South Alabama Head Coach Joey Jones, 55, has submitted his resignation effective at the end of the season. He will coach his last game against New Mexico State December 2nd. The 52-0 loss to the previously winless Georgia Southern Saturday was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, even for the father of the South Alabama football program. The loss officially eliminated USA from bowl eligibility. Jones has a 52-49 record at South Alabama, 18-28 in the SBC.
The former Alabama WR under Bear Bryant, Jones took over as South Alabama’s Head Coach in February 2008 after a brief stint at Birmingham Southern and led the Jags to a 23-4 record in his first three seasons at the helm. But as the Jaguars entered the Sun Belt Conference, they struggled to find the same success. USA is just 23-45 since joining the Sun Belt in 2012.
Jones’s contract ran out at the end of the season anyways, so in a way, this move was expected. Jones did an admirable job building up the program from scratch, leading it to its first two bowl appearances, and giving it some marquee wins along the way (Miss State, San Diego St twice, Troy thrice). He’s also put a handful of Jaguars into the league.
The first chapter in South Alabama football history is now over. Jones, by all accounts, is a class act and will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of Jaguars in perpetuum. Would not be surprised if the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium gets named after him. Farewell Coach Jones.
So What’s Next?
Let the speculation begin. USA becomes the 8th coaching change so far this season, and the 3rd at the G5 level. Jones built a good foundation in Mobile, now Jags fans want a dude that can take the program to the next level. Jaguar fans are eager to compete for conference titles. Who will be given the task of leading them there?
- Tee Martin, USC offensive coordinator – Martin is from Mobile and played at Williamson High School. The former Tennessee QB has become a hot name in coaching rumors recently. Just last week, reports surfaced that Georgia Southern had interviewed him. USC QB Sam Darnold has flourished under his system in USC. Martin is widely regarded as a great recruiter. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a shot as a head coach, why not in his hometown?
- John Grass, Jacksonville State Head Coach – in 2013, Jacksonville State plucked an unknown guy out of the Alabama high school ranks called John Grass to be the offensive coordinator. The following season he was promoted to Head Coach after Bill Clark left for UAB. What Grass has been able to do the past four seasons is nothing short of remarkable. He’s 43-7 at the helm and a staggering 30-0 in conference, breaking the NCAA record. He runs an explosive RPO heavy system in at JSU that would be a nice change of pace from the anemic offensive output Jags fans have seen under Joey Jones. He knows Alabama high school football like the back of his hand, which will help tremendously in recruiting.
- Chris Hatcher, Samford Head Coach – 144-69 all-time as a Head Coach, including stops at Valdosta State, Georgia Southern, Murray State, and Samford. He led the Bulldogs to an 8-3 record this season and finished 2nd in the Southern Conference during his third year at the helm. They play a Kennesaw State in the opening round of the FCS playoffs Saturday. He’s a spread, air-raid disciple straight off of the fabled Hal Mumme coaching tree. He’s a brilliant offensive mind, a good recruiter, and knows how to win the press conference. I would like to see him get a shot at FBS.
- Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama defensive coordinator – Before y’all come out the woodwork and squawk at me that “We can’t afford Pruitt” hear me out. SEC coordinators take pay cuts to get their first head coaching job all-the-time. Jim McElwain, Mike Bobo, Lane Kiffin, even Gus Malzahn’s one season at Arkansas State; all these men took short-term pay cuts to prove that they could run a program by themselves. Pruitt has been a hot name in coaching circles for some time after stops at FSU, UGA, and Bama. Like Grass, Pruitt came out of the Alabama high school ranks. He’s a household name in the State of Alabama, which means he could walk into just about any recruit’s living room, no questions asked.
- Chip Lindsey, Auburn offensive coordinator – Gus Malzahn hired Chip Lindsey away from Arizona State to replace former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee (now at UConn) in the offseason and boy has it paid dividends. Auburn is currently 17th in the country in points per game at 37.6 and yards per game at 476 yards per game. He’s helped lead an Auburn resurgence this season with the help of QB Jarrett Stidham and RB Kerryon Johnson. With rumors that Gus Malzahn is flirting with Arkansas surfacing, there’s an opportunity for South Alabama to pluck him away.