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South Alabama has been the same mediocre team for the last three years, never surpassing six wins. They posted a 5-7 record last year, 3-5 in Sun Belt play. The Jaguars had some nice wins, most notably at San Diego State, but consistency failed them in the conference.
While the Jags have a quarterback competition, they can't be much worse than last year's starter, who completed 52.8% of his passes for 13 TDs and 15 INTs. Last year's backup Dallas Davis was the frontrunner out of spring, but he'll get steady competition from Marshall transfer Cole Garvin and UAB transfer Evan Orth throughout the season.
Either way, the Jags will lean on their run game again with the solid duo of Xavier Johnson (956 yards, 7 TDs) and Tyreis Thomas (552 yards, 2 TDs). Maybe with more consistent QB play, those two can post better numbers. Although with some new faces on the offensive line, that may be not be possible. They only return two starters along the line with a freshman expected to start at center after their former center decided to transfer in his final season.
In addition to the new QB, the wide receivers are almost all incoming junior college transfers. Josh Magee (23 receptions, 504 yards, 3 TDs) is the top returning starter, while tight end Gerald Everett (41 receptions, 575 yards, 8 TDs) may end up being the top target again.
USA has some pieces on the defensive end, but ultimately disappointed last year, allowing 37.3 points per game. Head coach Joey Jones decided to bring in a new coordinator, Kane Wommack of Eastern Illinois, who's expected to keep the 4-2-5 scheme.
The problem once again will be along the line for the Jaguars where only nose tackle Tre Alford returns. There is a lot of inexperience in that group and they were the main weak point for this team last year. In fact, South Alabama was second best in the conference in pass defense, allowing 195 passing yards per game.
The good news is that most of the back end is in tact starting with linebacker Roman Buchanan, although he's moving from safety, and Kalen Jackson moved from LB to nickel back and Jeremy Reaves from nickel to corner. The hope is that this movement will put these guys in better positions that make more sense given their talents. The three players listed were all-conference performers, so at least the talent is there.
Reaching a bowl game will once again be the goal for the Jaguars, but their opening schedule isn't too friendly. Winning at Lafayette in their third game may prove vital to reaching a bowl game, as will taking down SDSU again, this time at home. To help, the Jags get Troy, Georgia State and NMSU all at home and need to win those three. Winning on the road will be the theme of their season, though, with more winnable ones at UL Monroe and Idaho late in the season. Without wins in those games, six wins will be unlikely.
And with unknown quarterback play, it's hard to project how the Jaguars will do. The defense may be a little better, but the offense still has questions. Maybe if the ground game improves, that sixth win will be in the cards.
2016 South Alabama Jaguars Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Mississippi State
Sept. 10 vs. Georgia Southern
Sept. 17 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 24 vs. Nicholls State
Oct. 1 vs. San Diego State
Oct. 15 at Arkansas State
Oct. 20 vs. Troy
Oct. 29 vs. Georgia State
Nov. 5 at Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 19 at LSU
Nov. 26 at Idaho
Dec. 3 vs. New Mexico State
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