The regular season may have ended for the University of South Alabama football team, but news about the Jaguars continues to roll in regarding the coaching staff and the selection of the conference Player of the Year.
Topping the list of headlines was the naming of Steve Campbell to take over the program. He replaces Joey Jones, who stepped down after having started the team from scratch.
“Wow. I’m very, very excited and to say that would be an understatement,” said the 51-year-old Campbell, who comes to USA after a four-year stint at Central Arkansas.“Like [Director of Athletics] Dr. [Joel] Erdmann said, the work starts now, but this is a culmination of something for me. [South Alabama] is a place I’ve always wanted to be.”
Mobile is familiar territory for Campbell. He grew up in Cantonment, Florida, just outside Pensacola, then built his professional reputation by leading Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Delta State University to national titles.
“Growing up back then, you had three channels on TV — Channel 3, Channel 5 and Channel 10. Two of those channels were out of Mobile, so I grew up watching [former South Alabama baseball head coach] Eddie Stanky baseball highlights, [former South Alabama men’s basketball head coach] Ronnie Arrow basketball highlights. We grew up watching the South Alabama Jags in all sports.
“I always said that if [South Alabama] were to ever start football, it’d be a goldmine and with as well as their other programs had done, once they started football, South Alabama could take off and there’s no telling how far they could go.”
While at Central Arkansas, Campbell guided the Bears to a 33-15 mark, including a record of 24-3 in the Southland Conference the last three seasons. This fall UCA went 10-2 and claimed the league title with a 9-0 mark to earn a berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs (where they fell to New Hampshire 21-15). He was named the Southland Coach of the Year.
Campbell led Mississippi Gulf Coast to a record of 87-22 over the course of a decade, including the 2007 National Junior College Athletic Association championship. During his final eight years in Perkinston, the Bulldogs spent 115 consecutive weeks in the NJCAA Top 25, claimed six South Division titles and won the Mississippi Junior College championship on three occasions. He was twice named the national Coach of the Year.
Campbell was the head coach at Delta State for three seasons, 1999-2001, posting a 27-8 record. In 2000, DSU went 14-1, won the NCAA Division II national championship and Campbell was selected as national Coach of the Year. In his first head coaching job at Southwest Mississippi Community College during 1997 and 1998, he led the Bears to their first winning season in a dozen years while going 12-8 overall.
In 19 seasons as a head coach, Campbell has never led a team that finished with a losing record, while compiling a 159-53 overall mark. He was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 2014, and also served as president of the NJCAA Coaches Association in 2012.
After beginning his collegiate playing career at Southeastern Louisiana, Campbell moved on to Troy, where he was part of the Trojans’ 1987 NCAA Division II national championship team. He was named first-team all-conference at center his senior year.
Campbell received his undergraduate degree in economics from Troy in 1988 and a master’s in business administration from Auburn in 1990. He and his wife, Shellie, have three children: Kelsie (26), Steven Jr. (25) and Tate (12). Steven Jr. is now the athletic director at MGCCC.
Campbell has started pulling together a staff. On defense are Greg Stewart (defensive coordinator and linebackers coach), Harland Bower (defensive line), Larry Hart (outside linebackers), Josh Jones (cornerbacks) and Matt Kitchens (safeties/special teams coordinator). Kenny Edenfield will serve as the offensive coordinator, after working at Troy the last 10 years. Other coaches include Mike Bangtson (offensive line), Pete Bennett (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Chad Huff (tight ends) and Larry Warner (running backs).
Players gain honors
Jeremy Reaves has concluded his four-year career in a big way. He became the first USA player in program history to receive a Sun Belt Conference individual award, picked up first-team all-league honors and has been selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 27.
He recorded a team-leading 104 total tackles, seven stops behind the line, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, adding eight other passes broken up. The senior was chosen as the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year while earning all-conference recognition for the third straight season.
Reaves departs as USA’s all-time leader with eight interceptions, nine forced fumbles and 22 passes broken up. He will also play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20.
Reaves was joined on the first-team all-SBC squad by placekicker Gavin Patterson and punter Corliss Waitman, while Noah Fisher and Jamarius Way were second-team honorees on the offensive line and at wide receiver, respectively. Four other Jaguars — seniors Finessé Middleton and Darrell Songy, as well as juniors Bull Barge and Nigel Lawrence — picked up honorable mention distinction.
Future games announced
• USA will take on Florida in 2020 as part of a revised non-conference schedule. The Jaguars will visit Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 19. They will then face Oklahoma State — the last in a three-game agreement with the Cowboys — on Sept. 16, 2023.
The contest with the Gators will come after the Jags begin the 2020 campaign with a trip to Southern Mississippi, followed by their home opener against Grambling. South will conclude non-SBC action that fall at home against Alabama-Birmingham the week after going to Florida.
• With the move of the OSU game, South now has two non-league contests on the schedule in 2023. The Jaguars will host Central Michigan the week before traveling to Stillwater.
• The Jags open the 2024 campaign at home against North Texas on Aug. 31, and one week later will travel to Ohio. South will make the trip to Denton on Sept. 27, 2025, while Ohio will visit Mobile on Sept. 26 the following year.
(Photo | University of South Alabama Athletics) Jeremy Reaves was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year after recording 104 tackles, seven stops behind the line, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.