Updated: Aug. 05, 2023, 7:31 a.m.
Published Aug. 05, 2023, 7:00 a.m.
By Creg Stephenson |
By his own admission, South Alabama’s Josh McCulloch does not look like a prototypical college football left tackle.
He’s 6-foot-3 at a position where 6-5 or 6-6 is the norm. He’s baby-faced, a look only enhanced by wearing eyeglasses when he’s not on the football field.
But heading into his sixth year with the Jaguars, McCulloch has become a respected veteran not only on the offensive line, but on the entire team. He’s one of two seniors on the South Alabama offensive line, a group that has gone from a liability not that long ago, to one of the strongest units on the squad.
“If you look at me with my glasses on and the chubby cheeks and the smile and things of that nature, you’ll probably think I don’t compete,” McCulloch said. “But when we get out on the field and that spot’s mine and I’m going make sure that everybody knows that it’s mine, that’s just how I’ve always been. It’s how I’ve always operated, just put my head down and go to work. And I think that’s why I’ve been able to mesh with the coaches’ culture very well. They love guys who put their head down and just go to work. And I think that I’ve really embodied that.”
McCulloch signed with South Alabama out of Aldine Benjamin Davis High School in Houston in 2018, part of Steve Campbell’s first recruiting class with the Jaguars. He got into four games as a true freshman before redshirting, and then started 10 in 2019 before a season-ending injury.
The 2020 season was a forgettable one for McCulloch, as he got into only one game between injuries and ineffectiveness. After Campbell was replaced by Kane Wommack in 2021, he played in only four games that season after continuing knee troubles.
Heading into 2022, McCulloch’s career was at a crossroads. He’d been beaten out for the starting left tackle job by Jacksonville State transfer PJ Mixon, and seemed destined to end his time as a Jaguar with many wondering “what might have been.”
South Alabama opens fall camp
Finally healthy by the end of September, McCulloch moved into the starting lineup in Week 4 vs. Louisiana Tech. He’s hardly looked back since.
“I’m impressed with Josh McCulloch and what he’s been able to do,” head coach Kane Wommack said. “He continues to get better fundamentally. I think athletically he is probably better than what people give him credit for. He’s got a really great skillset that he continues to develop. His physicality is getting better and better. Him being able to teach some of these guards that are working with him that may not have the experience that he has, I think he’s taken a little bit more ownership in that role as well. I’m very pleased with what we’ve seen from him and excited about what he can accomplish his senior year.”
McCulloch and Reggie Smith are the only two South Alabama offensive linemen remaining from the Campbell era, as Wommack and his staff have remade the unit through high school recruiting and the transfer portal. Six linemen on this year’s team — including projected starting guards James Robinson and Dontae Lucas — began their careers at other schools.
Several of the imports have been tackles, many with designs on unseating McCulloch on the left side. But thus far, he’s held off all challengers.
Though he’s modestly sized for a tackle at 6-3 and 312 pounds, McCulloch credits two things for helping him hold his own at the position. He’s got exceptionally long arms, and he also has nimble feet — the residue of playing basketball along with football growing up in Houston, one of the country’s high school hoops hotbeds.
“I know that I’m a bit undersized for the left tackle position in any type of conference, to be honest,” McCulloch said. “But yeah, I know two things with me that really help are my quick feet and long arms for sure. About a seven-foot wingspan helps me a lot to keep those defenders at bay. So that definitely is a key contributor to (coaches) trusting me at left tackle.”
With McCulloch, Smith, Lucas and right tackle Adrein Strickland, South Alabama has four starters back from last year’s 10-3 team. Only center James Jackson, a two-year starter who exhausted his eligibility, is not back this year.
The Jaguars have several younger players on the come as well, including tackles Malachi Carney, Daniel Foster-Allen and Jordan Davis, the latter two Division I transfers from Auburn and South Carolina, respectively. McCulloch said that not only has he noticed the talent level rise around him, he’s especially gratified that the Jaguars’ offensive line is no longer considered a laughingstock.
“Embracing a leadership role starts with the coaches embracing me first of all,” McCulloch said. “Having talked with them over the summer and building up trust more and things of that nature. And then second of all, them bringing in the new guys. Not too many people behind me that have experience, so I’ve got to coach those new guys up. And I think that’s where experience and leadership really comes into play — getting everybody ready for the next year and the years to come after that so we can finally build something sustainable here and actually build a program that that is sustained on a winning culture.”
South Alabama is back on the practice field Saturday morning. The Jaguars work in full pads for the first time next Thursday.

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