With only seven starters returning, the Jaguars needed some reinforcements. Fortunately, thanks to the unfortunate situation a few miles north they have come. A wave of incoming talent from the UAB program should ease the loss of so many seniors from last year’s bowl team.
South Alabama may not have much returning on offense or defense, but a pair of returning linemen will be critical to the Jaguars’ offensive success. RT Chris May and C Joseph Scelfo are experienced linemen with All-Sun Belt talent. Another key piece to the line will be UAB transfer (the first of many to be mentioned in this preview so brace yourself) Cam Blankenship.
QB Brandon Bridge and leading rusher Kendall Houston may be gone, but don’t fear more UAB transfers are here. Cody Clements topped 2,000 yards passing in Birmingham last year and D.J. Vinson may have rushed for 35 yards less than Houston, but I think the seven more touchdowns he rushed for more than offset the 35 yards.
The Jaguars receiving corps is fairly depleted heading into the season, but there are enough pieces here to cobble together a decent group. Former Alabama receiver Marvin Shinn may not have lived up to his potential in Tuscaloosa, but the talent is there and he could breakout in 2015. TE Braedon Bowman is good enough that some think he is All-Sun Belt caliber and Danny Woodson II is the leading returning receiver, which admittedly isn’t saying much considering how much South Alabama lost, and he has all the ability to be a go-to option.
In the midst of a complete overhaul, particularly up front, the secondary at least provides some returning talent. SS Roman Buchanan and nickelback Antonio Carter are the most experienced members of the secondary and two of the three most experienced returners on the whole defense. These two paired with freshman Jalen Thompson should headline one of the better Sun Belt defensive backfields. Thompson also has potential as a returner.
Defensive end Jimmie Gipson is the other heavily experienced player. Gipson and fellow end Akeem Lewis are the most experienced players on the line, which means both will likely need to make plays rushing the passer and stopping the run.
The Jaguars are spread pretty thin at linebacker, but Kalen Jackson’s arrival from, you guessed it, UAB should help at least a little bit. Demarius Rancifer is the only returning backer who recorded double digit tackles last season. Rancifer should anchor the Sam backer position. The other two spots are up in the air, but the safest bets to fill them are Jackson and Junior Grant Powell. Another potential contender for that spot is Senior Andrew Philon.
Most “mid-major” teams would face the possibility of going winless if they were undergoing this type of rebuild. However, the resilient Jaguars should be closer to .500 than .000. It won’t be easy, but the southward migration of all those former Blazers should help. The schedule is also manageable with a non-conference game against Gardner-Webb and getting to play three of the four weakest teams in the conference.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Mike Kittrellfirstname.lastname@example.org