South Alabama (6-4) - Sun Belt Rankings -
Offense Avg Defense Avg
Rushing 154.6 Rushing 142.7
Passing 172.2 Passing 167.0
Total 326.8 Total 309.7
Points 24.4 Points 21.7
The Jaguars prepare for their first (provisional) season at the FBS level after a mildly successful year in 2011. They played competitively in almost every game behind a tough defense and tough running attack. If freshman QB CJ Bennett had struggled a bit less, they probably could have mustered a couple more wins. they’re switching to a spread offense this season, but don’t have all the personnel in place yet. The defense may struggle to maintain their success if the offense continues to falter.
The Jags ran the ball as much by necessity as design last season and were solid, with freshman running backs Kendall Houston and Demetre Baker combining for 1050 yards and 17 TDs. Neither really suit the spread, but should split the load again this season. CJ Bennett (1640 yds, 7 TDs, 17 Ints) didn’t quite live up to his billing, in part due to a young team. He doesn’t suit the spread either and may lose his job. Canadian Myles Gibbons is the only QB who has starting experience with the Jags, but Alcorn State transfer Brandon Bridge has dual threat skills. The receivers lack playmakers and the offensive line needs to be rebuilt.
With the majority of last year’s unit returning, expect the defense to show some fight regardless of how the offense performs. With opponents averaging just 3.4 ypc and struggling even more through the air (167 ypg), the defense may not improve on those numbers, but should be happy if they come close. A cause for concern could be the lack of big plays, with just 15 sacks and 8 interceptions, but they were solid getting off the field on third downs (36% conv rate).
5 Players to watch out for
- OG James Elliott - the Kentucky transfer is appealing to the NCAA for a waiver to play this season. If he gets it, the 300-pounder should have an instant impact on a rebuilding offensive line.
- WR Jereme Jones - he may not be the biggest receiver on the pitch (I hope not, anyway), but he’s a playmaker and should see more time on the field in the new spread offense. He’s already a fine PR and should be able to translate those skills to the slot. He caught 21 passes last season.
- MLB Jake Johnson - Johnson was a force last season in the middle of the defense, averaging 8.3 tackles per game and making 6.5 behind the line. He played his best against tougher opposition, and will look to continue in the same vein in 2012.
- FS BJ Scott - the former Alabama transfer and national championship winner was having a solid season on 2011 before an injury cost him his last three games. He finished with 48 tackles and 4 PBUs, but should step it up with another year in the Jags system. In his one game returning kicks, he averaged an excellent 36 ypr on 5 attempts. QB CJ Bennett (or whoever) - if USA are going to compete in the Sun Belt this year, they’re going to need a semblance of a passing game. I’m not so sure Bennett is the answer in the new offense, but whoever plays, they had better learn to take care of the football and make a few plays to keep defenses from loading up against the run.
The defense will show its teeth on occasion, but the offense may be punchless with all the change on the line and the lack of production at QB. The Sun Belt is a nice little conference, while the OOC has some nasty opponents, and the Jaguars could be in for a tough season ahead. They may struggle to win 2 or 3 games.