CFN Preview 2013 - South Alabama Jaguars
South Alabama QB Ross Metheny
South Alabama QB Ross Metheny
Posted May 12, 2013 2013 Preview - South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama Jaguars

Preview 2013

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- 2012 South Alabama Preview

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Joey Jones
5th year: 25-15
6th year overall: 28-22
Ten Best USA Players
1. WR/KR Jeremé Jones, Jr.
2. DE Alex Page, Sr.
3. LB Enrique Williams, Sr.
4. CB Tyrell Pearson, Sr.
5. OT Melvin Meggs, Jr.
6. DE/LB Pat Moore, Sr.
7. WR Corey Besteda, Sr.
8. TE Wes Saxton, Jr.
9. CB Darrius Morrow, Sr.
10. QB Ross Metheny, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/29 Southern Utah
9/7 at Tulane
9/14 WKU
9/28 at Tennessee
10/5 at Troy
10/19 Kent State
10/26 at Texas State
11/2 Arkansas State
11/16 at Navy
11/23 ULM
11/30 at Georgia State
12/7 Louisiana
Is it insane to suggest that the 2-11 first season in the big leagues really wasn't all that bad?

Yeah, it actually is, but there were signs that South Alabama could and should be more than just decent in the near future.

Yes, dealing with FBS teams instead of Edward Waters and Arkansas-Monticello made life more difficult, and 2-11 with the only wins coming over Nicholls State and Florida Atlantic in double overtime is nothing to chirp about, but the team simply didn't play that poorly considering the miserable record.

Okay, okay, okay, getting down 239 to 111 in the first half set the tone game after game, but it's not like the Jaguars were getting their doors blown off on the field or on the stat sheet. The biggest problem turned out to be an inability to get the little points right, committing too many penalties, struggling too much to get off the field on third downs, not being able to get on enough fumbles, giving up the big sack and the wrong time – the finer points. The hope is for all the little things to improve to the big things can start changing.

It's still a young program, first forming in 2009, with head coach Joey Jones working miracles early on just to get the thing off the ground, and now there's an interesting mix of early recruits starting to mature and a boatload of JUCO transfers to form a veteran squad that should be better, stronger and more effective.

All 11 projected starters on defense are seniors and every projected starter on offense other than sophomore left tackle Chris May is an upperclassman. The receiving corps has enough explosion and experience to make quarterback Ross Metheny look stronger, and despite the loss of leading rusher Demetre Baker, the running game should be interesting with Jay Jones and Kendall Houston two BCS-level athletes who should do more to balance things out.

The defense attacks, attacks and attacks some more, but it hasn't always been effective. That should change a bit with experienced pass rushers and a veteran secondary that should be able to clamp down a bit better.

Will all the experience and the lumps taken over the first year make a night-and-day different? Probably not, but it's an improving program that will be more than a dangerous out. It's still a process, and there will still be growing pains, but the momentum is going forward.

What to watch for on offense: A tighter attack. There were too many turnovers and too many key misfires in big moments. Quarterback Ross Metheny has a year of starting experience, and he has a good-looking receiving corps to work with and a veteran line to give him time. The spread attack should be crisper, more consistent and far more efficient. At least that's the hope after almost never coming through in the clutch.

What to watch for on defense: The 3-4 will keep on attacking. The Jack position is used like a defensive end, but Pat Moore is really an outside linebacker who'll be a speed rusher. The idea is to keep the pressure on and force a bunch of big plays, but when that doesn't work, the secondary has big problems. Attacking the quarterback is fine, but only if he's getting popped.

The team will be far better if … the turnovers stop. The Jaguars aren't good enough to overcome a slew of mistakes, and there were way too many to overcome. The 96 penalties were disastrous with 14 against Troy, 13 against Arkansas State and 11 against both North Texas and Louisiana. As bad as the flags were, the turnovers were worse giving up 16 interceptions and having problems recovering fumbles losing 17 of the 22 put on the ground. The Jaguars were among the worst teams in the country in turnover margin.

The schedule: The Jaguars will have to keep trying to navigate their way through the FBS waters against a tougher schedule. Southern Utah needs to be a must win to take advantage of the opening home date before going to Tulane. Starting out Sun Belt play against WKU is at home before getting a week off to get ready for the fun of going to Tennessee. There isn't a home game from mid-September until the November 19th game against Kent State, and there's another off week in November before going to Navy. Closing out with three conference home games in the final four, and with the road date coming against a bad Georgia State, should help.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Jeremé Jones. Enough other targets are in the mix to spread the ball around, and the passing game should be stronger, but Jones is the catalyst. Small but extremely quick, he's not a home run hitter but he's able to get down the field and good at coming up with plays in the red zone scoring seven of the team's 16 receiving touchdowns. He's the No. 1 target to work around.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Alex Page. Linebacker Enrique Williams will lead the team in tackles and corner Tyrell Patterson will be an all-star, but it's Page who should blow up with a huge year as the team's best pass rusher. Built like an inside linebacker, he's fast off the ball and he's great at closing when he gets a bead on a quarterback. Not a one-trick pony, he's strong against the run and holds up well when beaten on.

Key player to a successful season: Senior NT Randon Carnathan. The veteran defense has a slew of good athletes and lots of promising prospects expected to rise up and attack, but the run defense has to be stronger and it needs an anchor to stuff everything up. The 6-1, 295-pound senior has to hold up for a full season and has to occupy a few blockers at a time.

The season will be a success if … USA wins four games. It's a veteran team full of seniors on defense and upperclassmen on offense, and it all needs to come together right away against Southern Utah in the opener. Beating Georgia State is a must and sneaking out a win or two against teams like Texas State and Tulane wouldn't be too shocking. However, all the winnable games other than Southern Utah are on the road.

Key game: Sept. 14 vs. Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers weren't on the schedule last season, but now they're the Sun Belt opener before dealing with tough road games at Tennessee and Troy. For a Jaguar team looking to make waves in the changed up Sun Belt, beating one of the preseason favorites – and getting a win over Bobby Petrino – would be a huge boost for a program that struggled so much in its first season at the higher level. A Sun Belt title is too much to ask for, but a home loss early on would end any dreams before they could get started.

2012 Fun Stats:
- 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 239 – South Alabama 111
- Sacks: Opponents 33 for 244 yards – South Alabama 24 for 155 yards
- Rushing Touchdowns: Opponents 21 – South Alabama 10

- 2013 South Alabama Preview | 2013 South Alabama Offense
- 2013 South Alabama Defense | 2013 South Alabama Depth Chart