The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

July 26, 2013

South Alabama joins FBS club in football-mad state

(Continued)

The Jaguars went 2-11 and 1-7 in the Sun Belt during a transitional season when they weren't eligible for a title or postseason berth.

South Alabama coach Joey Jones, a Mobile native who played receiver for the Crimson Tide under Bear Bryant, said his team will be significantly better because of that experience.

"If you look at when we started in 2009 to where we are in 2013, we went from having nothing to being a big-time Division I football program in a great conference," Jones said. "The thing is, we've made great strides to get here to this point but obviously we've got to take some more strides to get to where we want to be and that's the great thing about it. The goals that our young men and our staff have in mind, they want to get there."

Wide receiver Bryant Lavender is among the fifth-year seniors who have been along for the entire ride. Lavender said the $10 million field house completed in 2008 was just "slabs and posts" during his recruiting visit.

"I knew coming in in '09 that this year would mean a lot to the program and the university and the community," he said. "It's really big, because we have a lot of opportunities that we didn't have before in the first few years. We can go to a bowl get the conference championship and possibly get on a national stage that we haven't been on before.

"The possibilities are endless. The ball's in our court. All we've got to do is win. That's all we've got to do."

South Alabama won its first 19 games, mostly against junior colleges, Division II teams and prep schools.

South Alabama's basketball program has been to eight NCAA tournaments and the baseball team 25. But Erdmann knows football tops the pecking order of college sports in the state.

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