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Game 2 X’s and O’s Primer: Three Things to Expect from South Alabama’s Offense

What Jim Knowles and Co. can expect from the Jaguars offense.



Before the start of the 2018-19 season, South Alabama had been led by the same head coach for all nine years the program had been in existence. Former head coach, and current Mississippi State special teams coordinator, Joey Jones announced his resignation last season. Shortly after he announced he resigned, the Jaguars hired former Central Arkansas head man Steve Campbell.

Campbell has a decorated background in multiple different levels of college football, winning championships in Division II and the junior college ranks, along with having a very successful career in his time at Central Arkansas. His teams have always had very talented, high-powered offenses and his scheme has mainly been an up-tempo, spread system. He likes the quick passing game, but wants his teams to be balanced with a power running game as well.

South Alabama also hired a new offensive coordinator for this season. Kenny Edenfield had been with Troy before he decided to reunite with his former college teammate in Campbell at USA. Edenfield was co-offensive coordinator at Troy with head coach Neal Brown who comes from an Air Raid background, but Troy’s teams were often very balanced over the years and had many powerful rushing attacks.

Personnel-wise, the Jaguars have some quarterback issues as fifth-year senior and likely starter Dallas Davis left the team shortly before the spring game. They played three different quarterbacks in their 30-26 loss to Louisiana Tech last week, and it seems as though we may see the Jags go with multiple guys again this Saturday according to Campbell.

In the running game, South Alabama’s top three rushers were a quarterback and two wider receivers against the Bulldogs, while their starting running back Tra Minter had 16 carries for a total of 23 yards. The Jags do have some talented receivers in 6-4 Jamarius Way, who had 66 yards against the Pokes a year ago, and 6-1 Kawaan Baker, but they only managed 91 total yards through the air against LA Tech.

Now that I’ve covered the basics behind South Alabama’s offense, let’s look at three key things to watch for from the Jaguars this weekend.

1. Zone-Read Option

As I mentioned above, South Alabama did not have much success with its inside running game last Saturday. Campbell and Edenfield both want to get the power running game going, but they just weren’t able to against the Bulldogs. However, they did see some success with the quarterback and receiver running game through the zone-read option. All three of the quarterbacks — Cole Garvin, Cephus Johnson and Evan Orth — have the skill set to run this play and their receivers Kawaan Baker and Sam Harris are very skilled runners as well.

The Cowboys had some issues with the quarterback running game last Thursday, as Peyton Huslig rushed for 109 yards (even though nearly half of it came on one run), and adding the receivers as running threats could pose additional problems for the Pokes.

In the clip above you see Garvin read the end who is crashing down on the inside hand-off. He pulls the ball back and takes off around the outside with Baker as his pitch man. The receiver to the top of the screen has pushed the Louisiana Tech corner up the field and as the nearest defender closes on Garvin, he makes the pitch out to the sophomore wideout who takes it for six.

In this next clip shown below, we see South Alabama motion the wide receiver Harris from the top of the screen to the bottom, but then Garvin and Harris run the option back to the top of the screen after Garvin reads the end crashing again on the inside run. This time Garvin keeps it himself for another big gain for USA.

Garvin did get the read for the inside hand-off on several occasions, as you can see below, but they didn’t see much success up the middle against LA Tech.

They also threw the ball off of this motion as well.

The last clip I want to show is of Evan Orth, who came in after Garvin turned the ball over for a third time in the game.

Redshirt freshman Cephus Johnson only got in for three plays, but he is also a dangerous runner.

2. Jet Sweep

Other than the option, the jet sweep is really the only way South Alabama was able to gain much ground running the football against the Bulldogs. They saw success with both Harris:

USA also used Baker on the sweep:

As you can see from the two clips above, they were running the jet sweep out of a couple of different looks. In the first clip they have single-back with an H-back, and in the second clip they have single-back with the tight end on the line of scrimmage.

In addition, when the defense starts paying too much attention to the receiver on the sweep motion, the Jaguars’ quarterbacks aren’t afraid to keep it themselves.

3. Short Passing Game

South Alabama couldn’t really get anything going in the intermediate to deep passing game. Their longest reception of the game was 21 yards, but even that throw was a quick slant to Jamarius Way who picked up some yards after the catch.

Garvin was extremely inaccurate on his deep balls, throwing two interceptions, and Orth didn’t connect on anything downfield either. Johnson only had one attempt… an incompletion.

The only passes which worked for USA were slants (first video below), screens to the running back (second video below), and swing passes to the running back (third video below).

The Jaguars’ running backs accounted for five of their 11 total receptions in the game.

Missouri State did have some success throwing to their running back Jason Randall against OSU, as he racked up four receptions for 52 yards. So this will be something the Cowboys will have to be aware of as the Jaguars will most likely try to get their backs one-on-one against OSU linebackers Calvin Bundage and Justin Phillips.

In conclusion, I was not very impressed with South Alabama’s offense against Louisiana Tech. Many people have LA Tech picked to finish near the top of Conference USA, but that’s not really saying a whole lot. With Dallas Davis taking the majority of the snaps at quarterback against OSU last season, the Cowboys will see a new face for the Jaguars behind center, but I don’t think any of the three options are too frightening for this Poke defense.

As I previously stated, the Jags do have some talent at the receiver positions, but without someone to reliably get them the football, I’m not sure how much of a threat they pose to the Cowboys.

I think this ones ends in another lop-sided victory for Oklahoma State and we get to see the second- and third-string defense before its all said and done.

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