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September 12, 2013

Talking South Alabama with beat writer Tommy Hicks

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Western Kentucky is on the road again this week as they open Sun Belt Conference play on Saturday down in Mobile, Alabama. I reached out to South Alabama beat writer Tommy Hicks to talk Jaguars football and here is what he had to say.

InsideHilltopperSports.com: South Al got off to a rocky start this season, dropping a close one to Southern Utah - what's the biggest difference you've seen in the team between that game and the Tulane win?

Hicks: Intensity. The coaching staff put the team through an intense series of practices following the loss to Southern Utah. The loss itself served as a wakeup call of sorts, but to make sure the message was received, South Alabama's coaches - who spent long hours in the days that followed - got the attention of their players with intense and physical practices.

InsideHilltopperSports.com WKU struggled a bit with Jalen Whitlow's dual-threat abilities against Kentucky and Ross Metheny is coming off a great performance against Tulane, is it safe to say the Hilltoppers will see a heavy dose of Metheny on Saturday night?

Hicks: Ross did a good job of putting the Jags' offense in the right position for most of the game against Tulane. He had two passing touchdowns (14 and 30 yards) and ran for a couple of scores (35 and 12 yards). He's not known as a runner, but demonstrated he can against Tulane; he was South's leading rusher for the game with 75 yards on 11 carries. Backup Brandon Bridge has excellent speed and quickness and a big arm and is capable of making the big play at any moment, but if Metheny continues to run the offense as he did against Tulane, Bridge's opportunities will be limited.

InsideHilltopperSports.com: What will be the "X" factor on offense and defense for South Al to keep the game close?

Hicks: On offense it will be ball control; moving the chains and scoring points while not allowing WKU to have the ball for long periods of time. Defensively, the Jags have to play well up front and have some success against the Hilltoppers' strong running game.

InsideHilltopperSports.com: It's the Jags first official year in the Sun Belt, obviously it's been a bit of a struggle making that transition to FBS (as WKU had not so long ago), what will make this season a success for the program?

Hicks: Consistency will be the biggest factor, I believe. That and signs of continued progress. It's hard to put a number of wins on the table and say reaching that goal will define this as a successful year. Instead, if the Jags could get a win or two that would be considered upsets and it proves itself competitive against teams in the league, then it will have a successful season.

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