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 South Alabama Jaguar football team took a vote of its players and selected the 2012 season’s four permanent captains. The players selected and were announced at the end of Thursday’s practice. The players selected were: Center Trey Clark, linebacker Jake Johnson, defensive back B.J. Scott and defensive end Anthony Taylor.
Each of the four players have contributed heavily to the Jaguars success on the field. Clark has started every single game in the program’s history so far.
Also, each of the players selected are seniors who will be recognized prior to kickoff against Middle Tennessee on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Saturday’s game is the Jaguars final home game of the 2012 campaign and thus is Senior Day.
“It means a lot, especially coming from my peers,” Mobile native B.J. Scott said. “It means that I have the respect of my teammates and it lets me know that they believe in me and they think highly of me. I’m just going to go out there and lead them and be the guy that they chose.”
“To me, that’ the highest honor you get,” Jags head coach Joey Jones said. “Your stats and leading tackler in conference is big, being able to have tackles and catch passes and whatever you do stat-wise, that’s something you’ll remember. But you’ll always remember being a captain. It’s the biggest honor on the team because thats what everybody else on the team thinks of you. They think you’re the guy to put in front of them.”
“These four guys have been great examples of leadership on our team” Jones continued. “We have others certainly on this team, but those four guys were picked by their teammates.”
South Alabama returned to the practice field on Tuesday to continue preparation for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee State.
“We had a pretty good day today,” head coach Joey Jones said. “I think we had a good one from the standpoint that they were paying attention and they had a good inside drill today, running the football on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. I thought we had a goods crisp period where they got after it and on Tuesday’s you’ve got to have a good physical practice because you’ve got to carry it over to the game.”
Similar to last week, the Jags practiced in shells and will most likely do it again on Wednesday as well. As they are in the midst of a long stretch of games with three more to go the staff does not want to over extend the players while still working on keeping them sharp and implementing the game plan for their next opponent.
Coach Jones also said in his weekly radio show that Demetre Baker was doubtful for the Jags game this weekend. This will likely put Kendall Houston as the starter against the Blue Raiders on Saturday. Baker missed the second half against North Texas with an ankle sprain suffered in the second quarter.
Houston has 185 yards on 71 carries this season and has made appearances in all 10 games. Baker is the teams leading rusher with 595 yards on the season.
Clifton Crews, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter against North Texas, is probable for this weekends game. He will still have to pass a battery of tests to make sure there are no lingering affects from the concussion before that decision is finalized.
Prior to this Saturday’s game, the University will honor 15 seniors in a pre-game ceremony. Trey Clark, B.J. Scott and Jake Johnson have started all 10 games this season. Cori Barnett and Brandon Ross have not seen the playing field this season due to injuries.
Ryne Baxter, Jonathan Cameron, Michel Chapuseaux, Andy Dalgleish, Kennedy Helms, Ellis Hill, Gabe Loper, Chris Rivers, Tremain Smith and Anthony Taylor will all join the previously mentioned players to be honored as the 2012 senior class.
“I want to thank our seniors for all they have done and committed to this football program, for what they have meant not only to this university but to our team,” said Coach Jones. “They are great leaders and great young men, they care about this team and have done all the right things to build this program from the ground up. Some of the guys have been here the whole time, some have transferred in, but the bottom line is that they have all contributed in great ways. They will be forever missed because they have done a good job here, they have created an atmosphere of hard work and character. We will be indebted to them forever.”
“I think this is a special day, it really is, because you almost treat it a little differently since it is your last day to play at home,” he continued. “Not that you are going to go out and play any harder, because those guys are going to play hard anyway, but you look at it with a little different perspective because you realize this is your last one. There are not many things in life that you know are going to end, maybe retirement.”
The parking lot at Ladd-Peebles Stadium will open at 8am for tailgating and gates to the stadium will open at 12:30pm. The Jaguar Prowl will take place around 12:10pm in the South parking lot. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30pm.
The University of South Alabama held their weekly media day on Monday with head coach Joey Jones along with seniors Trey Clark and Jake Johnson. They reflected on the teams loss at North Texas and previewed this weekend’s game against Middle Tennessee State.
Below are highlights from the press conference.
Head coach Joey Jones opened the press conference with his opening statement. “I want to thank our seniors for all they have done and committed to this football program, for what they have meant not only to this university but to our team. They are great leaders and great young men, they care about this team and have done all the right things to build this program from the ground up. Some of the guys have been here the whole time, some have transferred in, but the bottom line is that they have all contributed in great ways. They will be forever missed because they have done a good job here, they have created an atmosphere of hard work and character. We will be indebted to them forever.”
He then spoke about Senior Day this weekend. “I think this is a special day, it really is, because you almost treat it a little differently since it is your last day to play [at home]. Not that you are going to go out and play any harder, because those guys are going to play hard anyway, but you look at it with a little different perspective because you realize this is your last one. There are not many things in life that you know are going to end, maybe retirement. They [the seniors] plan for it a little bit and react in a great way but if they come out with the same attitude that they have all year long then they will enjoy the day very much and take it all in.”
Jones then fielded a question about frustration at being close to winning several games without actually getting the win. “I don’t know that there is anyone more frustrated than I was after the game. I didn’t talk to my wife, I didn’t talk to anyone on the plane coming back, I’m just that way. The next day I wake up and the sun comes up.”
“It has been difficult,” he continued. “One of the things we showed our players today is video of all the plays that had we made we would have won the ballgame the opportunities missed. Not that you are going to make every play every game, but there are certainly 12 to 15 plays in a game that if we make them the game is close and we win. That’s the difficult thing, leaving plays on the field. You’ve got to make those plays. You hear coaches say it all the time, you have three to five plays a game that make the difference.”
“Unfortunately — and fortunately — we are in Division I football right now, and the margin of winning in this conference are about that much [fingers held approximately an inch apart]. Right now we are not making those plays to win the ballgame at the end. Against FAU we did, we made a bunch of plays in the end. They are not difficult, astronomical diving catches, you just have to make simple plays and execute, throw it, catch it, tackle somebody. That’s the negative side of it.”
“The positive side of it is that we are putting ourselves in a position to win games in our first year [in the league]. But all of that doesn’t matter because we are here to win ballgames. We’re not young anymore, we’re 10 games into the season, so we have got to develop and be able to make those plays in games to be successful. I told our players this morning that they are growing up at this point, you’ve got to take the responsibility to look ahead of time and see yourself making those plays. It’s not good enough to just get to the fourth quarter, we have to make those plays in the fourth quarter. We have to coach better, everybody’s unit has to do better.”
“We’ve learned a lot from this season. We’ve learned how tough it is in the Sun Belt Conference. You look at Louisiana-Lafayette take Florida to the wire and Middle Tennessee beating Georgia Tech, it’s a tough league. Florida Atlantic beat Western Kentucky this past weekend, and we beat Florida Atlantic. It isn’t very far from the top to the bottom of the conference. I think in years past it has been a big gap, but right now there’s not a big gap at all between the top and bottom. We had to step in during a year when the Sun Belt is very good, but it has helped us learn a lot about what we have to do as a program to get better and be able to beat some of those teams. We are in that learning stage right now.”
Jones then spokes about Middle Tennessee State, who visits Mobile this weekend. “Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State are probably the two hottest teams in the league right now, they beat Western Kentucky a couple of weeks ago and beat Georgia Tech, they know how to win. The only loss they have in the conference was to ULM when ULM still had their [starting] quarterback. They are playing very good football.”
“They’re running backs are very deep, they have a great offensive line, a good quarterback and a couple of stud receivers on offense” Jones explained. “You can’t just say that you are going to take away the run or take away the pass, they can do both very well. They are very balanced on offense.”
“Defensively, they are very athletic. Tyrone Nix, their defensive coordinator, has been all over the place coaching, he is a very knowledgeable guy who understands the game and how to get those kids to play hard for him. They are a very well-coached team, and that’s why they are in the position they are right now, they’re very good.”
“I know if they win the next couple of weeks they’ve got a chance to play for the [conference] championship with Arkansas State being their last game. I’m sure that’s what their eyes are on right now.”
Senior Offensive lineman Trey Clark, the only player to start all 37 games in the programs history. He began by talking about Senior Day this weekend. “I’m sure with it being our last game as seniors at Ladd-Peebles Stadium that it is going to be emotional with a lot of energy. It’s important for us to stay focused on playing well and trying to get a win. It’s going to be emotional, but we have to stay focused on Middle Tennessee.”
Clark then spoke about what his time at South Alabama has meant to him. “It means a great deal. I’m so fortunate to have been given such a great opportunity to come and play. I have made so many friends and memories along the way, I’m just so thankful and grateful for the opportunities I have been given. I’m looking forward to Saturday and getting a win for our last home game.”
Next he spoke about the Jaguars overall record. “It can be very frustrating, especially the way we have lost these past several weeks. But I’m so proud of my teammates and the coaches because we haven’t given up. We come to practice every day with the attitude that we are going to improve and win. I’m so proud of our attitude and willingness to keep going despite the adversity.”
Clark then spoke about the development of the offense this season. “It helps any time you have players stepping into a role and actually getting game experience, and it certainly helps once you get a few games under your belt. We were still really close the first couple of games. Here of late, we have made strides and put it together more. The young guys have done a great job, and have improved all season.”
Senior Linebacker Jake Johnson also spoke about Senior Day this weekend. “It’s going to be emotional for all of the seniors heading into our last game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the last game here in Mobile in front of our fans – it’s going to be hard. But once that game is over you get over it. We have to stay focused on Middle Tennessee and what our opponent does.”
Johnson also spoke about what his time at South Alabama has meant to him. “It means a lot to me. I transferred here [from Virginia Tech], I just wanted to play again. I didn’t want to play a position that I knew I wasn’t going to play. I wanted to play a position that I could excel at and make it to the next level. I found my home here at South Alabama, and I have had a great experience my first two years along with this year. I wouldn’t change anything for the world. We have played tough every single game this year, there have just been a few bumps in the road each game but we’re right there. My experience has been great here, and I can’t wait to continue it with these next three games.”
He also spoke about the Jaguars overall record this season. “It’s disappointing after the game. Nobody wants to lose. But it does give you the hope being that we are in just about every game. We’re right there every game, right down to the fourth quarter. It gives me the hope that we can get it done and put it all together.”
Johnson then previewed Middle Tennessee State this weekend. “They are a good offense. They have a great quarterback, and a good athletic offensive line. They come off the ball probably faster than anybody we will play this year. They have a good running back and good receivers, they are a good all-around team. We just have to eliminate the big plays. Doing the little things in practice this week are what is going to help us get over that hump.”
South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State kick off at 2:30pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The University of South Alabama continues to have new firsts in the program. This time the University has multiple individuals that have been named to the first-team Capital One Academic All-District 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Senior Trey Clark and junior Alex Page were honored on Thursday when they released the list.
This is the second consecutive year that Clark has been named to the team. They advance to the Capital One Academic All-America Team ballot. The first, second and third-team All-America honorees are expected to be announced on Thursday, December 6.
Clark, from Prattville, Alabama, is the only individual in school history to start each of the program’s 36 games. So far this fall he has been on the field for every snap the offense has taken. In addition to being named to the All-District team a year ago, he was also a member of the FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team.
Alex Page, also a Prattville natice, rankes second in the Sun Belt in sacks and is in the top 10 with tackles for loss.
In order to be eligible for academic all-district honors, individuals must have a sophomore stadium both academically and athletically, be a starter or important reserve and maintain a minimum of a 3.30 cumulative GPA.
South Alabama held its final practice before the Jags travel to Starkville, Mississippi to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The coaching staff continued to stress improvements to its third-down conversions.
During the practice that spanned around two hours, the Jags continued to prepare on both sides of the ball for the Bulldog players. They also continued to work on the teams mindset prior to this weekends game.
“We had good preparation I thought,” head coach Joey Jones said. “The coaches came out and did a good job. The players came out and had a good day and they were concentrating on what they were doing. We’ve got a great task at hand and they understand that. So I think they’re focused on what they were doing.”
“We’re a young football program, so the biggest thing we’ve got to do is stay the course,” he continued. “We can’t get frustrated when things go wrong and we have to become a better team each week. We know where we are, we’re young and we’re trying to prove ourselves, and the biggest thing I want to do is gain respect from our opponents in how we play. That’s one of my main goals each week when we go out is to gain respect and that’s not different when we’re playing a team like Mississippi State.”
According to the Press-Register, defensive lineman Romelle Jones will not play in Saturday’s game. Jones, a 6’2″ 275-pound junior from New Orleans had an MRI on his shoulder Tuesday which indicated he had a partial dislocation. He is expected to miss two to three weeks. However it was mentioned that Jones had a non-season ending knee injury earlier this week.
Jesse Kelley is expected to start in his place against Mississippi State. Jones had played in all three previous games this season and had earned his first start of the season against NC 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.
You may already know the cliche “defense wins championships.” Over the last three college football seasons you can see that a stifling defense does win championships. While South Alabama is far from that level, they do have a very experienced defense.
The team was unclassified by the NCAA in their first two years of competition so the players who joined the team were allowed to participate in games during their redshirt season. This allows them to play in all five of their seasons of eligibility.
The defense is the more experienced side of the ball. Four seniors, six juniors and a sophomore on the first team defense. The senior starters are Anthony Taylor at Jack linebacker, Jake Johnson at Mike linebacker, B.J. Scott at safety and Andy Dalgleish at nose tackle.
Junior defensive starters include Montavious Williams at tackle, Alex Page at end, Clifton Crews at Sam linebacker, Enrique William at Will linebacker, Darrius Marrow at cornerback and Tyrell Pearson at cornerback. Alonzo Long is the only sophomore starting on the defense at strong safety. Long and Pearson are both JuCo transfers.
There are five sophomore starters on the offense with five of them entering into their third season of play. They are joined by one senior, two juniors and one redshirt freshman. Trey Clark at Center is the only Senior slated in as a starter with Tremain Smith listed as a possible starter at right tackle. Junior starters are Bryant Lavender with Greg Hollinger and Corey Waldon both listed as optional starters. Sophomore starters are Drew Dearman at left guard, Shaun Artz at right guard, C.J. Bennett at quarterback and Demetre Baker at running back with Wes Saxton at tight end, Ucambre Williams at left tackle, Melvin Meggs, Jereme Jones at receiver are all optional starters.
So when the Jags hit the field on *Thursday, they will be an experienced team ready for competition. While they are not eligible for the Sun Belt Conference championship hopefully the experience on the defense, and on offense for that matter, will translate into a very competitive season.
The size and experience is what worries UTSA defensive coordinator Neal Neathery. He mentioned that Baker and Kendall Houston took turns exploiting holes opened up by the offensive line in the Jaguars 30-27 win in the Alamodome. “Both of the (backs) they played were physical, strong, in between the tackles runners. I thought it was a game where we didn’t feel great about ourselves when it was over when it comes to who was the tougher team,” Neathery said.
“Just as a unit last year they were probably the toughest, most physical offensive line we played,” Neathery said. “They were really good, and their running backs had a lot to do with that.”
* Currently the Jaguars are set to kickoff on Thursday, August 30th against Texas-San Antonio but Tropical Storm Isaac could postpone the game.
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.