We may be in the middle of Carnival season, but football still has a hold on the local sports scene. If someone is not talking about this weekend’s Senior Bowl, they’re likely discussing the logistical problem of the 50th Super Bowl, which happens to share the spotlight with Joe Cain Day on Feb. 7.
The University of South Alabama is also in the news. The Jaguars have recently made some major announcements regarding their future schedules.
USA will return to play at the University of Tennessee in 2021, with the game set for Sept. 18. The teams played an epic game in 2013. After trailing 31-7, the Jaguars had rallied to within one touchdown and were on a 16-play drive when the Volunteers intercepted inside their 10-yard line with only minutes to play to secure the win.
In the school’s first seven years of fielding a team, USA has sought out the Southeastern Conference. The Jags have played Mississippi State twice and South Carolina once. South is set to face MSU and LSU next year and will visit Ole Miss in 2017.
Speaking of next season, USA will face three of the four Sun Belt Conference teams that just played in bowl games. South will host Georgia State and Georgia Southern, which both saw postseason action, as well as Troy and New Mexico State.
The Jags will go on the road to take on defending league champion Arkansas State as well as Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho. The other home games in 2016 will be against Nicholls State and San Diego State. The full schedule with dates will be announced in March.
Along with Tennessee, the Jags have planned a few other games for 2021. After kicking off that season at home against Southern Mississippi, USA will travel to Bowling Green prior to the Knoxville trip.
Senior Bowl Week
Following last week’s print deadline, the Senior Bowl announced two more members of the national championship Alabama squad have accepted invitations to Saturday’s game. Linebacker Reggie Ragland (the SEC Defensive Player of the Year) and defensive end Jarran Reed will now join quarterback Jake Coker, running back Kenyan Drake and cornerback Cyrus Jones.
Coker, who played high school ball at St. Paul’s, said he grew up attending Senior Bowl practice and always dreamed about playing in front of his hometown fans. He is one of four quarterbacks on the South squad.
Another local product is wide receiver K.J. Maye of Minnesota, a graduate of Murphy High School.
The SEC (23) and Big Ten (22) led with the most players in the Senior Bowl. The Big 12 (15) and Pac 12 (12) were close behind, while the smaller FCS schools contributed 10 players.
In addition to Ragland, other major award winners are defensive end Carl Nassib of Penn State (Lombardi Award, Hendricks Award, Lott IMPACT Award, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year), linebacker Tyler Matakevich of Temple (Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award, AAC Defensive Player of the Year), safety Jeremy Cash of Duke (ACC Defensive Player of the Year), kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA (Lou Groza Award) and linebacker Joshua Garnett of Stanford (Outland Trophy).
For the first time in a decade, ESPN is televising Senior Bowl practices. The workouts on Wednesday and Thursday will appear on ESPNU, while special segments will be shown on SportsCenter, NFL Live and NFL Insiders. The NFL Network, which will broadcast the game, has one-hour shows each night to discuss the all-stars.
For local fans, the Coca-Cola Meet the Players session is Friday, 3:30-6 p.m., at the Mobile Convention Center. There will be two sessions, and the lineup of players will be posted on www.SeniorBowl.com.
In another section of the Mobile Convention Center on Friday is the Reese’s Senior Bowl Experience. This event will offer a new interactive football obstacle course from 3-6 p.m.
On game day from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium is The Food for Less Tailgate Party. The first 3,500 fans to purchase a sideline seat get a free pass.
The Baumhower Tailgate Challenge will be at the stadium from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Participants are judged on good food, originality and outstanding presentation. The winner will be recognized on the field during the first half.
Kickoff was moved to 1:30 p.m. to accommodate the five Carnival parades taking place Saturday. Tickets to the game range from $10 to $30 and can be purchased at the Senior Bowl offices at 151 Dauphin St. in downtown Mobile. For information, call 251-432-4109.
New NASCAR race
Tickets to the inaugural K&N Mobile 150 are now on sale. The action at Mobile International Speedway starts Friday, March 11, with practice runs and the battle for pole position before local racing takes place that night. The NASCAR action follows on Saturday.
The K&N Pro Series is considered the top tier in NASCAR’s developmental stages before a driver can advance to the three larger national series. Among the drivers who have competed in the K&N Pro Series is 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano.
MIS officials have announced ticket prices and packages will remain the same for the NASCAR race as they were for the ARCA Mobile 200. For additional information, call 251-343-2929 or visit the ticket office at 4742 Airport Blvd. in Mobile.
Forever Wild board to meet
The board of trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will conduct its quarterly meeting Feb. 4 in Montgomery. The event is set for 10 a.m. at the Richard Beach Building’s Agriculture and Industries Auditorium at 1445 Federal Drive.
Since 1992, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has used the trust to expand the number of public natural areas in the state for present and future generations. More information can be found at www.OutdoorAlabama.com/forever-wild-land-trust.
At next week’s gathering, the annual report will be presented. The meeting will also provide an opportunity to provide comments on the program. The nomination of tracts for possible purchase can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 334-242-3484.