South Alabama began the 2016 season with one of the shocking victories of the year, knocking off Mississippi State 21-20.
The Jaguars went on to win the requisite six games to qualify for a bowl. They fell 45-21 to Air Force in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Kickoff for the 2017 college football season is fast approaching. Alabama NewsCenter is talking with coaches across the state about the upcoming campaign. Next up is Joey Jones, the South Alabama coach.
Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?
Joey Jones: We’re a much better football team. We’ve got more depth than we’ve ever had, especially on the defensive front. Last year, we had no depth on the defensive front. We lost every one of our starters before the first ballgame on defense. That kind of crippled us. I felt like we were fighting all year with one arm tied behind our back. We played some pretty good football. But this year, I feel like our players kind of have a chip on their shoulders. They want to make things happen. I think this is going to be a really good football team.
ANC: What is your team’s strength?
JJ: I would say the defensive line. We’re three-deep across the front that we can play at any time. We’ve never had the luxury. Then you look at depth across the team. We’ve been recruiting Division I players for four years now and some of that depth is starting to show up at every position.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
JJ: In the secondary, Jeremy Reaves. He’s a three-year starter for us at safety. He’s our team captain (and) is going to play in the NFL next year. He’s a very good football player. DJ (Darrell) Songy, our starting Mike linebacker, transferred in from Oregon State. He’s 238 pounds and is really having a great camp. On the front we’ve got several, but Tyree Turner has been pretty much unblockable for us on the defensive line. He’s just a sophomore but he’s really had a great camp. On offense, Jamarius Way is a junior college transfer at wide receiver we picked up late this summer. He’s a playmaker. Xavier Johnson is our running back; he’s basically a four-year starter. He’s pretty much started most of that time. And Noah Fisher, our left tackle – this is his third year to start at tackle. He’s 315 pounds, 6-5, 315.
ANC: What game do your fans have circled on your schedule?
JJ: I would think the Troy game is a huge game for us. It’s a great rivalry already. You wouldn’t think a series that’s been as short as ours would be that much of a rivalry, but it is. It’s been back and forth. Those guys have had a lot of great tradition over the years. We’re a team that’s getting there so it’s exciting. It’s going to be an exciting game every year we play it.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
JJ: I would say how well our offensive line develops. The game is won in the trenches, and while our defensive line has to go out and prove it, I feel good about those guys because we have a lot of depth and a lot of experience. Now, can our offensive line get to a championship level quick enough this season to propel us to win a conference championship?