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1. Staying power
And now here comes the hard part: maintenance. USA must replace its starting quarterback, two leading rushers, two leading receivers, three multi-year starting offensive linemen, three leading tacklers on the defensive line, three leading tacklers at linebacker, and three of five leading tacklers in the secondary. This is a blood transfusion, one that will test South Alabama's staying power.
Jones has recruited well, and he's proved himself as a head coach. I'm reasonably optimistic that he'll be able to maintain despite some impressive turnover. But it's a test he'll have to pass. Perhaps luckily for him, USA stands to gain more than anybody else from UAB's demise three and a half hours up I-65 in Birmingham.
It's difficult to believe, but the hardest part about geting a new program off the ground isn't getting it off the ground -- it's keeping it off the ground.
A lot of schools in football-fertile areas of the country have decided, "You know what? I want a football program," in recent years. You can find quite a few at the FCS level, but in the last decade and change, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, UTSA, Georgia State, South Alabama, and Charlotte have basically gone straight from feasibility study to FBS.
Some struggled, sure. FIU went 17-50 in its first six FBS seasons, Georgia State went 1-23 in its first two, and Charlotte's 2015 debut finished with just two wins in 12 tries. But FAU went 9-3 in its first season under Howard Schnellenberger, and UTSA went 15-9 in its first two.
South Alabama bombed out at 2-11 in its 2012 transition year, but in 2013, the Jaguars began to figure things out. They went 6-6, and both their offense and defense ranked in the S&P+ top 75. They outscored opponents by 51 points, and five of their six losses came by a combined 12. They beat four mid-major opponents that finished .500 or better. In their second year at the FBS level, they belonged.
In their third year, they regressed -- the defense got better, but the offense did not -- but finished 6-6 again and scored the bowl bid that'd eluded them. And then everybody graduated. Starting quarterback, top two running backs, starting receivers, starting tight end, three starting offensive linemen, four of six defensive linemen, top three linebackers, three of five defensive backs: all gone.
The same thing happened to UTSA and could happen to Charlotte. You start your program up, you redshirt everybody in your first class (because there aren't any games), you field an ultra-young team, and when that first recruiting class is entering its fifth and final season, you've been in FBS for a year or two, and you have one of the most experienced teams in the country. And the next year, you have no continuity.
Even with an influx of players from UAB, South Alabama's two-deep looked dramatically different in 2015, and the Jaguars predictably struggled. An iffy offense remained iffy, and a painfully thin defense fell from 57th in Def. S&P+ to 106th. A shift in close-game fortunes (4-1 in games decided by one possession) meant that the impact wasn't felt too much in the win column -- USA fell to only 5-7 -- but the product was quite a bit worse.
It's a big year in Mobile. USA: The Second Generation now takes shape, and as the classes begin to even out, we will find out what kind of staying power Joey Jones' program has.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 102 | Final S&P+ Rk: 103|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|19-Sep||at San Diego State||43||34-27||W||74%||69%||+21.8||+24.5|
|24-Oct||at Texas State||116||18-36||L||18%||11%||-14.7||-14.5|
|21-Nov||at Georgia State||87||10-24||L||28%||13%||-8.7||-11.0|
|28-Nov||at Georgia Southern||48||17-55||L||3%||0%||-16.7||-17.5|
|Points Per Game||25.0||93||37.3||115|
2. Ceiling vs. floor
It was an all-or-nothing year. The Jaguars played at the 41st percentile or higher (basically a top-75 level) on five occasions, beating Troy and scoring an upset over San Diego State that seemed surprising at the time and became more stunning as SDSU mounted a Mountain West title run. They won all five games when playing at this level.
The level was far different in the other seven games. The Jaguars got absolutely smoked by three top-50 opponents (average score against Nebraska, NC State, and Georgia Southern: Opp 55, USA 13), lost by 18 to a bad Texas State, and lost by two touchdowns to Georgia State.
Almost everybody looks better in wins than losses, of course, but this was Jeckyll-and-Hyde stuff.
- USA in wins:
Average percentile performance: 58% | Performance vs. S&P+ projection: +9.5 PPG
- USA in losses:
Average percentile performance: 16% | Performance vs. S&P+ projection: -12.3 PPG
S&P+ often gets a read on a team as a season unfolds. That was not the case with South Alabama: S&P+ missed by at least 10 points, in one direction or the other, in eight of 12 games. That's a feature of a lot of young teams, but another feature -- strong home play, abysmal road play -- didn't really apply: USA's average percentile performance was 34 percent in Mobile and 33 percent outside of Mobile.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.3%||95||Succ. Rt. +||94.6||94|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||34.9||126||Def. FP+||33.7||120|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||66||Redzone S&P+||85.3||117|
|Q1 Rk||85||1st Down Rk||103|
|Q2 Rk||124||2nd Down Rk||113|
|Q3 Rk||111||3rd Down Rk||84|
3. Old-school principles
Bryant Vincent rejoined Jones' staff in 2015 after a sojourn at (of course) UAB. Perhaps it was a minor victory that, despite the turnover in on-field personnel, USA's output remained about the same -- the Jaguars ranked 104th in Off. S&P+ in 2014 and 108th in 2015 -- but with UAB transfer Cody Clements leading the offense, a bit more was expected, especially with what looked like an athletic receiving corps.
On paper, the USA offense seemed almost old-school. From what were pretty typical spread formations, the Jaguars operated slowly (77th in Adj. Pace), ran on standard downs, threw on passing downs, and didn't create many solo tackle opportunities (which is usually the sign of a truly spread-out defense).
Clements was asked to throw the ball a lot in obvious-pass situations -- he threw only 96 passes on first down and threw 94 on third-and-4 or more -- and that tends to lead to a few mistakes. While his passer rating was a solid 143.9 on those first-down throws, he threw two touchdown passes to five picks in that third-down sample. Passer rating on third-and-4 or more: 96.1.
It's unclear who will start at QB, but whoever it is will probably be a sophomore. It might behoove Vincent to switch things up a bit.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Dallas Davis||6'2, 210||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7400||11||23||108||1||1||47.8%||8||25.8%||1.7|
|Evan Orth||6'2, 190||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
|Cole Garvin||6'1, 215||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8244|
4. Mysteries at QB
There's power in numbers, at least. USA will almost certainly be starting a sophomore quarterback, and while that is suboptimal, there are at least three to choose from.
- Dallas Davis was last year's backup and showed the tendency to trust his mobility a bit too much -- he scrambled for a few yards here and there but somehow managed to take eight sacks in just 31 pass attempts.
- Cole Garvin is a Marshall transfer and was the most well-regarded recruit of the trio. He was a big-play passer in high school and has put on about 25 pounds since committing to the Herd.
- Evan Orth originally chose UAB over USA, then followed Vincent to Mobile.
In theory, Dallas got a head start in the battle by seeing the field last year, but he didn't do a ton with the opportunity. He got an extended look in the final two games against Georgia Southern and Appalachian State but completed only six of 16 passes for 54 yards.
USA appears to have the skill position talent to succeed on offense if a steady quarterback emerges (and isn't throwing too much on third-and-long). But it's unclear whether that will happen.
|Xavier Johnson||RB||5'11, 180||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7781||145||956||7||6.6||7.9||42.1%||1||0|
|Tyreis Thomas||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||NR||0.7000||113||552||2||4.9||3.2||41.6%||2||1|
|Dami Ayoola||RB||5'10, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8131||38||107||0||2.8||1.9||23.7%||0||0|
|Dallas Davis||QB||6'2, 210||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7400||8||25||0||3.1||1.3||50.0%||1||1|
|Gerald Everett||TE||6'4, 225||Sr.||NR||NR||8||7||4||0.9||0.0||0.0%||0||0|
|Jalin Buie||RB||5'7, 165||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8615|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Gerald Everett||TE||6'4, 225||Sr.||NR||NR||63||41||575||65.1%||18.9%||9.1||57.1%||54.0%||1.65|
|Josh Magee||WR-A||5'11, 170||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8039||46||23||504||50.0%||13.8%||11.0||50.0%||30.4%||3.37|
|Danny Woodson II||WR-X||34||19||253||55.9%||10.2%||7.4||38.2%||41.2%||1.73|
|Chris Lewis||WR-A||5'7, 170||Sr.||NR||NR||20||10||96||50.0%||6.0%||4.8||60.0%||30.0%||1.35|
|Kevin Kutchera||WR-X||6'3, 195||Sr.||NR||NR||17||9||97||52.9%||5.1%||5.7||23.5%||47.1%||1.13|
|Xavier Johnson||RB||5'11, 180||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7781||10||9||82||90.0%||3.0%||8.2||60.0%||50.0%||1.58|
|Tyreis Thomas||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||NR||0.7000||9||6||25||66.7%||2.7%||2.8||55.6%||22.2%||1.02|
|Tony Ray Parnell||WR-Z||5'7, 160||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7889||2||1||0||50.0%||0.6%||0.0||50.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Tyrone Williams||WR-Z||6'2, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8117|
|Cameron Broadnax||WR-X||6'2, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7700|
|Jahmmir Taylor||WR||5'11, 170||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8107|
|James Bynes||TE||6'3, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752|
|Andrew Reinkemeyer||TE||6'4, 263||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556|
5. Efficiency weapon? Check. Explosiveness weapon? Check.
The winner of the QB battle will have some friendly options. The offensive line should be at least decent -- the Jaguars return three of last year's starters, including all-conference center Joseph Scelfo, plus anotehr couple of players with starting experience -- and the skill position roster appears loaded with both potential and proven production.
In Xavier Johnson, USA might have one of the more underrated running backs in the country. Of the 114 FBS backs who carried at least 140 times last year, only 11 combined an opportunity rate of at least 42 percent with at least six yards per highlight opportunity. You've heard of quite a few -- LSU's Leonard Fournette, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, Notre Dame's CJ Prosise, UNC's Elijah Hood, Oregon's Royce Freeman -- but within this group, Johnson was the most explosive at 7.9 highlight yards per opp. In USA's five wins, he rushed 78 times for 620 yards (7.9 per carry) and seven touchdowns.
Of course, in the Jaguars' seven losses, he averaged only 5 yards per carry with no scores. Opponents knew he was going to be getting the ball a lot on first downs and were able to load the box accordingly, but consistency is the primary goal.
USA must replace four of its top six targets, which is scary, but the Jaguars do have a thunder-and-lightning pair in the receiving corps. UAB transfers Gerald Everett and Josh Magee were a hit last year -- Everett was one of the nation's more productive tight ends, and while Magee was an all-or-nothing guy (50 percent catch rate), he was a good one, averaging nearly 22 yards per catch. Consistency will be key for Magee, too; after catching 14 passes for a massive 402 yards in the first six games of 2015, he caught only seven for 102 thereafter.
There are other intriguing skill position guys. Senior Tyrone Williams could break out if healthy, running back Tyreis Thomas was efficient (if not particularly explosive) in splitting carries with Johnson, freshman Jalin Buie was the gem of the 2016 signing class, and USA's bringing in three JUCO pass catchers, including three-star Jahmmir Taylor.
There's depth, size, speed, efficiency, explosiveness ... everything you could ask for. Now we just have to figure out if they have a quarterback.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Joseph Scelfo||C||6'1, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR||12||25||2015 1st All-Sun Belt|
|Chris May||RT||12||44||2015 2nd All-Sun Belt|
|Steven Foster||LG||6'4, 305||Sr.||2 stars||NR||11||13|
|Curtis Williams||LT||6'5, 290||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8100||12||12|
|Noah Fisher||RT||6'4, 290||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7583||2||2|
|Harrison Louden||C||6'3, 295||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956||0||1|
|Steve McKenzie||LG||6'1, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8188||0||0|
|De'Arius Young||RG||6'7, 310||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7783||0||0|
|Troy Thingstad||RT||6'5, 275||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8256|
|Zach Davis||RG||6'6, 275||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8200|
|Ryan Alexander||LT||6'3, 275||RSFr.||NR||0.8200|
|Nelson Santiago||C||6'3, 270||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8029|
|Clay Burt||OL||6'4, 310||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7683|
|D'Tavieus Taylor||OL||6'4, 280||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7783|
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.3%||74||Succ. Rt. +||97.7||72|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.6||99||Off. FP+||29.3||84|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.2||123||Redzone S&P+||86.8||117|
|Q1 Rk||91||1st Down Rk||75|
|Q2 Rk||70||2nd Down Rk||87|
|Q3 Rk||76||3rd Down Rk||84|
6. Opponents knew to run
Defense was USA's calling card during the Jaguars' two six-win campaigns, but the toy box was pretty empty. In 2014, USA ranked 28th in Standard Downs S&P+, 38th in Passing S&P+, 39th in Rushing S&P+, and 12th in Redzone S&P+. They risked big plays in the name of efficiency, and it usually worked.
In 2015, with most of 2014's starting lineup gone (and not nearly as many UAB transfers around to help as on offense), USA just didn't have the horses. The Jags couldn't stop the run, and opponents knew it -- opponents ran the ball 66 percent of the time on standard downs and 39 percent on passing downs, both well over the national averages. The effects were obvious: USA fell to 60th in Standard Downs S&P+ and 94th against the run, forced fewer passing downs, and wore down over the course of a game.
It wasn't all on the run defense. There were far too many passing downs breakdowns, and one of the nation's best redzone defenses turned into one of the nation's worst. Still, the rebuild up front didn't go very well, and Jones both brought in quite a few JUCO reinforcements and a new defensive coordinator. Travis Pearson resigned after two years in charge of the defense, and Jones replaced him with Kane Wommack, son of Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
The younger Wommack spent the last two years running the Eastern Illinois defense. In 2015, his Panthers allowed just 4.2 yards per carry and logged a havoc rate of 21.1 percent, which would have ranked fifth in FBS.
At Ole Miss, Dave Wommack has installed an aggressive 4-2-5 defense that utilizes nickel speed while still wrecking shop up front. It appears USA could have plenty of the former; the latter? Probably not.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tre Alford||NT||5'10, 280||Jr.||NR||NR||12||27.0||3.9%||3.5||2.0||0||2||1||0|
|Jimmie Gipson III
|WOLF||6'0, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7844||13||20.0||2.6%||6.0||3.0||0||2||1||0|
|Caleb Butler||DT||6'4, 260||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7533||11||10.0||1.4%||1.5||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Jaylan Daniels||DE||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||8||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Sean Grayer||BANDIT||6'2, 240||So.||NR||NR||12||4.5||0.7%||1.0||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Dewayne Alford||BANDIT||6'3, 245||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8500||6||4.0||0.6%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Randy Allen||WOLF||6'2, 235||Sr.||NR||NR||12||2.5||0.4%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Wade Forde||WOLF||6'3, 210||Jr.||NR||NR||5||2.5||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jeffery Whatley||DT||6'2, 265||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726|
|Roy Albritton||NT||6'2, 335||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752|
|Zach Befort||DE||6'2, 260||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7533|
|Romelo Riley||BANDIT||6'3, 245||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000|
|Chris Henderson||DE||6'4, 220||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8337|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Roman Buchanan||STINGER||6'2, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8056||12||52.0||7.5%||3.0||0.0||2||1||0||0|
|Bull Barge||MIKE||5'10, 225||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7919||12||24.0||3.5%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Grant Powell||MIKE||6'2, 225||Sr.||2 stars||NR||11||8.0||1.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tavon Cox||STINGER||6'3, 205||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8336|
|JarMarkus Sims||STINGER||6'1, 220||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8091|
|Darrell Songy||LB||6'1, 220||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7733|
|Riley Cole||LB||6'3, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8460|
|Jeremiah Littles||LB||6'2, 225||Fr.||NR||0.8200|
7. The linebackers ... existed
Line stats can be misleading, but they drop hints. And the fact that USA ranked 75th in Adj. Line Yards, 68th in stuff rate, and 15th in power success rate but still ended up 94th in Rushing S&P+ suggests that linebackers may not have been very effective.
And then there's this: In 2014, linebacker Maleki Harris recorded nine tackles for loss and seven passes defensed. In 2015, all USA LBs combined had nine and five, respectively. Granted, the system shifted from a 3-4 to something closer to a 4-2-5 and the edge positions are part-line, part-linebackers. But no matter what, there just wasn't much disruption here. And the pass rush was almost nonexistent.
There's no guarantee that this front six improves in 2016, but there are certainly a lot more options up front. Jimmie Gipson III returns from a preseason Achilles injury; if he's back full-speed, he's automatically USA's most proven pass rusher. And between tackles Tre Alford and Caleb Butler and linebackers Roman Buchanan and Bull Barge, a lot of returnees have seen solid playing time. Toss in a handful of redshirt freshmen, three JUCOs, and three three-star freshmen, and you might have enough athleticism to get into the backfield a bit more.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jeremy Reaves||CB||5'11, 185||Jr.||NR||NR||12||80.5||11.6%||8||0||2||6||3||0|
|Kalen Jackson||HUSKY||6'1, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||12||59.5||8.6%||8.5||0||2||1||1||0|
|Devon Earl||ROVER||5'10, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8016||12||46.0||6.6%||1.5||0||0||1||3||2|
|Jalen Thompson||CB||6'0, 170||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8514||12||23.5||3.4%||2||1||1||5||1||0|
|T'Qwan Robinson||ROVER||6'1, 190||Jr.||NR||NR||10||7.0||1.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Quinton Dent||CB||6'3, 170||Sr.||NR||NR||11||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Nigel Lawrence||FS||5'11, 180||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8126||8||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Darian Mills||CB||5'11, 180||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556||8||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Malcolm Buggs||HUSKY||5'9, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8062|
|Neiko Robinson||DB||6'0, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556|
|Diantae Thomas||S||5'10, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7733|
|Jay Woods||CB||5'9, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8322|
|Bobby Flott||CB||6'1, 160||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7852|
8. Just give the secondary a chance to prove itself
Even with one of the least effective pass rushes in the country, USA still ranked 61st in Passing S&P+. The Jaguars held half their opponents under a 60 percent completion rate and had a few sterling performances; most notably, they held Troy and Texas State to a combined 29-for-58 for just 251 yards, one touchdown, and four picks.
When you can't stop the run, pass defense only matters so much. But if the front six can simply improve a little bit, an aggressive secondary can make plays. Corner Jeremy Reaves and safety Kalen Jackson combined for 16.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and 11 passes defensed in 2015, and corner Jalen Thompson made some plays as a three-star freshman, too. Four of the top eight DBs are gone, but the four returnees are solid, and USA added two JUCOs and a three-star freshman (Jay Woods). I'm not worried about the secondary if there's any sort of disruption up front.
|Brandon McKee||6'1, 190||Sr.||39||39.8||6||9||5||35.9%|
|Aleem Sunanon||5'7, 170||Sr.||31||42.7||0||8||4||38.7%|
|Gavin Patterson||5'7, 200||So.||30||60.9||5||0||16.7%|
|Aleem Sunanon||5'7, 170||Sr.||23||49.9||1||2||4.3%|
|Aleem Sunanon||5'7, 170||Sr.||32-32||10-12||83.3%||6-7||85.7%|
|Xavier Johnson||KR||5'11, 180||Jr.||14||31.4||1|
|Josh Magee||PR||5'11, 170||Sr.||6||4.0||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||19|
|Field Goal Efficiency||15|
|Punt Return Success Rate||58|
|Kick Return Success Rate||35|
|Punt Success Rate||43|
|Kickoff Success Rate||119|
9. Best special teams in the Sun Belt
Aleem Sunanon gives USA a chance at point anytime it crosses the oponent's 35. Xavier Johnson is as explosive a kick returner as he is a running back. The duo of Brandon McKee and Sunanon in the punting game limited opponent return opportunities. Though there were some glitches in kick coverage, USA ranked 19th in Special Teams S&P+ and returns all the reasons for that ranking.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|3-Sep||at Mississippi State||21||-29.9||4%|
|1-Oct||San Diego State||55||-13.3||22%|
|TBA||New Mexico State||117||4.1||59%|
|TBA||at Arkansas State||89||-12.7||23%|
|Projected wins: 4.5|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-21.2% (100)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||97 / 103|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-5 / -4.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.3|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||49% (34%, 64%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||3.9 (1.1)|
10. Building for 2017
I'm struggling to figure out what I expect of South Alabama in 2016. If the quarterback position is sound, the offense could at least rise into the 70s or 80s in Off. S&P+. If the defensive front makes just a few more plays, the secondary could shine. USA should be sound in the Little Things™ department (field position, finishing drives), and the road map back to a ranking in the 80s or higher is pretty clear.
Still, the Jags are projected 115th for a reason. They weren't as good as their record last year, they're looking at another new starting QB, and while the returnees are exciting, depth is a clear concern in the receiving corps.
The good news is that, whatever this team is in 2016, it will probably be something more in 2017. A lot of the most interesting players on this team are sophomores and juniors, and while it appears USA will be retooling in its receiving corps next year, experience should be strong otherwise.
Like most SBC teams, if the Jags again find some good close-game mojo, they could threaten a run at bowl eligibility. Their win probability is between 37 and 59 percent in six games, with one game higher and five lower. There's minimal margin for error there, but find a QB, find a pass rusher, and see what happens.