2013 SOUTH ALABAMA FOOTBALL PREVIEW
June 23, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Coach: Joey Jones (25-14, entering fifth season; 28-21 overall)
2012 record: 2-10 (1-7 in Sun Belt Conference, 10th in Sun Belt)
Offensive starters returning: 9
Offensive starters lost: 2
Defensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters lost: 3
Key losses: LB Jake Johnson, DB B.J. Scott, C Trey Clark, LG Tremain Smith, NT Andy Dalgleish, K Michel Chapuseau
Top returnees: DL Alex Page, DL Romelle Jones, QB Ross Metheny, WR Bryant Lavender, LB Enrique Williams, RB Demetre Baker, WR Jeremé Jones
The South Alabama Jaguars, based in Mobile, Ala., are on the fast track to play at college football's highest level. In December 2007, school officials approved the decision to launch a football program. While some programs toiled in the lower NCAA divisions for years before moving up, South Alabama planned to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision level in 2013 and accomplished its goal. Coach Joey Jones, a former University of Alabama and NFL receiver, helped the school field its first team in 2009 and continues to run the program.
The Jaguars went 7-0 in 2009, their first year playing football as an independent program. They went 10-0 in 2010, loading up on games against FCS, Division II and NAIA opponents. They added tougher competition in 2011 and posted a 6-4 record. The Jaguars took on a true FBS schedule in 2012 and took more of a beating, posting a 2-10 record while competing as a Sun Belt Conference member. The team's sole win was a 37-34 win over FAU.
South Alabama is tied for eighth nationally for the most returning starters, according to college football analyst Phil Steele. It means the core group of players who slogged through a Sun Belt schedule last season will return with an understanding of what it will take to win more games.
QB Ross Metheny, who was 189-of-345 passing for 2,148 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during the 2012 season, is back to lead the South Alabama offense. The Jaguars also bring back last season's top two receivers — Jeremé Jones (45 catches for 513 yards and seven touchdowns) and Bryant Lavender (41 catches for 378 yards) — and leading rusher Demetre Baker (66.1 yards per game).
On defense, LB Jake Johnson, who racked up a team-high 131 tackles, will anchor the defense. Johnson and returning DL Alex Page earned second team All-Sun Belt honors in 2012, while returning DB B.J. Scott earned third-team, All-Sun Belt recognition.
South Alabama is working on completing a major transition, going from no football program to competing at the highest level possible of the sport in six years. While it helps that the team returns nine offensive starters, the unit struggled against FBS defenses last season. South Alabama ranked No. 104 in total offense (333.4 yards per game) and No. 115 in scoring (18.5 points per game).
With a tough schedule and a limited talent base, it's tough to imagine South Alabama posting a winning record and earning a bowl invitation during its first year of FBS of bowl eligibility.