Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: South Alabama endured plenty of struggles in its first
season as a member of the FBS in 2012. After the program went 23-4 in its
first three seasons of existence from 2009-2011 in the lower rungs of the
NCAA, it went just 2-11 last year.
The Jaguars faced another FBS newcomer in the season opener, falling to Texas-
San Antonio on Sept. 1, 33-31. After beating FCS foe Nicholls State on Sept. 8
(9-3), they went on to drop four in a row.
The team earned its first Sun Belt win on Oct. 20, beating Florida Atlantic in
double-overtime, 37-34. Although it closed out the season with five straight
defeats, it showed improvement down the stretch, with three of those losses
coming by 10 points or less.
South Alabama's transition phase into the FBS is now complete, as it will be
eligible for postseason play in 2013.
"Playing for a bowl this year just gives us so much more motivation,"
defensive lineman Romelle Jones said. "It just gives us that little bit extra
to think about and you feel it all in your heart and in your mind when you
think about it."
OFFENSE: The good news for the South Alabama offense is that it will have one
of the most experienced units in the conference with eight returning starters.
However, that group only managed to muster up 18.5 ppg and 333.4 ypg a season
Ross Metheny began the 2012 campaign as the second-string quarterback but took
over as the starter by mid-October. Although his final numbers were modest at
best (.548 completion percentage, 2,148 yards, 12 TDs, 12 interceptions), he
saved his strongest performance for the end of the season by throwing for 360
yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana on Nov. 24.
The Jaguars' three top receivers are back in the mix for 2013, and improved
chemistry with their quarterback should mean better seasons for Jereme Jones
(513 yards, seven TDs), Corey Besteda (430 yards, two TDs) and Bryant Lavender
Last year's leading rusher Demetre Baker was dismissed from the team in April,
meaning the starting running back gig will be an open competition between
Kendall Houston and junior college transfer Jay Jones. The team also welcomes
back three starting offensive linemen as well, as well as tight end Greg
Hollinger (22 rec, 321 yards).
DEFENSE: The Jaguars' defense experienced some growing pains adapting to the
improved level of competition last year, allowing nearly 30 ppg. It was,
however, one of the more impressive units in the league in terms of total
defense (382.9 ypg) and it returns nine starters.
All four starting defensive linemen are back, and although the team only had
24 sacks a season ago, another year of seasoning should be helpful for pass-
rushers Alex Page (11.5 TFL, six sacks) and Pat Moore (nine TFL, 4.5 sacks).
The loss of linebacker Jake Johnson (131 tackles, 15 TFL) will be a lot to
overcome, but Enrique Williams (105 tackles) and Clifton Crews (49 tackles)
should be able to anchor a strong linebacking corps.
In the secondary, Tyrell Pearson is a big play waiting to happen, coming up
with four picks in 2012 to go with 11 pass break-ups.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Redshirt freshman Aleem Sunanon will be the team's kicker,
replacing Michael Chapuseaux (20-of-27 on field goal attempts). Scott Garber
(39.6 avg) returns as the punter.
T.J. Glover had nearly 800 combined kickoff and punt return yards in 2012 and
he is expected to be the primary return man once again.
OUTLOOK: As expected, the first year of South Alabama's foray into the FBS was
a rough one, but it was far from a laughing stock and became rather
competitive by season's end, and now that its transition is complete -- giving
it full postseason eligibility -- the team can start to look forward to bigger
and better things.
"There's a lot of excitement in there (the locker room) -- that we can climb
that ladder in the Sun Belt, that we can get to a bowl game -- that's the two
goals we have," head coach Joey Jones said. "Bottom line, that's what we're
With plenty of returning talent from last year's squad, an improvement upon
their two-win campaign is to be expected, but even with the Jaguars inching
closer to the .500 mark, the squad simply isn't talented enough to compete
with the Sun Belt's best.
The Sports Network