#91 South Alabama Football 2014 Preview

South Alabama Jaguars

Overall Rank: #91
#3 Sun Belt

South Alabama Team Page#91 South Alabama Football 2014 PreviewBuy South Alabama Football Tickets

Most probably were not paying attention, but South Alabama put together a great 2013 season. The Jaguars were just in their first season as a full FBS member and managed to go 6-6 overall and 4-3 in Sun Belt play. Three of their losses, against Southern Utah, Troy and Arkansas State, were by a combined four points. And the Jaguars only fell to Tennessee by just a touchdown. With another year to build up the program, Coach Joey Jones could quickly get USA to a bowl game.

2013 Record: (6-6, 4-3)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: Joey Jones (8-17 at South Alabama, 8-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Robert Matthews
Defensive Coordinator: Travis Pearson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jay Jones, RB, 737 yards
Passing: Brandon Bridge, QB, 398 yards
Receiving: Shavarez Smith, WR, 940 yards
Tackles: Qudarius Ford, CB, 76
Sacks: Jerome McClain, DL, 3.0
Interceptions: Montell Garner, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: TE Wes Saxton, WR Jereme’ Jones, K Aleem Sunanon, OL Chris May, OL Ucambre Williams

Key Losses: QB Ross Metheny, LB Enrique Williams, DE Alex Page, DT Romelle Jones, DE Pat Moore, DT Montavious Williams, P Scott Garber

Even with the departure of quarterback Ross Metheny, this should be a very good South Alabama offense. Junior Brandon Bridge will take over the starting job and he has plenty of experience around him. Receiver Shavarez Smith and tight end Wes Saxton are back after catching 50 passes apiece. Those two will make the quarterback transition go relatively smooth. Also returning is running back Jay Jones, who rushed for 737 yards and five scores. Fellow junior Kendall Houston is a big, bruising back who found the end zone six times on just 66 carries. The offensive line returns four starters and that is not including three-year starter Melvin Meggs who missed last year with an injury. Led by tackles Chris May and Ucambre Williams, the South Alabama line will pave the way for the Jaguars to at least remain on par with last year’s offense. On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars secondary is absolutely loaded. Qudarius Ford led the team with 76 tackles and fellow cornerback Montell Garner added 60. Those two also combined to pick off five passes. With Terrell Brigham and Antonio Carter also returning, the Sun Belt’s second best pass defense is in great hands.

However, the defense does have some issues everywhere else. Tackle Jesse Kelley and outside linebacker Maleki Harris are the only other two returning starters. Desmond LaVelle should develop into a decent linebacker, so the biggest area of concern is in the front four where the options are either undersized or inexperienced. The Jaguars did give up too many big plays last year, but they made up for it with plenty of big plays of their own. They ranked third in the nation with 3.17 sacks per game and forced a total of 20 turnovers. The concern is that without players like Alex Page, Romelle Jones and Pat Moore getting into the backfield, South Alabama will continue to give up big plays, but without getting big plays back.

The Bottom Line:
This could be a big year for South Alabama if everything goes well and that means winning those close games instead of losing by a point or two. The difference between this team and last year’s is the overall depth. Sure there are holes to fill and some talented players gone, but Coach Jones has more to work with now. There is quality depth across the board on offense and options on defense, albeit less experienced. If the defensive pieces can come together, South Alabama will stay in the Sun Belt title race heading into their tough road trips to Lafayette and Jonesboro on back-to-back weeks in early November.

Projected Bowl: Camellia Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 172.8 (60th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 252.8 (42, 3)
Total Offense: 425.5 (50, 3)
Scoring Offense: 29.4 (63, 4)
Rushing Defense: 159.7 (55, 3)
Pass Defense: 224.6 (56, 2)
Total Defense: 384.3 (50, 2)
Scoring Defense: 25.2 (53, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.4 (31, 2)
Sacks: 3.17 (3, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (32, 1)


See All College Sports Madness Top 104 Football Previews