College Football Countdown | No. 72: South Alabama

There are 4,779,475 people vital in Alabama, per a 2010 United States Census, and 5 Football Bowl Subdivision programs within a Yellowhammer State’s borders, definition there’s an FBS propagandize for any 955,949 Alabamans. That assumes any Alabaman identifies as a fan of college football, that seems like a protected assumption.

It’s further protected to assume that usually a tiny commission of this football-crazed state identifies with South Alabama, if for 3 reasons in particular: one, a university usually non-stop a doors in 1964, 133 years after a state’s flagship university did a same; two, a propagandize boasts a stream enrollment of 15,311 students, a fewest of these 5 in-state FBS schools; and 3 – and this many of all – a Jaguars began play in 2009, by that time a Crimson Tide had claimed 12 of their 15 inhabitant championships.

But USA knows how to butter a bread in Alabama, that is zero if not overly usurpation and embracing of college football – and some-more welcoming and ancillary than any when it comes to winning college football.

That’s what a Jaguars have done, by and large, given opening for business 5 years ago. The 2009 organisation went 7-0, feasting on informal troops academies and prep schools. The 2010 chronicle went 10-0, commanding a handful of Football Championship Subdivision foes. After a indolent entrance in a transition to a FBS – a two-win finish in 2012 – USA leapt to 6-6 final fall, entrance within one win of a share of a Sun Belt Conference title.

The result: South Alabama is creation sound even in a state installed to a gills with football, college football, and is commencement to carve out a niche as one of the up-and-coming, non-major programs in a Southeast. There’s some-more than adequate wins in this state to go around, right?

LAST YEAR’S PREDICTION:

Let’s remember that while USA has reached a 85-scholarship barometer, this module is still identifying, recruiting and building talent – a module is removing there, nonetheless it’s not utterly during a indicate where it can be hold adult opposite a league’s best. This year competence not go well, nonetheless a pieces are in place for continued growth over a subsequent 12 games.

2013 RECAP:

In a nutshell: Four of USA’s 6 wins came opposite bowl-eligible competition: Tulane, Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette. Four of a Jaguars’ 6 waste came by dual points or reduction – two points or less: Southern Utah, Troy, Texas State and Arkansas State. A fifth defeat, during Tennessee, came by a touchdown – nonetheless a Volunteers did lead 31-7 early in a second half. During a final 3 weeks of a unchanging season, a Jaguars rubbed Georgia State, a Warhawks and a Ragin’ Cajuns by a sum measure of 104-39; USA took a 30-0 halftime lead opposite a banged-up ULL organisation eying a undisguised SBC title. The Jaguars tripled their win total, came within a indicate of a common Sun Belt championship, exceeded all preseason expectations, lifted a bar for 2014 and combined a name for themselves in and out of a conference.

High point: Topping a Cajuns in a finale. Between ULL, Tulane and WKU, a Jaguars surfaced a contingent of play teams.

Low point: All those single-digit losses. USA would’ve surfaced Southern Utah during any indicate after a initial Saturday of a season, we imagine. But a misfortune was Arkansas State, a 17-16 letdown that handed a Red Wolves nonetheless another common or undisguised discussion championship. What USA should take from that game: You can’t win a Sun Belt yet initial violence ASU.

Tidbit: South Alabama was one of 14 teams to boost a win sum by 4 or some-more from 2012 to 2013, fasten Boston College (2-10 to 7-6), Duke (6-7 to 10-4), Michigan State (7-6 to 13-1), Iowa (4-8 to 8-5), Marshall (5-7 to 10-4), Tulane (2-10 to 7-6), Buffalo (4-8 to 8-5), Akron (1-11 to 5-7), Colorado State (4-8 to 8-6), UNLV (2-11 to 7-6), Missouri (5-7 to 12-2), Auburn (3-9 to 12-2) and North Texas (4-8 to 9-4).

Tidbit (coaching edition): Only 3 members of South Alabama’s staff have been along for a float for any of a program’s 7 years of existence, dating behind to a initial arrangement in 2007, counting Joey Jones himself. The others are parsimonious ends manager John Turner and defensive tackles manager Brian Turner. Another 4 members of Jones’ staff are in their second or third year, including descent coordinator Robert Matthews, while 3 new names join a module in 2014: inside linebackers manager Mike Adams, far-reaching receivers manager Tim Bowens and using backs manager Robby Brown.

ARBITRARY TOP FIVE LIST:

Jacksonville Jaguars greats

1. Tony Boselli
2. Fred Taylor
3. Mark Brunell
4. Jimmy Smith
5. Maurice Jones-Drew

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Offense: There are many things to like about South Alabama – as we competence consider from this preseason ranking – nonetheless nothing make me hee-haw as many as a intensity adult front, where USA earnings not usually 4 starters nonetheless blends in a fifth gifted hand, Melvin Meggs, after a youth missed all of final deteriorate due to injury. Meggs, a multiple-year starter before going down final offseason, will step right behind into a starting purpose during right guard; that shifts comparison Shaun Artz to center, where he’ll conflict sophomore Joseph Scelfo in a foe to reinstate Matt Calcagnini. Rounding out a interior is comparison left ensure Drew Dearman, a usually prolific run-game participation who should conflict for all-conference honors. But a line is during a tip turn on a edges, where both youth Cody May and comparison Ucambre Williams arrange among a league’s best. Here’s a story, in my eyes: USA has all-conference linemen during left tackle, left guard, right ensure and right tackle. Well, that’s flattering damn impressive. My confidence stems in poignant partial from a peculiarity of this line.

The Jaguars’ backfield will get some assistance from a new starting quarterback – either that’s one of a dual options we’ll hold on subsequent – nonetheless is glorious on a own, interjection to a returning entertain of gifted rushers. It’s a four-headed group, yeah, nonetheless there’s a leader: Jay Jones (737 yards) should do a clever apportionment of a complicated lifting, as was a box a year ago. His primary backup could be youth Terrance Timmons, who incited in a unequivocally clever spring, nonetheless there should still be touches for seniors Cris Dinham (234 yards) and Kendall Houston (207 yards), Jones’ pot final fall. Houston is an object nearby a idea line, nonetheless that hasn’t translated to any grade of efficacy in short-yardage situations outward a red zone.

The Jaguars are sanctified with a Sun Belt’s best parsimonious end, comparison Wes Saxton (50 receptions for 635 yards), and 5 far-reaching receivers estimable of varying grade of commendation: Shavarez Smith (50 for 940), Danny Woodson II (26 for 439), Jeremé Jones (40 for 457), T.J. Glover and Marvin Shinn. Smith’s an glorious Sun Belt receiver, approaching among a league’s tip dual or 3 during a position streamer into a fall; he’s glorious during jolt giveaway of defensive backs after a initial 10 yards from a line of scrimmage, a ability coaches can’t teach. Woodson and Jones are plain interrelated targets, any sensitively stepping brazen when given a opportunity. Glover, meanwhile, used a clever offseason to squeeze a incomparable purpose in a rotation. Then there’s Shinn, a former Alabama send with Smith-like distance – Shinn is listed during 210 pounds, so he competence be a bit bigger – and a jaunty certification to be a glorious success. The receivers are nice, nonetheless you’ll unequivocally suffer examination Saxton go to work.

Defense: There are some estimable gaps to fill along a front 7 of USA’s softened nonetheless still worrisome defense, one maybe best tangible as mixed within a simple horizon of a 4-3 set. The front four, for example, uses dual interior linemen flanked by dual hybrid-style ends – consider Alabama, kind of – a crew organisation that can means massacre on flitting downs nonetheless also get mauled during times on early downs, it should be said. The front will build around comparison nose tackle Jesse Kelly (34 tackles, 6.5 for loss), a sole returning starter, and comparison tackle Jerome McClain (34 tackles, 4.5 for loss), a former haven unequivocally prepared for a pierce into a starting lineup. USA hopes JUCO send Bryson Johnson can fast grasp a invulnerability and supplement depth, if not squeeze starter’s snaps; he’s an unknown, nonetheless Johnson has a support to make an clear impact in this rotation. I’m distant some-more endangered about a edges: USA contingency reinstate Pat Moore and Alex Page with some multiple of Theo Rice, JUCO send Jimmie Gipson and a handful of different underclassmen, and we clarity a decrease in pass-rush production. In total, a 4 over seniors from final year’s line revolution accounted for 64.5% of USA’s 38.0 sacks – a sum that led a Sun Belt by a estimable margin.

The front 7 as a whole is a bit worrisome, in my mind, nonetheless not yet potential. At linebacker, for example, USA earnings comparison Maleki Harris (63 tackles, 8.5 for loss) on a clever side and adds a JUCO transfer, Demarius Rancifer – he started his career during Kentucky – to a foe to reinstate Enrique Williams in a middle. For now, Rancifer will be chasing comparison Desmond LaVelle, a post-spring starter during a position. Creating additional abyss on a second turn should be high on a Jaguars’ list of priorities streamer into tumble camp.

This invulnerability would be onto something if it could mix final year’s pass rush with this season’s secondary. Consider: USA was disposed to lapses in a backfield final fall, permitting 14 flitting plays of 40 or some-more yards, nonetheless this could be tied behind to a group’s altogether youth; a year later, a Jaguars are set to start 3 seniors in a secondary, including both cornerbacks. If not utterly in Arkansas State’s class, a Jaguars’ cornerback twin of Qudarius Ford (76 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Montell Garner (60 tackles, 3 interceptions) is among a best in a Sun Belt – and a Jaguars are assured in pot Anthony Harris and Antonio Carver, with a latter again set to offer as a team’s nickel back. Perhaps a usually slight warn has been a play of sophomore clever haven Roman Buchanan, who will reinstate Charles Watson and join comparison giveaway haven Terrell Brigham (65 tackles) in a starting lineup. Another actor to watch: JUCO send Nigel Green is going to record vital mins somewhere in a secondary.

Special teams: South Alabama’s found a screw in sophomore kicker Aleem Sunanon, who done 18-of-23 margin idea tries as a rookie. I’d gamble on a beginner fasten him during punter, observant that USA inked a span of specialists, Zac Henry and Corliss Waitman, in February’s class. Glover does a complicated lifting in a lapse game, and he does it well.

POSITION(S) TO WATCH:

Quarterback: As expected, Brandon Bridge exited open drills as a favorite to reinstate Ross Metheny, a former Virginia send who excelled as a comparison during drastically tying his mental missteps – pleat his interceptions scarcely in half, accomplishing a tip object on USA’s to-do list entering a unchanging season. Bridge served as a backup final fall, personification in 9 games and creation 66 attempts, many in a year’s initial half; Bridge’s many impactful opening came in a haven purpose during Troy, where he strike on 11-of-20 attempts for 235 yards in that one-point defeat. So this was no surprise: Bridge was a starter, followed by sophomore Trey Fetner, followed by redshirt beginner Grant Powell. A new further might replenish a competition. This week, USA brought in South Florida send Matt Floyd – authorised immediately – with a hopes of bolstering abyss during a position, if not giving Bridge a run for a starting pursuit during tumble camp. we wouldn’t go as distant as to contend Floyd will be a starter – he was unimpressive with a Bulls – nonetheless his dual-threat ability could supplement another dimension to a offense; Floyd could fill a purpose in certain packages, spelling Bridge and adding another arms on a ground.

GAME(S) TO WATCH:

November: Let’s usually go with a whole month, given USA’s hopes of a play bid or some grade of discussion row hinges on how it closes opposite a lethal five-game slate. It starts with highway dates with Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, a tip dual teams in a Sun Belt, before entrance behind home for Texas State; a Jaguars afterwards go to South Carolina before shutting a deteriorate in Mobile opposite Navy. we consider a sixth or seventh win comes in Nov – depending on how good USA fares in a early going – nonetheless this will be a tough widen for this organisation to handle.

SEASON BREAKDOWN PREDICTION:

In a nutshell: we consider this organisation can win a Sun Belt. Five reasons: one, confidence; two, athleticism; three, a detonate on offense; four, a intensity on defense; and five, a considerable peculiarity of a starting 22. Confidence shouldn’t be an emanate for USA, that sealed final deteriorate with a develop before leaping into a successful offseason – so far, during least. After concealment 6 wins final fall, this organisation has set a baseline for 2014 during 7 or some-more wins and a top-three finish in a Sun Belt. The Jaguars’ athleticism is clear scarcely opposite a board, nonetheless during a ability positions in particular. This is a gifted team; this is a assured team. Put those resources in unison and we have a unequivocally dangerous organisation – maybe one able of relocating forward of Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State in a foe of a discussion title.

I’m going to brace USA in third, nonetheless it’s a sincerely tighten competition. My usually emanate on offense is a quarterback, nonetheless even that comes with a shade of positivity: USA will approximate a new starter – let’s contend it’s Bridge – with an positively glorious line, a low and gifted receiver corps and a solid backfield, nonetheless a Jaguars’ using backs aren’t overly impressive. All Bridge would need to do, in short, is take caring of business – like Metheny final fall, after slicing down on his mistakes. On defense, we simply consternation if a Jaguars can come tighten to replicating final year’s pass rush. If so, this organisation has a increasing knowledge in a delegate to make things formidable on a league’s best offenses.

I’m observant 7 wins during a unchanging season, maybe eight, and a rather tighten foe to a finish line with a Cajuns and Red Wolves. ULL seems beastly; ASU again changes coaches nonetheless contingency be noticed as a unequivocally picturesque contender for eight-plus wins and a common or undisguised discussion championship. If USA does win this thing – and I’m unequivocally meditative they could go 6-2 in a SBC, if not 7-1 – it’ll be on a backs of this glorious descent front, clever receiver corps and deeper defense. If a Jaguars finish reduce than third, it’ll be as a outcome of subpar quarterback play, diseased run invulnerability and a insignificant pass rush. There are some things to address, nonetheless don’t nap on South Alabama’s ability to make a run during a SBC crown.

Dream season: South Alabama goes 9-3, losing to a dual SEC foes and Navy, and nets a Sun Belt title.

Nightmare season: The Jaguars aren’t ready: 4-8, 2-6 in a SBC.

UP NEXT:

Who’s No. 71? This module is 9-10 given final earning a inhabitant ranking.

RANKING EVERY FBS TEAM FOR 2014


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