South Alabama's Secret Weapon
Every team has a secret weapon: a player that seems to fly under the radar that ends up having a monumental impact on the team. Sometimes that player is not even known well by their own team’s fans.
Just to give you an idea of what I mean, for the first half of 2017, Tech’s secret weapon was probably Amik Robertson. But as he became better known around the conference (and therefore less secret-y), he could no longer be called that. I’d argue Dae’von Washington, who logged over seven tackles per game in the second half of the regular season, took over the role from Amik.
But now let's look at Tech’s first opponent of the 2018 season: South Alabama.
In USA’s case, the secret weapon is most definitely not a running back. South Alabama’s leading rusher in 2016 was Xavier Johnson, who ran for 445 yards. Boston Scott more than doubled that total for Tech last year. Even the Bulldog’s second leading rusher, Jared Craft, had over 500 yards.
But while Xavier Johnson had the most rushing yards, he did not have the most rushing attempts. Tra Minter, the Jaguar’s only returning RB, had 25 more attempts than Johnson and ran for 104 fewer yards. Even Tech's J’Mar Smith (you know, the QB) gained more than Minter did on the ground.
No, USA’s secret weapon is on the other side of the ball. Last year, the strong point of this Jaguar team was the secondary, and even with a new Defensive Coordinator, this year looks like more of the same. Jeremy Reaves, who's now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was the leader last year with three interceptions and three forced fumbles, but others in the secondary didn’t wait for Reaves to graduate to make an impact.
Last year, junior Darian Mills had thirteen pass break-ups. For reference, Amik led Tech with six a year ago. Nigel Lawrence, another junior, forced two fumbles, as many forced fumbles as anyone on Tech’s roster. So both Mills and Lawrence will probably have an impact in this game, but neither are who I’m picking as South Alabama’s secret weapon.
The Jaguar’s secret weapon is Tobias Moss.
Tobias Moss played his first season for the Jaguars last year after spending two years (including a redshirt year) at Iowa Western Junior College. Moss registered two interceptions, eight pass breakups, and a forced fumble in only eleven games. Again, Amik is the only Bulldog that can come close to that stat line.
Moss’s talent was well known coming out of high school. Moss was initially offered by C-USA schools FAU and FIU, but also gained an offer from a Big Ten team in Wisconsin. The Badger coach that recruited Moss called him “one of the most underrated cornerbacks in Florida.” And Moss definitely played up to that label last year for the Jaguars.
Of course, this is the first game of the season, so it is nearly impossible to tell how Moss will play in 2018. It’s possible this secret weapon will simply be a dud this week. On the other hand, maybe we'll see something like this:
Nathan is also a contributor to gtpdd.dog, a lighthearted Louisiana Tech blog. Be sure to follow @gotechplsdntdie on Twitter.