With college football preparing to kick off next month, several seniors on the University of South Alabama squad are receiving some preseason attention.
Tight end Wes Saxton has been placed on the preseason watch list for two awards. The Biletnikoff Award recognizes the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, while the John Mackey Award is presented to the top tight end.
Saxton (6-4, 235) was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick as a junior. He was ranked nationally with 50 catches and 635 yards.
Joining him on the Biletnikoff list is wide receiver Shavarez Smith (6-1, 210). He also had 50 catches last season, finishing with 940 yards and six touchdowns. He was on the second-time all-SBC squad.
The Rotary Lombardi Award committee has selected offensive lineman Ucambre Williams (6-3, 295) for its watch list. Williams, who is projected to start at left tackle, was a second-team all-conference selection in 2013. He did not allow a sack on any of the Jaguars’ 394 pass plays last season.
Head coach Joey Jones kept busy this summer, looking for the next group of athletes to wear a Jaguar uniform. He and his staff took to the road, conducting camps for young players in Dothan, Montgomery, Birmingham and Decatur. Each camp lasted approximately two hours, with around 150 participants seeing action in individual, group and competition periods.
“A lot of people are running camps on the road, getting out and seeing different prospective student-athletes,” Jones said. “A lot of times a player doesn’t want to drive five hours from Decatur to come to Mobile for our camp, so we felt like going places would be our best solution and it worked out real well.”
One player who already made up their mind about joining the Jaguars is quarterback Matt Floyd (6-1, 200) of Milton, Fla. A transfer from the University of South Florida, he has two years of eligibility and will be able to play this season.
He started the opener for the Bulls last year, and over two seasons he completed 66-of-130 passes for 538 yards. Off the field, he was twice named academic all-conference while also winning the Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award.
“We recruited Matt out of high school. He was the No. 1 guy on our board at quarterback,” Jones said. “We feel like we’ve got a guy who can fit into our scheme offensively.”
The Jags finished last season 6-6 overall and tied for third in the SBC with a 4-3 record. USA opens play on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Kent State.
And the winner is …
Speaking of being honored, there were numerous sports-related categories on this year’s Nappie Awards list. Among those being recognized are:
Best Sports Bar – Heroes;
Best Gym – SportsPlex;
Best Personal Trainer – Josh Foster at SportsPlex;
Best Yoga Instructor – Teddy Ward;
Best Golf Course – Magnolia Grove;
Best Park – Lavretta Park, off Old Shell Road in Spring Hill;
Best Sports Radio Show – Talking Football on WNSP-FM;
Best Sports Coverage – Randy Patrick on WKRG-TV.
Badgers receive good news
As has been previously mentioned in Lagniappe, Spring Hill College is in the process of applying for membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. School officials recently received notification that they have successfully completed their first year of candidacy to join Division II.
“It was great to get the news that the Membership Committee had advanced us to year two,” said SHC athletic director Jim Hall. “We’ve worked diligently over the last two years to make this next phase in the upward evolution of Badger Athletics a reality. There is still considerable work to be done the next two years, but we are thrilled to be moving forward with the process.”
SHC is also becoming a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with the move. During the upcoming 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years, Spring Hill’s 16 varsity athletic programs will play full slates of NCAA Division II and SIAC regular season competition. The Badgers are not eligible for postseason action until the 2016-17 season, when full NCAA membership has been attained.
Spring Hill has also announced the winners of its highest student-athlete awards for the last school year. Brian Sims (second baseman from Mobile) and Taryn Nash (volleyball) won the Senior Athletes of the Year honors.
Taylor Eads was the Male Athlete of the Year for his efforts on the baseball diamond, while Nash and softball pitcher Caroline Sagrera shared the Female Athlete of the Year honor.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the organization that the Badgers are leaving after many decades, also recognized a school record 11 SHC squads with Scholar Team Awards. Leading the way with a 3.33 grade point average was the women’s softball team.
Representing his country
Dakai Grant, a sophomore-to-be at the University of Mobile, did more than watch soccer on TV this summer. He served as a team captain for Bermuda’s team during qualifying matches for the Under-20 World Cup.
In their group play, Bermuda beat Guadeloupe 4-3, fell to Dominican Republic 2-0 and had a scoreless tie with Antigua & Barbuda.
The Under-20 World Cup will take next year in New Zealand, from May 30 to June 20. Twenty-four teams will qualify.
Hitting the links
The deadline is approaching to sign up for the South Alabama Junior Shootout golf tournament. The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour event is set for Aug. 23-24 at the Craft Farms-Cotton Creek course in Gulf Shores.
This American Junior Golf Association provisional event will have divisions for boys (ages 11-14 and 15-18) and girls (ages 11-14 and 15-18). Winners in each division will receive an automatic bid into the 2014 Tour Championship, set for Dec. 6-7.
Top Ten finishers will receive points toward year-end honors, including state teams, all-HJGT teams and the Hurricane Cup.
The deadline to enter is Aug. 13. The registration fee is $185 for members, and $215 for non-members.
For more information, call 904-379-2697 or visit www.hjct.org.
A day at the beach
For those who are fans of tossing a beanbag at holes cut in wooden targets, the next round of the Gulf Coast Cornhole Series will take place Saturday, July 26, on the state line at the Flora-Bama Lounge. Registration is from noon to 12:45 p.m., with the tournament starting at 1 p.m.
Two-person teams may compete in either the Rookies or Masters divisions. A news released stated officials will present $1,000 in gift cards and prizes. The registration fee is $20 per team in advance, or $30 the day of the tournament.
The championship round will be Oct. 18 on Pensacola Beach at Bamboo Willie’s. For more details, visit www.kaboomssc.com/tournaments.