Coach: Joey Jones (37-28, entering seventh season; 40-35 overall)
2014 record: 6-7 overall, 5-3 Sun Belt; tied for fourth in Sun Belt
Look back: South Alabama won five of its first seven games before struggling through a mix of tough Sun Belt opponents and a nonconference games against South Carolina and Navy.
However, the team still managed to earn a bid to the Camellia Bowl.
The Jaguars lost 33-28 after Bowling Green scored in the final 80 seconds, but South Alabama became the fastest NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team to participate in a bowl after accomplishing the feat during its second FBS season.
Offensive starters returning: 3
Offensive starters lost: 8
Defensive starters returning: 2
Defensive starters lost: 9
Key losses: WR Shavarez Smith, OL Ucambre Williams, OL Melvin Meggs, DL Jerome McClain, DL Theo Rich, LB Maleki Harris, DB Terrell Brigham, DB Montell Garner, DL Jesse Kelley
Top returnees: TE Braedon Bowman, S Roman Buchanan, DE Jimmie Gipson III, OL Chris May, WR Danny Woodson II, K Aleem Sunanon
Strengths: After losing the majority of its starters, South Alabama is getting some experienced assistance.
The Jaguars added 12 mid-year transfers, including eight from UAB after the school opted to shut down its football program in December: former Blazers QB Cody Clements, TE Gerald Everett, OL Cameron Blankenship, OL Lee Dufour and LB Kalen Jackson all recorded starts last season while helping UAB become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004.
South Alabama also imported former UAB offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, who has installed a more up-tempo offense.
During the spring game, multiple receivers joined Everett in thriving in Vincent’s system and showed they could be potential playmakers for the Jaguars’ offense.
“We’ve got a combination of really good athletes and I think our system is fitting us really well,” South Alabama coach Joey Jones told Al.com when asked about the offense’s performance during the spring game.
Weaknesses: The team has lost 17 starters who helped the Jaguars make history with their bowl bid, and that experience won’t be easy to replace. South Alabama’s lack of depth, especially on both the offensive and defensive lines, could also be an issue.
The defense was a strength for the team last season, but the loss of nine starters on the defensive side of the ball could make it difficult to match the production from last season.
Clements, who passed for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns at UAB last season, seems most likely to earn the starting quarterback job. He could, however, be pushed by Hunter Vaughn, who two games last season, and Matt Floyd, who started one. Clements missed spring drills while recovering from an injury.
Outlook: South Alabama’s swift rise in the Sun Belt and run to a bowl game has been remarkable. However, the loss of seasoned players and a relatively challenging schedule could make it tough to match or surpass six wins in 2015.
Sept. 5 Gardner-Webb
Sept. 12 at Nebraska
Sept. 19 at San Diego State
Sept. 26 NC State
Oct. 3 at Troy
Oct. 13 Arkansas State
Oct. 24 at Texas State
Nov. 7 Idaho
Nov. 12 UL-Lafayette
Nov. 21 at Georgia State
Nov. 28 at Ga. Southern
Dec. 5 Appalachian State
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com