Coach Jones Very Pleased With Wednesday’s Practice

November 1, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Offensive lineman running position drills in preseason camp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The future is bright for this program.

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.