2012 South Alabama Preview - The New Guy
South Alabama LB Jake Johnson
South Alabama LB Jake Johnson
Posted Jun 4, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama Jaguars

Preview 2012

- 2012 South Alabama Preview | 2012 South Alabama Offense
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Joey Jones
4th year: 23-4
5th year overall: 26-11
Ten Best South Alabama Players
1. LB Jake Johnson, Sr.
2. S B.J. Scott, Sr.
3. S Charles Harris, Sr.
4. RB Kendall Houston, Soph.
5. LB Enrique Williams, Jr.
6. RB Demetre Baker, Soph.
7. WR/KR T.J. Glover, Soph.
8. LB Clifton Crews, Jr.
9. OG Melvin Meggs, Soph.
10. WR/KR Jeremé Jones, Soph.
2012 Schedule

Aug. 30 UTSA
Sep. 8 Nicholls State
Sep. 15 at NC State
Sep. 22 at Miss State
Sep. 29 Troy
Oct. 13 at Arkansas State
Oct. 20 Florida Atlantic
Oct. 27 at ULM
Nov. 3 FIU
Nov. 10 at North Texas
Nov. 17 Middle Tennessee
Nov. 24 at UL Lafayette
Dec. 1 at Hawaii

South Alabama looked like a potential Sun Belt powerhouse in 2010 as it went 10-0 with a high-powered offense. Granted, wins over Georgia State and UC Davis were among the best of the bunch, and beating Edward Waters and Arkansas-Monticello was hardly impressive, but 10-0 was 10-0. Last year, with the spotlight on, the Jaguars struggled a bit.

Even so, it's not like they were embarrassed by NC State or Kent State, and while they were blown out by Cal Poly, the fourth loss came in overtime at Georgia State. But can head coach Joey Jones make the program even better now that it's time to turn the lights on?

South Alabama has only been around since 2009 with Jones the only coach the program has ever known, and while he has one more year before the full-fledged FBS status kicks in, for now, showing what it can do in Sun Belt play will be a big deal.

USA isn't eligible for the Sun Belt title or a bowl game, but it can establish itself as a potential star with a big season. There's a new fire and excitement from a team that is still trying to build itself up, and it could be a dangerous problem for the Sun Belt. No, the Sun Belt title isn't in the picture this season, but Sun Belt games against USA will count.

The Jaguars are loaded with veterans and will be a thorn in someone's side. C.J. Bennett is going into his third year as the starting quarterback, and he has a terrific receiving corps to play around with. The tight end situation might be the best in the Sun Belt, while the running backs are strong, quick and potentially ultra-productive.

The defense has a nice set of experienced options to work around, most notably former Virginia Tech linebacker Jake Johnson and former Alabama defensive back B.J. Scott, and while the schedule last season wasn't exactly a killer, the defense came up with a big 2011 and will be far better this season.

The linebacking corps will be good, the secondary will be better, and if there's more of a pass rush and the right scheme can work enough to be more disruptive, Jones will make this more than just a stepping-stone season to 2013. It's time to make some noise now.

What to watch for on offense: The spread. New offensive coordinator Robert Matthews will switch things up from the pro-style attack that put up big numbers a few years ago and go with more of a spread. The skill players should be able to handle the work, and the running backs will be even better, but the real beneficiary will be a green line that needs all the help it can get. It's not going to have to blast away; it'll just have to do a lot of walling off. It can do that.

What to watch for on defense: The Jack. USA is going to technically run a 3-4, but that will change moment by moment. Pat Moore, Anthony Taylor and Logan Bennett are good options to work in a rotation in a hybrid role. There's size on the line, and the three prospects for the Jack should handle a variety of roles especially as pass rushers. The secondary should be able to handle itself, but the line has to get into the backfield more and it will start with more coming from the outside.

The team will be far better if … the run defense is a rock. The Jaguars gave up 12 rushing touchdowns with eight of them coming in losses to Kent State, Georgia State and Cal Poly. Those were also the three games when USA gave up the most rushing yards allowing 187 yards, 220 and 229, respectively. The team went 6-1 in the seven games when the D allowed fewer than 187 yards, with the lone loss coming against an NC State team that came up with just 95 yards with a score. In the six wins USA gave up just three scores.

The schedule: Nicholls State. That's the only non-FBS team on the schedule after playing just two FBSers last year. The Jaguars might not be eligible for anything, including a bowl game, but closing out the year at Hawaii on December 1st isn't a bad prize at the end of the rainbow. Along the way there are just two back-to-back weeks of road games – going to NC State and Mississippi State early and to UL Lafayette and Hawaii at the end – and it's not a bad deal to alternate back and forth between home and road games for a while. The game against Sun Belt stars Arkansas State and ULL are on the road, but the Jaguars get FIU, Troy and Middle Tennessee at home.

Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Kendall Houston … if healthy. While not listed on the post-spring depth chart after trying to heal up, he's a yardage machine when he gets his chances leading the team with 558 yards and eight scores last season. A slippery workhorse, he should blow up in the new offense that will give him little creases to fly through.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Jake Johnson. The potential is there to be the best linebacker in the Sun Belt. The former Virginia Tech Hokie has great range and doesn't miss a stop, leading the way with 83 tackles on the year with 6.5 tackles for loss. He can do a little bit of everything and he's the perfect quarterback for the middle of the good linebacking corps.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Andy Dalgleish and junior DT Montavious Williams. Williams started all ten games last season and has been a mainstay on the line, and while he held up well, he has to be stronger on the nose against the far better schedule. Dalgleish has better size and has to be an anchor. The less the linebacking corps has to worry about cleaning up the line's messes – and the less it has to work on getting into the backfield – the better.

The season will be a success if … USA wins four games and is competitive in the Sun Belt. Even with all the experience returning and even with so much excitement, it'll be asking for way too much to do too much more after trying to win the first two games at home against UT-San Antonio and Nicholls State. Beating Florida Atlantic will be in play, and the Jaguars could be good enough to pull off an upset or two against teams like Troy, North Texas and/or ULM. No one will want to talk about anything other than winning, but 2012 is really all about improving to 2013.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. Troy. It won't just be the home oasis in a four game stretch against NC State and Mississippi State before and against Arkansas State to follow, it'll be USA's Sun Belt opener. If the Jaguars can pull off victories in winnable games against UTSA and Nicholls State, beating Troy would likely mean a 3-2 start and would end September on a high note. Everything past a three-win first month would be gravy.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Interceptions Thrown: South Alabama 18 – Opponents 8
- Fumbles: Opponents 27 (lost 15) – South Alabama 18 (lost 9)
- South Alabama 3rd Quarter Scoring: 81 – South Alabama 4th Quarter Scoring: 35

- 2012 South Alabama Preview | 2012 South Alabama Offense
- 2012 South Alabama Defense | 2012 South Alabama Depth Chart