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South Alabama, Texas State Beginning First Seasons At FBS Level

Four teams will join the FBS ranks this season: South Alabama, Texas State, UMass and University of Texas-San Antonio. The first two have already hit the field for spring practice, so why don't we go ahead and check in on the new guys?

Jaguars coach Joey Jones has used the word "decent" to describe South Alabama's chances in the Sun Belt, though they won't have a chance just yet to win a conference title if they happen to be better than decent. USA plays against Sun Belt teams this year, but that run won't count toward conference standings just yet. They also have games against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Hawaii Warriors and the N.C. State Wolfpack. It's those Sun Belt games that don't matter, however, that matter the most in 2012.

The Jags are breaking in a new spread offense, coordinated by former Southern Miss tight ends coach Robert Matthews, and have been getting to work as early as 5 a.m. local time in preparation.

In San Marcos, Texas State is quite aware of what a special spring practice period this is:

"We have thought about this for a long time, but I hadn't really put it in perspective that today was the first practice as an official FBS member. But that's exciting the think about," Bobcat head football coach Dennis Franchione said. "In actuality, that wasn't my thought process. My thought process was about how do I get this team better with blocking, tackling an teaching our offense and defense? But it is an exciting period in Bobcat football there's no doubt about that."

Why yes, that's the Dennis Franchione of Alabama and Texas A&M fame. Among his top concerns: choosing a quarterback. Returning starter-like items Tyler Arndt and Sean Rutherford are joined by somewhere between two and five others on the depth chart. Also, rebuilding an offensive line that's lost several top players.

The Bobcats open with the Houston Cougars and even host the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Sept. 8. They'll also play the Navy Midshipmen and Nevada Wolf Pack, along with new WAC (and maybe Mount USA!) rivals.