Preview 2017: South Alabama Jaguars
Previewing and looking ahead at the South Alabama Jaguars season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The South Alabama Offense
The ground attack didn’t do much, and the passing game stalled far too often, but things perked up late in the season, scoring 31 points or more in each of the last four regular season games.
QB Dallas Davis throws too many interceptions, and he took a beating, but he’s a decent enough veteran to work around. RB Xavier Johnson should be the team’s best offensive weapon, but he needs help up front.
The biggest plus should be a more experienced O line that gets everyone back, but has to be far more physical. The biggest problem is a receiving corps that loses all the top targets, including TE Gerald Everett.
Biggest Key To The South Alabama Offense
Do something about that passing game. Davis is a playmaker, but he’s not going to be Tom Brady going down the field. With the top four receivers from last season done, and a slew of underclassmen thrown into the equation, it’s going to take a little time. The passing attack started to work better over the second half of the season – with 200 yards or more in four of the last five games – but it’s going to be a work in progress.
What You Need To Know About The South Alabama Defense
The defense might need to find a few new pass rushers to make up for the loss of Randy Allen on one end, but it’s a good group that should be a plus after finishing ninth in the nation in pass defense and allowing 390 yards per game overall.
Getting back DE Jimmie Gipson and DT Tre Alford from injuries – they both missed all of last year – is a big, big help. The emergence of Darrell Songy in the linebacking corps makes the position okay, while the secondary should be the team’s biggest strength.
Jeremy Reaves is one of the Sun Belt’s best safeties, while Jalen Thompson is a great-looking corner who should rise up with a big season.
Biggest Key To The South Alabama Defense
If the D line comes together right away, look out. Allen was one of the Sun Belt’s better pass rushers, but it’s possible the Jaguars are going to be even better right away if Gipson and Allen are back to form right away. Add in Missouri transfer Rocel McWilliams on one end, and with Sean Grayer and Finesse Middleton in the equation on the end, the front four could turn into one of the team’s biggest strengths.
South Alabama Will Be Far Better If …
The offensive line becomes a positive. It gave up 31 sacks last season and the running game struggled to do anything well on a consistent basis, but now there’s no excuse to not be better. There was a decent rotation last season, but there wasn’t enough production from the starting five. With five starters back, and good promise on the left side to be stronger for the ground game, the Jaguar O might see a big improvement.
Best South Alabama Offensive Player
RB Xavier Johnson, Sr. – The team’s most dangerous offensive weapon, the 5-11, 185-pounder has the speed to break out the big play, or be a dangerous kick returner. He ran for 831 yards and ten scores – averaging 5.5 yards per carry – with 13 catches for 86 yards. Explosive, he averaged close to 22 yards per kickoff return with a score. While he’s not a workhorse, get him in space and he can make big things happen, hitting the 100-yard mark three times including 154 against New Mexico State.
2. QB Dallas Davis, Jr.
3. TE Maaseiah Francis, Jr.
4. OT Noah Fisher, Jr.
5. OG Dominic Esposito, Sr.
Best South Alabama Defensive Player
S Jeremy Reaves, Sr. – With corner speed and good tackling skills, he followed up an all-star 96-tackle season with 85 stops with three picks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He’s not built to be a big popper, but he’s a consistent force for the secondary, coming up with nine tackles twice on the season and with 181 tackles in the last two seasons. There might be other good, all-star-caliber defenders, but Reaves is the best of the bunch.
2. DE Jimmie Gipson, Sr.
3. LB Darrell Songy, Sr.
4. CB Jalen Thompson, Jr.
5. DT Tre Alford, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Dallas Davis, Jr. – While he got beaten up with a ton of injuries, and was out this spring with a bad shoulder, he’s got to be a more explosive catalyst who makes the mediocre offense far better. While he threw for 2,706 yards and 11 scores, he also got picked off 12 times while rushing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he has decent size, and he threw well late in the year, but he has to turn into the type of quarterback who wins games for the Jaguars. As long as he’s hitting 60% of his throws and keeping the interceptions down, he’ll be doing his job.
The South Alabama Season Will Be A Success If …
If gets back to a bowl game. The Jaguars miss Appalachian State from the Sun Belt schedule, and it has more than enough winnable games to get to the six-win mark. Beat Alabama A&M ULM and Idaho at home, take care of New Mexico State on the road, and find away to get two wins out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, and/or road games against Troy, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.
Key Game To The South Alabama Season
Nov. 11 vs. Arkansas State – The Jaguars have a rough stretch of three road games in four dates, including battles at Troy and Georgia State, but they follow it up against Louisiana-Lafayette at home. If there’s any hope of being in the Sun Belt title chase, they have to take advantage of a home game against Arkansas State in the season’s home finale. USA lost 17-7 last year.
2016 South Alabama Fun Stats
– South Alabama 3rd Quarter Scoring: 52 – 4th Quarter Scoring: 112
– Total Yards: Opponents 5,068 yards – South Alabama 5,062 yards
– Penalties: South Alabama 99 for 862 yards – Opponents 74 for 611 yards