The South Alabama football team opened its fall practice session Friday morning with a lot of energy and a mostly healthy roster. The Jaguars, recently selected to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division race in a coaches’ preseason poll, started the day on the outdoor practice fields, but weather/lightning issues arose, forcing the team to move to the covered Jaguar Training Center where the majority of the morning’s work took place.
Head coach Kane Wommack, entering his second season in charge of the program, said he was mostly pleased with what he saw from his team on Friday, but also noted he expects the tempo and energy created needs to continue to carry over to the next practice and all the ones that follow.
“The organization, knowing what to do, the transition from drill to drill, was all really good,” he said. “I felt like our effort was really tremendous today. If we can continue to do that — and I’ll tell the guys this afternoon, now that you’ve put that on tape, that’s the expectation every single day. And that’s what this program has to do. Can we continue to do that same high-level, consistent job over and over again?”
Wommack got a look at all phases of the Jags’ game and came away with a positive vibe for what was accomplished, while also noting there is still work to do and corrections to be made.
“From a fundamental standpoint, I thought we did some things well,” Wommack said. “Defensively, I thought our hands were in the right place and our tracking was really good, but we did not create enough takeaways. I thought up front on the offensive line they did a great job of identifying some of the pressures and things that we brought, but we had way too many drops (passes) and that has to get corrected. The NCAA has allowed us now to throw and catch in the summertime and I expected us to take advantage of that better than what I saw today. So that has to get fixed soon.”
As for the progress from his first fall practice as head coach a year ago to Friday’s first practice of Year 2, Wommack said, “When you make comparisons like that it should be pretty significant. But what we talk about is the standard that you held for yourself. A week ago when we held our last OTA is no longer good enough. So obviously the standard of a year ago is the way of the dodo bird; it’s long gone. But I think it’s good to kind of reflect on that to where we were a year ago and where we are now. Sometimes that can be an indicator of where you’re headed. But I think for us really challenging ourselves to be consistent, that urgency from going one day to the next and from Year 1 to Year 2, and I think we’re on our way towards that.”
As for some of the priorities at hand, Wommack said he hopes to name a starting quarterback “as fast as we can,” with the race apparently down to Desmond Trotter, a part-time starter the past two seasons, and Toledo transfer Carter Bradley.
“I believe in the quarterback position and the leadership role that that takes and giving that person and the team a chance to adjust to whoever is going to be the leader of that role and who’s going to be QB1,” he said. “So I think we’ve got two guys — Dez is further along than where he was a year ago and I think he’s made a tremendous jump, and I think Carter Bradley is a special arm and a pretty gifted talent and he has that gunslinger mentality and throws it into tight windows and he makes it into tight windows. So I’m pretty excited, but I want to see somebody separate themselves and as soon as that happens we’ll name a starter.”
Wommack said the team is “relatively healthy,” with only defensive lineman C.J. Person (Indiana transfer) and cornerback Dallas Gamble not with the team on the field Friday.
Running back La’Damian Webb, a former Mr. Football in the state who suffered a broken foot in spring practice, is making progress in returning from his injury.
“I think I mentioned the other day he is well ahead of schedule, which is very exciting,” Wommack said. “He’s such a gifted athlete and when you have guys like that they tend to heal quicker than the rest of us. So I think for him, he’s in a really good place for what he’s doing right now and I think we’ll get to see him sooner than what we thought, both in practice and on the field.”
In other news, running back Bryan Hill, the former McGill-Toolen standout and son of former Jags’ running backs coach Earnest Hill, has been placed on scholarship. He was a walk-on with the program. He received the last of the 85 scholarships available for this season.
Also, tight end D.J. Thomas, who played at Saraland and transferred to the Jags from Ole Miss, has changed his name. He is now listed on the roster as D.J. Thomas-Jones.
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