To get a jist of what the Jaguars will bring to Memorial Stadium, I reached out to Will Butler, the man who writes about them for SBNation's site Underdog Dynasty. They have a pretty big crew over there, and I want to thank Will for his time filling out these inquiries. We will look to work with the site again when Southern Miss comes to town in a couple weeks.
1. So, good start for the Jaguars as they defeated Gardner-Webb in a delayed game Saturday to start the season right. What’s the realistic goal of South Alabama for this season?
That's a damn good question. Losing 17 starters from a bowl team + 9 UAB transfers = A lot of uncertainty about what this team can do. They looked a bit lethargic after the lightning delay against a bad FCS team, but that game probably didn't tell us much about this team's outlook for the season (and neither will Nebraska, more than likely). My semi-educated guess is that the turnover from a previously solid defensive unit will cause some headaches and put them on the wrong side of .500, but the UAB transfers and solid recruiting by Joey Jones may also give this team just enough depth to eke out bowl eligiblity for a third straight season.
2. Cody Clements is the starting QB, but only because of his transfer from UAB. Combined with former UAB OC Bryant Vincent, what was the big difference in the USA Offense that you could see from last year?
The tempo's going to be faster than last season's offense, and Cody Clements should, on paper, be a step up accuracy-wise from Brandon Bridge. However, USA looked out of sorts against Gardner-Webb and Clements looked off at times (14 of 25, 184 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs including a pick six). It's hard to say whether that was a product of the lightning delay throwing USA off their game or whether it was the sign of a more troubling trend. USA has had a history of erratic performances week to week under Jones, so for all we know the Jags could look like world beaters this week.
3.Xavier Johnson had a pretty good game for the Jaguars Saturday. Is he the man in the backfield, or should Terrance Timmons get more touches Saturday?
Timmons had a great start to the game against USA, but Johnson took over in the second half. I think it'll still be somewhat of a running back by committee approach, but Johnson showed off some big time speed on his 92 yard run and will likely be relied heavily upon. So yeah, he's still the man.
4. Gerald Everett, another UAB transfer, was the top target for Clements Saturday. Is that what you expect this week? Or do you expect guys like Xavier Johnson and DJ Vinson to get involved more?
The curious thing about South Alabama's receiving corps is that it's supposedly chock full of talent, yet nobody cracked 100 yards against Gardner-Webb. Everett may still be the top target as a talented go-to at tight end, but for all we know another UAB transfer in Josh Magee or four star Alabama transfer Marvin Shinn could get involved. Vinson's too talented to not get involved in this offense at some point, but it'll be interesting to see how he handles the transition from running back to wideout.
Historically they've run a 3-4 defense that was a bit "bend but don't break" that often stepped up in short yardage situations and in the red zone. They'll occasionally run a timely blitz or two to try and knock the quarterback off his line and get him to throw a bad ball into coverage--which they did successfully with a really nice interception by USA's Jeremy Reaves. However, this defense is a shell of what it once was after so many starters departed. Blake Dees (Texas Tech transfer) will patrol the middle as a potential playmaker, but this defense is an unknown. Very much so after giving up 300+ yards to an FCS offense that fell off a cliff towards the end of last season. There's probably not all that much for Nebraska to be scared of right now when it comes to the USA defense
6. With getting so many transfers into the program from UAB and such, do you expect this team to get better as the season moves along?
Probably. There's a lot of raw talent (for a Sun Belt team) on both sides of the ball and some experience returning with UAB's transfers, so this team has a lot of upside. They didn't play particularly well against Gardner Webb and probably won't have a great day in Lincoln, which means there likely won't be anywhere to go but up anyway.
Keep an eye out for Blake Dees and Kalen Jackson at linebacker. Both have quite a bit of experience as transfers and were quite active against Gardner Webb, and safety Roman Buchanan is the anchor of the secondary. Their combined talent might not be enough to stop Nebraska, but they could help make up a solid back 8 for the Jags defense by the end of the season.
Ehhhh. I'm sure that there will be a few fans that will make their way to Lincoln for the experience alone, but South Alabama fans don't have a reputation of traveling particularly well in force yet. I'd be surprised if they have more than 1,000 fans there.
9. Alright, prediction time. Tell us how you see the game taking shape, and a final score.