2012 Record: 2-11 (1-7 in Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Joey Jones (25-14 at USA, 28-21 All-Time)
Stadium: Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, AL (capacity = 33,471)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 46th out of 55 mid-major teams
Stats to Fear: Averaged 4.62 yards/play in 2012 (118th in Nation), turned the ball over 33 times in 2012 (last in Sun Belt)
Stat to Cheer: Held opponents to 73.68% conversion rate and 50.88% TD rate in red zone (1st in Sun Belt)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 105th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 9, Defense 8, Special Teams 1
Key Defensive Returnees: ILB Enrique Williams (105 tackles), DL Alex Page (64 tackles, 6 sacks), DE/OLB Pat Moore (30 tackles, 4.5 sacks), CB Tyrell Pearson (71 tacklss, 4 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Ross Metheny (2148 yds rush, 12 TD, 12 INT), RB Demetre Baker (595 yds rush, 5.04 ypc), WR Jereme Jones (44 rec, 7 TD), WR Bryant Lavender (41 rec)
Last year was South Alabama's second year in the FBS but the first year playing a full FBS schedule. It was a rough year as they only won two games and one of the teams they beat, FAU, has moved on to another conference.
Last year's offense averaged just 18.8 ppg and 330 ypg. The silver lining? They return nine starters and gained valuable experience. Ross Metheny took over as the QB last year and looks to be the man again heading into this season. USA had no seniors at the skill positions so everybody of note returns. USA also finds themselves near the top of the Sun Belt recruiting rankings and they went after offensive skill position players pretty heavily last season as they will bring in four RBs and six WRs with the 2013 class. Look for youth to get a chance to make an impact on offensive for the Jaguars. On the OL the Jags lose two starters but return five guys with at least five career starts (two of these players have double-digit starts). The offense was clearly what held USA back last season so if they want to take a step forward, this is the unit that needs to show dramatic improvement.
On defense, the Jaguars weren't that bad last year. Statistically they had a middle of the pack Sun Belt defense and that's pretty good when you have the worst offense in the league. An interesting note is that they were actually second in the league in yards allowed. The Jaguars return six of seven key contributors on the defensive line including Alex Page (11.5 TFL, 6 sacks). The LB corps loses their leading tackler but returns the next five leaders in that metric. The secondary loses only former Alabama transfer BJ Scott. The defense looks primed to have a similar year as they did last season and will be the strength of this team.
South Alabama will be better than last year but wins will still be few and far between. The schedule isn't set up very well for the Jaguars as the conference foes they have a better chance to beat are all on the road (Georgia State, Texas State, Troy) and all the big boys (Arkansas State, Louisiana, ULM, WKU) come to Mobile. This will be another learning year but this team is headed in the right direction. I look for four wins out of the Jaguars in 2013.
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