The top 10 South Alabama football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. TE Gerald Everett, Sr.
Like a big wide receiver working at tight end, the 6-4, 225-pound former UAB Blazer and JUCO transfer wasn’t supposed to become a major factor, but he turned into the star of the passing game. Fast for his size, he averaged over 14 yards per catch making a team-high 41 grabs for 575 yards and eight scores, and was even used as a short-yardage, goal line runner scoring four short touchdowns. While he came up with 164 yards and a touchdown on eight catches against San Diego State, he was mostly a steady downfield receiver, good for three-or-so key grabs per game. He might not have the bulk, but he has the combination of skills to be a nightmare to cover.
2. CB Jeremy Reaves, Jr.
One of the Sun Belt’s best all-around corners, the 5-11, 185-pound Reaves came up with two interceptions and was brilliant in the open field, with 65 of his 96 stops solo hits. A big hitter for his size, he forced three fumbles and came up with eight tackles for loss doing a little bit of everything right. On fire early, he had three straight ten-tackle games early, and was a rock for the secondary the rest of the way.
3. LB/S Roman Buchanan, Sr.
Where’s he going to play? Part linebacker, part safety, the 6-2, 215-pound veteran will work at the team’s Stinger role where he’ll do a little bit of everything. Mostly as a safety last season, he picked off two passes and came up with 67 tackles – with 11 against both Nebraska and Arkansas State. A big hitter for his size with 141 stops in the last two seasons, he’ll be a big factor no matter where he works.
4. C Joseph Scelfo, Sr.
The star of a potentially great line with both starters returning on the left side and with Scelfo anchoring things in the middle. Not all that huge at 6-1 and 295 pounds, he makes up for his lack of bulk with quickness in the interior. A mainstay, he started every game two years ago before taking his game up to another level. Very smart and very dependable, he’s the leader up front.
5. LB Kalen Jackson, Sr.
Part linebacker, part safety, he’ll do a little of both while mostly spending time in the defensive backfield. The 6-1, 200-pounder former JUCO transfer and UAB Blazer is strong enough and tough enough to fly around and make things happen as a linebacker, but with his tackling skills and athleticism, he’s a better fit as a defensive back. The team’s third-leading tackler last season, he made 72 stops with 12 coming against Arkansas State and with seven or more in seven games. He also came up with two picks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
6. RB Xavier Johnson, Jr.
The leading rusher who also did big things as a kickoff returner, the 5-11, 180-pound junior averaged 6.6 yards per carry with 956 yards and seven touchdowns, and caught nine passes for 82 yards and a score. As a return man, he averaged 31.36 yards per try – doing most of his work over the second half of the season – with a touchdown coming against Idaho. A flash with the ball in his hands, he ran for 148 yards and a score on just nine carries against Idaho, and have five games with 100 yards or more. The talent and potential are there to do more as a receiver – he’s deadly in the open field.
7. DE Jimmie Gipson III, Sr.
The 6-0, 260-pound bowling ball of an end turned into one of the team’s best pass rushers two seasons ago while doing a steady job of pressuring the quarterback. Out all of last year with a torn Achilles tendon, he’s back at 100% and ready to take back his job at one end. A former JUCO All-American, he has a motor that won’t quit and has no problems mixing it up as the tone-setter for the front four.
8. QB Dallas Davis, Soph.
Ready to get the first big look at the starting job. The 6-2, 210-pounder is a dangerous dual-threat option who ran for over 1,000 yards as a high school senior while also bombing away for 2,740 yards. Last year he served as Cody Clements’ main backup, completing 48% of his throws for 108 yards and a score with a pick, and not being able to get his running game going. He has to become a steady passer who can prove he can move the offense, and to do that he’s got to be a baller and make things happen on the move.
9. PK Aleem Sunanon, Sr.
One of the best all-around kickers in the Sun Belt, Sunanon hit 16-of-19 field goals including a 49-yarder against NC State. He made his final six field goals of the year and made nine of his last ten – only missing a 53-yarder. Also a punter at times, he averaged 42.7 yards per kick in a rotation with Brandon McKee – but McKee will handle the punting job this year. He’s a true difference-maker with his reliability.
10. WR Josh Magee, Sr.
The team’s second-leading receiver, Magee averaged a whopping 21.9 yards per catch making 23 grabs for 504 yards and three scores, ripping up Nebraska for 147 yards and a score on six catches, and 118 yards on three catches against Troy. At 5-11 and 170 pounds he’s not all that huge, but he can get deep and can stretch the field.