads. You can tell a little bit about receivers and quarterbacks, and maybe defensive backs, but you can’t evaluate linemen and linebackers without pads on. Some of them may have looked great today but won’t when they start hitting, and others may not be as good in shorts as they are with their shoulder pads on.”

Coach Jones noted that, in addition to the heat and rain factors, two other factor were behind the early practice time. “I want some discipline in this program, and I think that waking up early and going to meetings before an early practice helps with that,” coach Jones said. “Plus, I had to do it when I was playing.”

Otherwise, Coach Jones was very upbeat and pleasant about their first practice. “The kids know it’s for real right now, so you could feel a heightened excitement on the field,” Coach Jones said. “They know that we have a game right around the corner, it’s always more exciting when you are looking forward to that.”

Gibbon said he was so excited that he couldn’t sleep Monday night. “We had to wake up a five, and I didn’t get to bed until 2:30 a.m. It’s great just to be out here, it’s been so long since I finished last season.”

The biggest difference for Coach Jones and his staff, when comparing the first day of spring practice to the first day of fall camp is personnel. He said “I saw a lot of better athletes out there. There are some quick guys out there who also have some size.”

Probably one of the most resonate and exciting statements was from recently announced transfer from Alabama, Charlie Higgenbotham. He said, “It was extremely exciting, I am thrilled to be here. I know a lot of these coaches know what they are talking about, and a lot of the players are great guys — everyone is working hard. Things are being run here the right way, which is really exciting.”

Having a player who has been under Nick Saban for two years say that Coach Jones and his staff are running things the right way is indeed something to be excited about.

The Jaguars will be on the practice field again on Wednesday at 7am to continue their preparation for the programs first ever game against Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy at 4pm on Saturday, September 5th at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.