Will the South Alabama Jaguars Finally Be Awesome?
In the last two seasons, Joey Jones and his South Alabama Jaguars have upset Mississippi State and San Diego State, the latter twice. And yet, South Bama never seems to put together a Sun Belt run. This could be the year we forget all about that.
(NOTE: Since the original publication of this story, Cole Garvin (jr.) won the QB battle between he and Dallas Davis.)
There are two types of college football fans who know, deep down, that the South Alabama Jaguars are a sneaky good football team: (1) all savvy Sun Belt fans, and (2) fans of the San Diego State Aztecs. In 2015, a rowdy Jaguar team sauntered into Ron Burgundy’s backyard and handed the Aztecs a surprise 34-27 OT loss. The very next year, an even better Aztec team, ranked 19th in the nations, dropped into Mobile and was absolutely punished 42-24. San Diego State will not likely sign a home-and-home with the Jags anytime soon.
Here’s the thing, though: in 2015, the Jags went 3-5 against the Sun Belt. The next year – a season that saw South Bama destroy nationally ranked San Diego and upset Mississippi State in Starksville – Joey Jones’ Jag’s regressed to 2-6 in conference play. TWO AND SIX! The Jaguars, who always feel like a dangerous opponent, never quite seem to threaten the top tier of the Sun Belt.
Hey, but maybe 2017 is the year?
Do the Jags pose a threat to the Sun Belt elite?
Recently, Athlon collected anonymous quotes from Sun Belt coaches concerning programs around the conference. Off the record, this is what Sun Belt coaches said about South Bama:
“One of the most talented teams in the league.”
“Always very hard to beat.”
“We honestly thought they should have been a lot better last year. They looked great on film but didn’t play well all the time.”
Exactly! No matter what the final score, playing the Jaguars is always a Herculean tasks – the Rubik’s Cube™ of Sun Belt opponents. But for whatever reason, the Jaguars continue to be a second-tier Sun Belt team.
Last year, South Alabama’s trouble point appeared to be the running game. Multi-purpose back Xavier Johnson averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Last season, that production lost more than a yard (5.5), though he did tie for second in the conference for rushing TDs (10). Still, the failure or success of the Jags seems to be in the hands of QB Dallas Davis, the 6’2″ 215 junior who tallied 2,706 yards his sophomore season, but tossed more INTs (13) than touchdowns (12).
The Jags have a fine defense last year, collecting 29 sacks, 10 fumbles and ranking 53rd nationally and Total D. With outstanding DB Jeremy Reaves covering receivers and LB Darrell Songy delivering tackles, the Jags should be trouble for opposing offenses again. The Jags don’t need more defense. They need Dallas Davis to be more careful.
Can the Jags be the OOC hero of the Sun Belt again?
I’m not going to lie – it was fun watching South Bama upset Mississippi State and then sadden the San Diego State Aztecs for a second straight year. That’s some #SunBeltHeat!
This year’s OOC slate feels like an upgrade, but who knows? The Jags open the season against Ole Miss, which is currently playing inside an atomic bomb crater in Oxford. But then, Oklahoma State (who CFN predicts will finish 3rd in the Big XII) visits South Alabama in Mobile, where Joey Jones ambushed the Aztecs last season. After hosting Alabama A&M, South Alabama rounds out its OOC against Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech. That’s a pretty sweet slate.
Once gain, South Alabama has a real opportunity to show the world just how potent the Sun Belt has become.
Nestled in a recruiting incubator, South Alabama should be a more consistent winner in the Sun Belt. They certainly can be in 2017. But somebody needs to step up at QB, whether it’s Dallas Davis or the hero of the San Diego Aztec win, junior QB Cole Garvin.
Personally, I think somebody steps up, and we’ll see the Jags threaten to join the Sun Belt elite.