Quarterback Kyle Stewart Has Left The Team

August 13, 2009 · Filed Under Football, News · Comment 

Thunderjags and learned that freshman quarterback Kyle Stewart has left the team for personal and family reasons. He is planning to enroll at Florida State in January and probably will not play football. We hate to see him go, he had tremendous potential and a pretty strong arm, but we all can understand that family has to come first.

Jaguars Wrap Up Week One And Begin The Critical Week Two Of Practice

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Saturday August 8, 2009

Saturday morning the Jaguars hit the field for their fifth consecutive day of fall practice. But this day the Jaguars took the field in full pads for the first time this fall.

They started the practice with about an hour of drills then the offensive and defensive units played against each other in a full-contact ‘mini’ scrimmage.

Myles Gibbon took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense, however Coach Jones was quick to say that its still too early to name a starting quarterback. “We’ve got three guys working,” he said. “Kyle Stewart would be involved, but he’s injured right now. With the other three it’s close. Some guys do things better than others, but I’m really holding back until we see them for a couple of weeks because you don’t want to make a comment based on one or two practices.”

Gibbon was quoted after practice saying, “We all have different abilities that we excel in, so we’re all just battling for that spot. Every time we make a good throw it boosts us up, or every time we make a good read it boosts us up. Coach is right, it’s really close right now.”

The Jaguars offensive line opened some holes to help create a couple long runs and also helped Sophomore running back Brandon Ross score a 12-yard touchdown (an the only touchdown) at the end of practice.

Coach Jones thought the defensive unit was pretty good at times but also mentioned they gave up too many big runs. He continued, “If we can stop that, stop the 25 or 30-yard run, and make that a seven-yard run, then I’d feel a lot better about what we’re doing. But we can’t give up 25 and 30-yard runs.”

The practice ended with a bit of competition for the kickers. Each of the four place kickers lined up for 42-yard field goals to determine how many gassers the team would have to run. The offensive and defensive units formed a tunnel down the hash marks to cheer them on, and also to give them some pressure. combined they went 2-for-4 but Coach Jones gave them a double or nothing opportunity, which the team accepted. However the final attempt was just a little wide right, thus the team had four gassers to end practice.

Coach Jones commented about the end of practice competition by saying, “We want to continue to do that with our kickers. We want to constantly put pressure on them, because that’s what it is – they have to run out on the field after standing on the sideline for 30 minutes to kick a game-winning field goal. We’re trying to get them used to that situation. If you apply a lot of pressure on the kids in practice then the games are easy.”

The real challenge is coming in the second week of practice according to Coach Jones. “The first game is going to depend on how we do this second week. I’ve been coaching for about 18 years now, and that second week is vitally important for us to get better. It’s like I told the players, we’re in a tunnel right now and there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve just got to keep working and working and working until we find some light, and hopefully that’s going to be here in about two or three weeks.”

Sunday was the teams first day off of fall camp but they returned to the field on Monday at 7am.

Monday August 10, 2009

The Jaguars are entering the second and most critical week of practice according to Coach Jones. This week ushers in the first two-a-day practices and their first fall scrimmage. “We’ve challenged the team,” Coach Jones said. “This second week has to be the best week of practice we’re going to have. “What we do this week is going to determine our identity. This is not a fun week – there’s no game coming up, they’re tired, we have two-a-days; all reasons for them to quit and give up – so if we can do it this week we will be able to do it throughout the year. If we can fight through that this week I know that we will get better as a football team during the rest of the season.”

The staff has several goals this week according to Coach Jones. They need to develop a depth chart, make progress with the playbook and focus on a segment of special teams that did not receive a lot of work in the first five practices. Coach Jones wants to hone the Jaguar kicking game. He said, “We’ve worked on parts of it so far, but we need to start putting that together so we have our base packages in by the end of the week. We also need to find out who our special teams players are going to be, and that goes back to the depth chart. We want to find guys who are backups, but good athletes who want to play – I’d rather have those guys on special teams in the game if they can earn the spot.” Coach Jones continued, “In an ideal world you want every special teams guy to be a backup player, but we are going to put our best players out there on special teams because we want to win. This just opens a door for backups to get on the field.”

Improvement was the running theme after practice from several players. Redshirt freshman linebacker Josh Chestang commented that the depth chart can change every day, so they have to continue to improve every day and not give up. Also redshirt freshman offensive lineman Trey Clark said, “Despite the heat and the two-a-days, we need to get better every day.”

Monday’s practice went from 7am until about 9am but starting on Tuesday, they will begin two-a-days with the first starting at 7am and the second starting at 3:30pm with each expecting to last about two hours.

After five straight days of practice last week, Sunday was a good day of rest for the team. Defensive coordinator Bill Clark said, “It was nice. We went to church and had a nice lunch before coming back for some meetings,” It gave us a chance to get our legs back underneath us, so it was good to have the day off. We needed it, especially after three days of hitting and getting after it.”

After five grueling days of practice, Coach Jones knew that the team needed a break. “Any time you go through a long week of practice, your body and your mind get worn down,” said Coach Jones. He also followed that up with a good compliment about Monday mornings practice by saying, “But, they responded great this morning.” Furthermore, he gave the team some high praise to begin this critical and challenging week by saying, “This is one of the best groups I have ever been around as far as coming out prepared mentally and physically for practice. I haven’t been around a group like this in a long time.”

The practice started with about 15 minutes of kickoff coverage adn return drills. Then this was followed by about 25 minutes of position drills. Next the offense and defense broke off into two units to square off in the next drill. Offensive line and running backs against the defensive front seven and safeties while the quarterbacks and receivers worked against defensive backs.

Around mid way through practice, the offense ran 7-on-7 skeleton passing drills against linebackers and db’s for about 15 minutes. The final 50 minutes of practice was situational work. About 20 minutes was devoted to running plays against scout teams.

The offense had three downs to get the first. On its first three attempts, they were successful. It was started with an eight yard run by Brandon Ross on the first snap. Nick Owens hit Corey Besteda on third down to get a first down. Then Gibbon hit Ralph Turner with a pass for another first down. But then the defense responded with three stops in a row, which included with two possessions ending with fumble recoveries. The second fumble was forced by Matt Saucier and recovered by Alex Page.

The day ended with about 10 minutes of third down situational drills.

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.

South Alabama Sports Round-Up 2009-07-06

July 6, 2009 · Filed Under Football, News · 1 Comment 

Summer is that time of year when college sports really slows down. Baseball season has ended, football camp is about a month away and most people are trying to find some way to beat the heat. But now that there is some news to write about and its a mere 60 days until kickoff of the inaugural South Alabama football season, we have another South Alabama Sports Round-Up to get out.

Athletic Director

With less than a month until Joe Gottfried hangs up his AD hat for retirement, South Alabama has not been forthcoming about potential replacements as of yet. However I would expect that to start to ramp up very soon with the committee set to reconvene sometime early this month to review candidates. President Moulton has gave the committee a target date of September 1st to have the job filled.

The Mobile Press-Register wrote not too long ago about some candidates that were interested in the position, two of them with previous ties to the university and Mobile itself. John Hartwell, who is the executive associate athletic director for Ole Miss and Joel Erdmann who is the Athletic Director at Southeastern Louisiana have both confirmed that they are interested in the position.

But Erdmann and Hartwell are not the only ones expressing interest in the position. Johnny Williams, former AD at Troy University, has expressed interest in the job. Plus people close to Birmingham-Southern AD Joe Dean Jr. has indicated that he might be interested in the position as well.

Dr. John Smith, vice president for student affairs and faculty athletics representative, is chairing the search committee and has stated that as of late June, there have been 23 applications received for the position with more expected to be received.

Erdmann and Hartwell speak highly of the potential that USA has since the addition of football to its sports program and likening the potential of South Alabama’s success to the quick rise of South Florida since the inception of football at their school.

Football

Speaking of football, coach Jones said that about 95% of USA’s scholarship players were on campus for the first summer session which started in May. Now with the second summer session starting in late June, Coach Jones now has 100% of his scholarship kids on campus as well as most of their walk-ons as well.

Most of the kids have already qualified with the exception of a couple kids they are waiting to see how well they do in summer classes. Matt Autry is expected to enroll in Jones County JC and hopefully will rejoin the Jaguars once he has gained eligibility.

In order to get down to the 30 scholarship limit for the 2009 class, there will be several players grayshirted. So far the grayshirts for this year will be Linebacker Mytez Madden, Saftey Zach Brownell, Defensive Lineman Will Thompson and ATH Mardavian Martin. Jared Palmer, WR from Tuscaloosa, will either be grayshirted or will attend JC depending on his academics. QB Early James and OL Chris Payne, who were mid-semester JC signees, have left the program.

August 2nd will be the first official team meetings and will becing practice on August 4th. Coach Jones anticipates a healthy roster to being practice with only a few players involved in minor rehab at this time. Receiver Christopher Pugh has a torn meniscus, but is currently working out and going to rehab and hopes to be ready once practice starts. Also it was overheard that Coach Turner (one of the brothers) had a staph infection on his hand. I don’t have any details about what type of infection he might have had, but its probably the a simple infection due to a cut.

Staph Infection from WebMD: “About 25% of people normally carry staph in the nose, mouth, genitals, and anal area. The foot is also very prone to pick up bacteria from the floor. The infection often begins with a little cut, which gets infected with bacteria. These staph infections range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to flesh-eating infections. The difference between all these is how deep and how fast the infection spreads, and how treatable it is with antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant infections are more common in North America, because of our overuse of antibiotics. The type of staph infection that involves skin is called cellulitis and affects the skin’s deeper layers. It is treatable with antibiotics. This type of infection is very common in the general population — and more common and more severe in people with weak immune systems. People who have diabetes or weakened immunity are particularly prone to developing cellulitis.”

Obviously lots of interest will be on the quarterback position starting in August. With the #1 guy in the spring, Matt Saucier, moving to safety, the position is really up for grabs. The most experienced should be Oregan State transfer Brennan Sim. But Nic Owens, Myles Gibbon and Kyle Stewart will definitely be battling for the starting position.

Coach Jones was quoted saying, “We have four good candidates coming in. The he hard part of that is that we’re going to have to give reps to someone and get them ready. People don’t realize that when you are starting a new program you have to make a decision on a quarterback fairly quick because if you fool around for two weeks and give four people all the reps than they won’t know many of the plays. We’re going to have to do a great job of evaluating those kids in the first week. I think at the end of the first week we need to decide who is one, two and three, not that it will be etched in stone.”

Like I have been saying, what is probably the best situation for the Jags is to have Brennan Sim (JR) to win the starting job with one of the freshmen as his backup. Then giving the other two a redshirt to give them an extra year of maturity and understanding of Coach Gregory’s system.

Season tickets sales are around 6.000 so far and USA has a goal of selling 10,000. With that many season ticket holders, the Jaguars would lead the Sun Belt before even playing their first season. If you haven’t purchased your season tickets yet, what are you waiting for? Saturday afternoons in Mobile will be a great answer to ‘what are we doing this weekend?’ and for $85 for seven games, you’re not going to get off that cheap anywhere else.