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Interview with the Enemy: South Alabama

What to expect from a new-look Jaguars squad with a new coaching staff, and more!

South Alabama v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Oklahoma State looks to stay perfect this week when they welcome the Jaguars of South Alabama for the first time ever. The Cowboys walloped USA last season 44-7 in Mobile. However, this year is different, with new head coach Steve Campbell now running the show.

I reached out to Creg Stephenson who covers the Jaguars for, to get an idea about what to expect from this new-look Jaguars squad. We also talked about which quarterback the Cowboys will face, who to know on the USA defense, and what South Alabama will have to do to pull off an upset.

Phillip Slavin: While Oklahoma State and South Alabama faced off last year, this year the Jags have a new head coach in Steve Campbell. What can Cowboy fans expect to see from the Jags under Campbell?

Creg Stephenson: “Campbell is very aggressive in all phases of the game, so expect the Jaguars to go for it a lot on fourth down, attack on defense and maybe spring a trick play or two. South Alabama went 4-for-5 on fourth down against Louisiana Tech, which helped keep the Jaguars in the game. USA also forced three turnovers plus another fumble they didn’t recover, had a pair of sacks and six tackles for loss. On special teams, they recovered an onside kick after a touchdown in the first half. Philosophically, South Alabama will try to establish the running game on offense, using a combination of the read option, triple option and various ends around and speed sweeps. Quarterbacks, running backs and even slot receivers will be involved in the running game. Defensively, it’s all about creating havoc with the blitz.”

PS: Campbell switched quarterbacks late in the Jags 30-26 loss to Louisiana Tech, benching Cole Garvin for Evan Orth, who nearly led a near-comeback, scoring touchdowns on the final two possessions. Which quarterback should the Cowboys’ expect to face and what are his strengths?

South Alabama v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

CS: “South Alabama actually played three quarterbacks, with redshirt freshman Cephus Johnson getting in for a series in the first half. The plan was to play all three all along, though it’s possible the way Orth performed in the second half will mix up the pecking order somewhat going forward. Garvin is the most experienced of the group and a capable passer, but tends to take chances with the ball (witness his three turnovers vs. La Tech). Johnson is the total package physically, but doesn’t have much experience and it’s asking a lot of a redshirt freshman to operate behind South Alabama’s inexperienced offensive line. Orth — the younger brother of former South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth — does not have the arm talent the others possess, but is probably the smartest of the bunch and a dangerous runner. He had a 59-yard run on an option play against Louisiana Tech.”

PS: Is there a player or two on defense that you think could cause some problems for Oklahoma State on Saturday?

CS: “South Alabama has an experienced front seven and a lot of talent in the secondary. Middle linebacker Bull Barge and defensive tackle Tyree Turner are probably the best players on the defense and have plenty of big-game experience. One who stood out against Louisiana Tech was defensive end/outside linebacker Taji Stewart, who comes in on passing downs and is a match-up nightmare for offensive tackles. Another is cornerback Jalen Thompson, who missed last season due to academic concerns. He’s an emotional player who takes a lot of chances, but his talent is undeniable. He had both a diving interception and a taunting penalty in the opener.”

PS: Let’s play hypothetical and say USA pulls off the upset on Saturday. What did they do to get the win?

CS: “I think South Alabama will have to force a ton of turnovers to have a chance to win. That’s the formula they used to beat Troy last year and how they nearly pulled off a huge comeback against Louisiana Tech. The defense has trouble against power running games and is inconsistent getting to the quarterback. Offensively, they need to break off some big chunk plays, whether that’s in the option running game or with the downfield pass. Senior wide receiver Jamarius Way is a legitimate NFL prospect with size and speed, but USA’s quarterbacks have to be able to get him the ball.”