Month: May 2016

KNOW THE FOE: South Alabama Jaguars

South_Alabama_Jaguars_logo

  • LOCATION: Mobile, Alabama
  • HOME FIELD: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (capacity 40,000)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 5-7, 3-5 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Xavier Johnson, WR Josh Magee, TE Gerald Everett, LB Roman Buchanan, CB Jeremy Reaves, CB Jalen Thompson, S Kalen Jackson
  • HEAD COACH: Joey Jones, 8th season (45-42)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bryant Vincent (2nd season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kane Wommack (1st season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Bryant Vincent, Quarterbacks (2nd season)
    • Kane Wommack, Linebackers (1st season)
    • Chase Smith – Tight Ends (3rd season)
    • Tim Bowens – Running Backs (2nd season)
    • Richard Owens – Offensive Line (3rd season)
    • Brian Turner – Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator (8th season)
    • Mike Adams – Safeties (1st season)
    • Tyler Siskey – Wide Receivers (2nd season)
    • Kelvin Sigler – Cornerbacks (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – at Mississippi State
  • 9/10 – Georgia Southern*
  • 9/17 – at Louisiana-Lafayette*
  • 9/24 – Nicholls State
  • 10/1 – San Diego State
  • 10/15 – at Arkansas State*
  • 10/20 – Troy*
  • 10/29 – Georgia State*
  • 11/5 – at Louisiana-Monroe*
  • 11/19 – at LSU
  • 11/26 – at Idaho*
  • 12/3 – New Mexico State*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Jalin Buie, RB (Jacksonville, FL)
  2. Riley Cole, LB (Oneonta, AL)
  3. Chris Henderson, DE (Hampton, GA)
  4. Jay Woods, CB (Pinson, AL)
  5. Jahmmir Taylor, WR* (Atlanta, GA)
  6. Sean Brown, OL (Pleasant Grove, AL)
  7. Bobby Flott, CB (Mobile, AL)
  8. Darrell Songy, LB* (Pflugerville, TX)
  9. D’Tavieus Taylor, OL* (Pearl, MS)
  10. Zac Crosby, TE (Jacksonville, FL)
  11. Nick Fields, DE (Dothan, AL)
  12. Diantae Thomas, S* (Dothan, AL)
  13. Konnor Houston, LB (Buford, GA)
  14. Taji Stewart, LB (Marietta, GA)
  15. Jared Stewart, CB (Fultondale, AL)
  16. Clay Burt, OL* (Liberty, OK)
  17. Andrew Reinkemeyer, TE* (Stilwell, KS)
  18. Neiko Robinson, CB* (Century, FL)
  19. Zach Befort, DT* (Wichita, KS)
  20. Romello Riley, LB* (Pascagoula, MS)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Dallas Davis (So., Panama City, FL)
  • RB – Xavier Johnson (Jr., Tampa, FL)
  • WR – Josh Magee (Sr., Hoover, AL)
  • WR – Kevin Kutchera (Sr., Livermore, CA)
  • WR – Tyrone Williams (Sr., Diamondhead, MS)
  • TE – Gerald Everett (Sr., Lithonia, GA)
  • LT – Curtis Williams (Sr., Miami, FL)
  • LG – Steven Foster (Sr., Demopolis, AL)
  • C – Harrison Louden (Jr., Mobile, AL)
  • RG – De’Arius Young (Sr., Cincinnati, OH)
  • RT – Noah Fisher (So., Decatur, GA)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Wade Forde (Jr., Ocala, FL)
  • DT – Tre Alford (Jr., Tuscaloosa, AL)
  • DT – Caleb Butler (Jr., Enterprise, AL)
  • DE – Dewayne Alford (Sr., Suffolk, VA)
  • LB – Darrell Songy (Jr., Pflugerville, TX)
  • LB – Bull Barge (So., Moultrie, GA)
  • LB – Roman Buchanan (Sr., Enterprise, AL)
  • CB – Jeremy Reaves (Jr., Pensacola, FL)
  • CB – Jalen Thompson (So., Mobile, AL)
  • SS – Kalen Jackson (Sr., Magee, MS)
  • FS – Devon Earl (Sr., Hoover, AL)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K – Aleem Sunanon (Sr., Orlando, FL)
  • P – Corliss Waitman (So., Milton, FL)

GOOD NEWS

  • The Jaguars have some nice experience and talent at running back, aided by some gifted newcomers. Although undersized, the receiving corps has speed and playmaking ability, starting with junior college transfer Jahmmir Taylor and returnees Cameron Broadnax, Tyrone Williams, and Josh Magee. Gerald Everett could be the Sun Belt’s best tight end.
  • USA also returns some talent in the secondary, helped by some junior college additions. Converted linebacker Kalen Jackson found a home at safety in the spring, and returning starter Devon Earl has a knack for being around the ball. Sophomore cornerback Jalen Thompson is a budding star, and junior Quinton Dent impressed coaches in the spring.
  • Punter Corliss Waitman and placekicker Aleem Sunanon are two of the best specialists in the Sun Belt.

BAD NEWS

  • The offensive line gave up 32 sacks in 2015 and lost three starters, including all-conference center Joseph Scelfo. He asked for his release following the spring, landing at NC State as a graduate transfer.
  • The front seven lacks depth and will be relying heavily on junior college transfers to plug holes immediately. Early enrollee linebackers Romello Riley and Darrell Songy are likely starters alongside youngsters Bull Barge and Tavon Cox.
  • The Jaguars are inexperienced at the most important position on the field. Three potential starting quarterbacks battled in the spring with no apparent victor – although sophomores Dallas Davis, Evan Orth, and Cole Garvin all had their moments. Davis, the most experienced of the three, played in four games last season. Garvin, a transfer from Marshall, was a three-star recruit out of high school. Orth, who began his career at UAB, throws a nice ball, but lacks starting experience. Coach Joey Jones will most likely name a starter early in fall camp, but Davis looks like the frontrunner for now.

VERDICT

The Jaguars just don’t seem to have the experience or depth needed to be postseason contenders. The offense returns precious little experience at the skill positions, and the defense doesn’t seem to be able to carry the whole team. While the Jags could conceivably pull off an upset or two on the road, a bowl game doesn’t seem likely. A tough schedule awaits, including trips to SEC titans LSU and Mississippi State.

PREDICTION

5-7, 4-4 in Sun Belt

KNOW THE FOE: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

gI_73715_louisiana_ragin_cajuns_round_babdge

  • LOCATION: Lafayette, Louisiana
  • HOME FIELD: Cajun Field (capacity 31,000)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 4-8, 3-5 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Elijah McGuire, OL Grant Horst, DE Mario Osborne, DT Taboris Lee, LB Otha Peters, CB Simeon Thomas, S Savion Brown, P Steven Coutts
  • HEAD COACH: Mark Hudspeth (6th season, 31-24)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jorge Muñoz (1st season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Melvin Smith (2nd season), Charlie Harbison (2nd season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Jorge Muñoz, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Melvin Smith, Defensive Backs (2nd season)
    • Charlie Harbison, Outsider Linebackers (2nd season)
    • Marquase Lovings, Running Backs (6th season)
    • Levorn Harbin, Defensive Line (2nd season)
    • Michael Desormeaux, Wide Receivers (1st season)
    • Mitch Rodrigue, Offensive Line (6th season)
    • Mike Lucas, Inside Linebackers (2nd season)
    • Reed Stringer, Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator (6th season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – Boise State
  • 9/10 – McNeese State
  • 9/17 – South Alabama*
  • 9/24 – at Tulane
  • 10/1 – at New Mexico State*
  • 10/12 – Appalachian State*
  • 10/22 – at Texas State*
  • 11/5 – Idaho*
  • 11/10 – at Georgia Southern*
  • 11/19 – at Georgia
  • 11/26 – Arkansas State*
  • 12/3 – at Louisiana-Monroe*

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Dontrell Allen, CB (Reserve, LA)
  2. Trey Ragas, RB (Marrero, LA)
  3. Cody Mitchell, TE (Jasper, TX)
  4. Randon Haynes, OL (Waxahachie, TX)
  5. Korey Louis, LB (Breaux Bridge, LA)
  6. Edward Hayes, S (Coldspring, TX)
  7. Denarius Howard, S* (Webb, MS)
  8. Jake Arceneaux, QB (Lafayette, LA)
  9. Tanner Holmes, LB (Newton, TX)
  10. Nic Wiggins, LB (Baton Rouge, LA)
  11. Jacques Boudreaux, LB (New Orleans, LA)
  12. Damarren Mitchell, CB (Magnolia, TX)
  13. Blair Brooks, S (Thibodaux, LA)
  14. Akkai Ward, OL (Brusly, LA)
  15. Tra’Vontae Booker, DT (Jackson, LA)
  16. Calif Gossett, WR (Pensacola, FL)
  17. Kendall Baker, OL (McCalla, AL)
  18. Raymond Calais, RB (Cecilia, LA)
  19. Jarvis Jeffries, DE* (Gastonia, NC)
  20. Artez Williams, CB* (Greenwood, MS)
  21. Trevara Miller, DT* (Noxapater, MS)
  22. Kevon Perry, DT* (Buffalo, NY)

*Junior college transfer

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Anthony Jennings (Sr., Marietta, GA)
  • RB – Elijah McGuire (Sr., Houma, LA)
  • WR – Al Riles (Sr., Mandeville, LA)
  • WR – Gabe Fuselier (Jr., St. Martinville, LA)
  • WR – Michael Jacquet (R-Fr., Beaumont, TX)
  • TE – Nick Byrne (Sr., Rogers, AR)
  • LT – D’Aquin Withrow (Jr., Harvey, LA)
  • LG – Robert Hunt (R-Fr., Burkeville, TX)
  • C – Eddie Gordon (Sr., Boiling Springs, SC)
  • RG – Jesse Freeman (So., Leesburg, GA)
  • RT – Grant Horst (Jr., Spanish Fort, AL)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Mario Osborne (So., Daphne, AL)
  • DT – Taboris Lee (Jr., Ackerman, MS)
  • DE – Jarvis Jeffries (Jr., Gastonia, NC)
  • LB – Tre’maine Lightfoot (Sr., Patterson, LA)
  • LB – Otha Peters (Sr., Covington, LA)
  • LB – Trey Granier (Sr., Thibodaux, LA)
  • LB – Tracy Walker (Jr., Brunswick,  GA)
  • CB – Simeon Thomas (Jr., Miami, FL)
  • CB – Troy McCollum (Jr., Miami, FL)
  • SS – Savion Brown (Sr., Shreveport, LA)
  • FS – Travis Crawford (Jr., New Orleans, LA)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K – Stevie Artigue (So., Lafayette, LA)
  • P – Steven Coutts (So., Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

GOOD NEWS

  • The Cajuns have NFL prospect Elijah McGuire at tailback, and he should continue to have success running behind a big, strong offensive line. McGuire is sure to take plenty of pressure off whoever is the quarterback.
  • The wide receiving group lacks a star, but there’s plenty of experience, starting with junior Gabe Fuselier and seniors Al Riles and Devin Scott. Some potential deep threats emerged in the spring, including redshirt freshman Michael Jacquet, and coaches like what they see in Mississippi State transfer Shelby Christy.
  • The secondary returns all four starters, plus former starting cornerback Simeon Thomas, who missed last season due to academic issues. He looked good as new in the spring.

BAD NEWS

  • For the second straight offseason, there’s still no clear-cut starter at QB. Sophomore Jordan Davis played a little bit last season, and he battled with redshirt freshmen Dion Ray and Chris Weaver in the spring, with no clear victor. Weaver and Ray are both more athletic than Davis, but Davis has better size and arm strength. LSU graduate transfer Anthony Jennings arrives over the summer to add a new level of competition. Coach Mark Hudspeth will likely name a starter in fall camp.
  • The defense was inconsistent in the first season under coordinators Charlie Harbison and Melvin Smith, and despite lots of size in the front seven, the Cajuns have yet to prove they can stop the run consistently.
  • The Cajuns also lack a go-to pass-rusher. While there are plenty of candidates, no one has stepped up yet. Some possibilities include sophomore Mario Osborne (formerly a touted recruit), or junior college transfer Jarvis Jeffries.

VERDICT

The Cajuns have the experience and solid coaching to get back to the postseason, but many questions remain, starting with the quarterback situation. If they can solve that quandary, there’s enough here to go bowling again.

PREDICTION

6-6, 4-4 in Sun Belt

KNOW THE FOE: Arkansas State Red Wolves

logo

  • LOCATION: Jonesboro, Arkansas
  • HOME FIELD: Centennial Bank Stadium (capacity 30,382)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 9-4, 8-0 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Johnston White, WR Dijon Paschal, WR Cameron Echols-Luper, OL Devin Mondie, OL Colton Jackson, DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, LB Khari Lain, CB Blaise Taylor, S Cody Brown
  • HEAD COACH: Blake Anderson, 3rd season (16-10)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Buster Faulkner (1st season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Joe Cauthen (3rd season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Buster Faulkner, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Joe Cauthen, Linebackers (3rd season)
    • Luke Paschall, Wide Receivers/Special Teams Coordinator (3rd season)
    • Allen Rudolph, Offensive Line (1st season)
    • Trooper Taylor, Cornerbacks (3rd season)
    • Allen Johnson, Safeties (3rd season)
    • Brian Early, Defensive Line (3rd season)
    • Dan Dodd, Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator (3rd season)
    • Norval McKenzie, Running Backs (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – Toledo
  • 9/10 – at Auburn
  • 9/17 – at Utah State
  • 9/24 – Central Arkansas
  • 10/5 – Georgia Southern*
  • 10/15 – South Alabama*
  • 10/29 – Louisiana-Monroe*
  • 11/3 – at Georgia State*
  • 11/12 – New Mexico State*
  • 11/17 – at Troy*
  • 11/26 – at Louisiana-Lafayette*
  • 12/3 – at Texas State*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Justice Hansen, QB* (Edmond, OK)
  2. Justin McInnis, WR* (Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada)
  3. Chris Booker, WR* (Union, SC)
  4. BJ Edmonds, S (Mobile, AL)
  5. Armond Weh-Weh, RB* (Houston, TX)
  6. Ben Sukut, S (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
  7. Dajon Emory, DE* (Greenwood, DE)
  8. Logan Bonner, QB (Rowlett, TX)
  9. Landon James-Wilson, CB* (Raytown, MO)
  10. Vada King, LB (Smiths Station, AL)
  11. William Bradley-King, DE (Kansas City, MO)
  12. Jacob Atnip, OL (Sheridan, AR)
  13. Jacob Still, OL (Collierville, TN)
  14. Trent Ellis, S (Daphne, AL)
  15. Brandon Bowling, WR (McKinney, TX)
  16. Torrance Marable, RB (Decatur, GA)
  17. Troy Elliott, OL (Flower Mound, TX)
  18. Javonis Isaac, TE (Lafayette, LA)
  19. Jeremy Smith, CB (Atlanta, TX)
  20. Kyle Wilson, LB* (Wichita, KS)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Chad Voytik (Sr., Cleveland, TN)
  • RB – Johnston White (Jr., Covington, TN)
  • WR – Dijon Paschal (Jr., Tallassee, AL)
  • WR – Blake Mack (Jr., Lonoke, AR)
  • WR – Cameron Echols-Luper (Jr., Auburn, AL)
  • TE – Warren Leaphart (Sr., Morrilton, AR)
  • LT – Jemar Clark (Sr., McCrory, AR)
  • LG – Austin Moreton (Sr., Fort Smith, AR)
  • C – Devin Mondie (Sr., Olive Branch, MS)
  • RG – Colton Jackson (Sr., Ozark, AR)
  • RT – Joseph Bacchus (Sr., Southaven, MS)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (Jr., Mesquite, TX)
  • DT – Waylon Roberson (Sr., Midland, TX)
  • DT – Dee Liner (Jr., Muscle Shoals, AL)
  • DE – Chase Robison (Sr., Memphis, TN)
  • LB – Khari Lain (Jr., Tyrone, GA)
  • LB – Xavier Woodson-Luster (Sr., Eufaula, AL)
  • NB – Justin Clifton (So., Tupelo, MS)
  • CB – Blaise Taylor (Jr., Auburn, AL)
  • CB – Jamaris Hart (Jr., Florence, AL)
  • SS – Cody Brown (Sr., Bellville, TX)
  • FS – Chris Humes (Sr., Hoover, AL)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K – J.D. Houston (Sr., Pelahatchie, MS)
  • P – Damon Foncham (R-Fr., Plano, TX)

GOOD NEWS

  • Speed, speed, speed. The Red Wolves have lots of it at the skill positions, especially at wide receiver. Junior college transfers Justin McInnis and Chris Booker enrolled early, and they’re joined by TCU transfer Cameron Echols-Luper, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Texas transfer Kendall Sanders, a potential deep threat who can stretch the field, enrolls over the summer. These four will join returnees Blake Mack, Chris Murray, Dijon Paschal, and Sterling Stowers in order to give the Red Wolves plentiful talent and depth.
  • Arkansas State has a phenomenal thunder/lightning duo at tailback. Starter Johnston White, a junior, rushed for 14 touchdowns in 2015, while 5’5″ sophomore Warren Wand is a jitterbug in open space. Redshirt freshman Jamal Jones had an excellent spring, and junior college transfer Armond Weh-Weh joins the fray in fall camp.
  • The front seven features emerging stars in defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and linebacker Khari Lain. Both could push for all-conference honors.

 BAD NEWS

  • The quarterback position has been under constant turmoil since the spring ended. Junior college transfer Justice Hansen enrolled in January and competed with sophomore James Tabary and junior Cameron Birse in spring ball, with redshirt freshman D.J. Pearson also getting reps. However, shortly after spring ball ended, both Tabary and Birse elected to leave the program, and former Pittsburgh starter Chad Voytik announced that he’ll transfer to Arkansas State; as a graduate student, he will have one more year of eligibility. While it’s nice to have options, as the old saying goes, “if you have multiple quarterbacks, you don’t have one.”
  • While good at creating turnovers last season, the Red Wolves’ secondary gave up too many explosion plays through the air (267.5 passing yards per game, second-worst in the Sun Belt). With several juniors and seniors on the two-deep, more experience needs to equal more consistency.
  • The Red Wolves don’t have much depth on the offensive line, and someone needs to step up to replace reliable tight end Darion Griswold.

VERDICT

The Red Wolves have the overall depth, maturity, and experience to contend for the Sun Belt title once again. While the non-conference schedule is sure to be a grind, the Red Wolves seem to have more than enough offensive firepower to keep them afloat in the conference race. It’ll be a fight to the finish, but Arkansas State has the horses to get it done.

PREDICTION

9-3, 7-1 in Sun Belt