Coach Matthews Speaks About Offense

August 10, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Offensive lineman running position drills in preseason camp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthews also spoke about other positions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2009-10-13

October 13, 2009 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · Comment 

Coach Joey Jones joined with Lee Shirvanian and Dameyune Craig at Baumhower’s Wings Restaurant on Airport Boulevard for today’s show.

First question they are going to start with, now that the Jags are 3-0 and they have defeated what they think will be their best competition of the year. Where do you think this program is in terms of what level of competition could you compete with Division I-AA, Division II or division III. If you could redo the schedule where do you think they could go? Coach Jones talked to the team yesterday about some of their goals for the rest of the year and what they can do to get there. He then, kind of reluctantly, went on to talk scores. The #2 Junior College team beat Georgia Military 28-8 and the Jags beat them 31-3, but by the scores they could compete with that team. However, Coach Jones was quick to remind the listeners that it does not mean they could beat them but it indicates that they could compete with some of the best JC’s in the country.

Coach Jones then said they could probably get on the field with many of the Division I-AA schools, but not the Appalachian States or other traditional big schools in that division.

Lee then asked Coach Craig said he really didn’t know because they have alot of freshman. But that they have a really great group of kids that go out and work hard and learn, so its hard to compare. He thinks they could do well in Division II and maybe Division I-AA. He also thought they could probably do well in the SWAC conference.

Lee also mentioned that they tried to schedule Alabama State but it didn’t work out. But Coach Jones hopes to schedule them in the future thinking it would be a good game.

Lee mentioned that the team has a lot of Freshman but they also have a fair amount of Junior College linemen and asked if that was the difference for the team. Coach Jones said that they came in and gave the team a maturity factor that rubbed off on the younger guys. They are more calm with something bad happens in a game.

Lee followed up asking if the Jags would be looking to bring in some more Junior College players and transfers like Courtney Smith and others. Coach Jones said you should always look to better your team any way you can. Meaning that they have Brandon Ross that expressed an interest in coming to USA. The same with Charlie Higgenbotham. He said they have to spread their wealth, they took Brandon even though they had a pretty good line-up at running back because he was a difference maker.

Lee asked Coach Craig what positions they were looking to focus on this recruiting season. He answered that they are looking at defensive ends, cornerbacks and safeties. They feel pretty good about receivers and running backs but they can always use offensive lineman.

Looking back at Georgia Military, Coach Jones said that they knew that defensively they were a good team. Also they felt like there were some deficiencies on their offensive line that they could exploit and pressure the quarterback. They hurried and hit the quarterback a lot but didn’t get too him. The defense ran him around the field so much that at one point he had full body cramps and they also hit him every time he threw the football which was good for the Jags.

Lee asked about Michel Chapuseaux’s injury which Coach Jones said he was alright. It looked worse than it was and it scared him some. It was a hard hit but he’s okay. Offensive guard Jon Griffin turned an ankle but is expected to be fine for the game on Saturday. Then John Mark Patrick who continues to out due to his knee problem.

The offense only scored two touchdowns and didn’t have a chance to catch many passes because they didn’t throw much. They just want to do what they can to win, players are working hard to make a play when its their time and to just do their roll in the game plan.

Lee joked with Coach Craig about his days at Auburn and how the Georgia Military quarterback moved around to make plays. Coach Craig joked that his games ended better, he didn’t throw interceptions but rather threw more touchdowns. But he gave credit to Coach Clark, the defensive coordinator, for doing an outstanding job with the guys on defense and that it has been a pleasure working with him and everyone on the staff.

He even included Coach Schwind the strength and conditioning coach on what a good job they have done and how well they work together. He continued saying that the summer workouts they did with the players getting them prepared for camp really made a huge difference.

A listener emailed in a question about the special teams punt coverage. He was saying that one punt went into the end zone where the coverage team had a chance to catch it close to the endzone but allowed it to hit and go in for a touch back. He wanted to ask if they are coached to catch it if they have a chance like that and the receiving team is not trying to catch it.

Coach Jones said that the kids are instructed to catch the ball in that instance. They have stressed that and have worked on it. He said as a coach he looks back on that and asks himself if they did that enough in practice and did they put their kids in that situation enough for them to make it happen in the game. He then said he takes full blame for that because they should work on that enough so that it becomes second nature to them.

Certain positions they are looking at Junior College players to recruit. But right now they are looking to find the best players at the positions that they are looking to fill in. If they could find some Junior College defensive backs, coach Craig said that would be great. It would help them to get more experience in the backfield. Lee then made the observation that Zach Brownell and company are doing a good job in the defensive backfield. Coach Craig said its more about creating depth. They are comfortable at certain positions about their depth but when if one player gets hurt and it completely changes your game plan, that is a pretty tough situation.

The Jags finally have back to back game weekends. It feels good to finally have this and the kids are ready for it too. But Coach Jones said they feel they have used the previous off weeks very wisely and it has paid off on the field.

After Coach Jones said previously that Georgia Military was going to be their biggest test of the year for the Jags. Where do they go now? Coach Jones said they are trying to teach these kids to work every day. This is something that will help them on the field and in life. He also told them if they come out onto the practice field and work for two hours every day and get a little bit better every day then they are going to be better the next game and better at the end of the season. Coach Jones says he does not like to talk about going undefeated but that is their goal for the season. But how do they get there? They don’t get there by talking about it every day. They work towards achieving that by going out and working hard to get a little bit better every day.

Lee said that previously that it was mentioned that they felt like some of their receivers could possibly play in the NFL. So Lee asked if that was possible and who they might be. Coach Craig said that Courtney Smith has the intangibles. He has size and speed but some things he needs to work on to get there and he is willing to work to get there. They also have some young guys that are being redshirted right now. Kelly Vail from LeFlore was also mentioned.

When asked by Lee about who has the best hands, Coach Craig answered it would either be Lim Windham or Corey Besteda.

Coach Craig again praised the other coaches on the staff and said that the biggest thing he learned was that they can get Freshmen ready to play. Before he thought that they just were not ready to play coming into the team but what Coach Jones and the rest of the staff have done has changed that. They got these player in summer so they could work out and it has payed off big time because they are ready to play.

Coach Jones said that Louisburg may not be as talented as GMJC but they are still talented. They have players committed to Temple and other schools like that. They mentioned that they like to roll out the red carpet to teams when they arrive to play the Jags. They like to show them around the field house and to show off their facilities. Coach Jones said he has not been to many schools but he is pretty confident that they probably have among the best if not the best facilities in the Sun Belt and probably are good enough to make some of the lower end SEC schools a bit envious.

First Ever Media Day For South Alabama Football

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Football, News · Comment 

On Monday, head coach Joey Jones as well as offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, defensive coordinator Bill Clark, and players Jon Griffin, Charlie Higgenbotham and Anthony Mostella participated in the first ever Media Day for South Alabama Football. The program included a tour of the fieldhouse and lunch before the highly anticipated interviews.

Highlights of the press conference can be read on the USA Jaguars page located here.

Less than 12 days until kickoff. Do you have your tickets yet?

The Jaguars Sign Another Offensive Lineman From JuCo

January 7, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

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

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

Go Jags!