Jags Prepare for Preseason

On college campuses across the country, incoming freshmen are arriving at their new schools while veteran players continue their conditioning programs and get together for informal practices. South Alabama is no different as they prepare for their first NCAA season.

According to USA head coach Joey Jones, most of the new players from the 2011 signing class have arrived on campus and are in the process of getting acclimated. The only exceptions among the incoming freshmen are Jeffrey Dyson and Ramone Lewis. Dyson is not expected to qualify academically and his probable route to college football is to enroll at USA and pay his own way for a year and, if he should perform well enough to be eligible, join the team with four years to play. Lewis is staying home to attend to some family matters and will report in August. It is possible he may redshirt, but according to Coach Jones everyone will have an opportunity to prove themselves.

"We'll certainly give everyone a chance," he said. "I've learned a long time ago not to assume anything about these players. Some of them will come in ready to go and will have a maturity about them and can handle it. Right now, depending on how our secondary pans out this summer, we'll need some depth back there....but at a lot of the other positions you would hope that we could redshirt them. But we will play the best player, the guy that shows up on the practice field."

Two players not expected to redshirt are incoming junior college transfers DE Ceasere Johnson and safety Charles Harris. Both are completing their final JC classes and are expected to report soon.

Harris is expected to compete at safety along with Alabama transfer B.J. Scott and Ameriol Finley, a freshman who enrolled in January. Scott was originally expected to be a cornerback but the coaches decided his athleticism and play-making ability will be more effective at the safety spot. Making that decision easier was the great play at cornerback this spring of Jonathan Cameron, who played corner and safety last year, plus the confidence the staff has in newcomer Damond Smith and holdover Anton Graphenreed. Also in the mix in the secondary is safety Ken Barefield, who was third on the team in tackles with 37 before tearing a knee ligament in the final game, redshirt Davin Hawkins, and incoming freshman corner E.J. May and safeties Carl Williams and Dionte McDuffy.

While Coach Jones is not able to see the freshman in practices yet, he is receiving very promising reports from the strength and conditioning coaches. The freshman are starting to see the benefits in strength and speed that the veterans have already experienced.

"If you look at us two years ago and then now, we are much stronger, much faster football team," said Coach Jones.

Along with the secondary, offensive line depth is one of the biggest concerns heading into the 2011 season. With the loss of several linemen due to academics and the decision of Levi Slaydon to give up football after graduating this past spring, the Jags will be counting on several younger players, like Shawn Artz and Chris May, to be able to step in and play when needed.

"What we have to remember is that most of our young linemen just came in last fall and are still freshmen," Coach Jones said. "The learning curve that they are going to encounter is going to be very steep so I expect those guys to get much better on the field due to the fact that they are getting stronger in the weight room but also because of the knowledge to play offensive line that they will gain."

With fall practice barely a month away, there will soon be many of the these questions answered. Jag fans hope that the answers lead toward another successful season.

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