The 2018 prespring college football rankings, taking the first look at the South Alabama Jaguars.
No. 117: South Alabama Jaguars
Spring Game: April 14
South Alabama Prespring Status
After several successful seasons at Central Arkansas, Steve Campbell takes over for Joey Jones to try bringing the program a little bit of consistency.
The Jaguars have been the Sun Belt’s most maddening team, being good enough to beat San Diego State and Mississippi State two years ago, and last season beating Troy and Arkansas State, but flaky enough to get dropped by Georgia Southern 52-0 when a bowl bid was still possible.
The offense has to get going again, scoring almost 100 fewer points, failing to score more than 17 in four of the final five games. The D needs to replace a slew of key parts, but has just enough experience to be okay if the O does its part.
South Alabama Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Nose tackle. After giving up jus 152 rushing yards per game, the defensive interior gets back Tyree Turner, but the three big bodies who rotated on the nose – headed by Zach Befort – are all done. This isn’t a huge line, with 310-pound Sean Brown the only 300-pounder, and 290-pound Tyree Turner another option.
South Alabama Biggest Issue
Running game. The 2016 Jaguar ground game didn’t dominate, but it ran for close to 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns averaging four yards per carry. The O line struggled last year, paving the way for just 1,167 yards and ten scores, averaging a mere three yards per carry.
Three of the top four backs are gone – starting with leading rusher Xavier Johnson – and now it’s up to the JUCO transfers to come through. Only four running backs will be in play this spring, but they’re coming from the recruiting class.
South Alabama Biggest Positive
The experience is in place for the D to be a killer. Losing star safety Jeremy Reaves hurts, but seven of the top nine tacklers are back. The pass rush has to be far better, and more things have to happen behind the line after coming up with a pathetic 50 tackles for loss, but the veterans are there.
Really, Why Are The South Alabama Jaguars Ranked Here?
There’s a chance to turn this thing around in a big hurry, but like any team with any new coaching staff, it’s going to be a process to get everyone going. That 4-8 from last season could quickly turn into 8-4, but can Campbell and company get the offense going? Are the playmakers there? This might turn out to be the Sun Belt’s biggest wild-card.