Southern is continuing the shuffling of its defensive lineup.
The Jaguars have had to use different combinations on the back end of their defense the first two weeks and more changes could be in store for the home opener against Jackson State on Saturday.
The top two Mike linebackers -– Demetrius Carter and Calvin Lunkin –- weren’t expected to practice Tuesday night and are questionable for Saturday’s game. They joined cornerbacks Jamar Mitchell, who has missed the first two games because of a hamstring injury, and Ki-Jana Curtis, who missed last week’s game at Mississippi Valley State because of a shoulder injury suffered in the opener at Louisiana Tech, on the sideline. The corners are also questionable for this week.
Nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter will miss his third consecutive game because of ineligibility.
So Southern is preparing as though it will be without those five players, though none of the injured players have been ruled out of the game.
Last week, Martin Henry moved from the Buck linebacker to nickelback to replace Ledbetter, but he’s back at linebacker. Kentavious Preston, who made his first career start at Buck last week, has moved to Carter’s spot and Roshaud Turner, who moved with Henry from linebacker to nickelback, will share the nickel position with Jamal Jenkins, who started there in the opener.
“We’ve got to reshuffle the lineup again,” coach Dawson Odums said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “It’s just one of those roller coasters that you’re going to have. I tell people all the time that the first four games of this season are going to challenge this football team because you’re going to get beat up, you’re going to get nicked up and you don’t have as much depth so the next guy has to get ready. We’ve got football players on this team that can play.”
The Jaguars complete a grueling September schedule when they visit No. 7 Georgia on Sept. 26, then they have their open date.
The back end will be tested by the Tigers, who lead the Southwestern Athletic Conference in passing yards per game (296.5) and passing efficiency (135.0).
“They’re a confident group on offense and they’re getting better on defense so this game will have its challenges and it’s going to come down to mindset,” Odums said. “There are going to be some ups and there are going to be some downs. There always are in this rivalry. You’ve just got to weather the storm and always believe and that’s one thing we’ve been able to do in this program.”
There were long lines at the Southern ticket office Tuesday and this game could be a sellout. Odums said he’s counting on a big crowd making things more difficult for JSU.
“Since their offense is predicated on hearing the quarterback I think every time that they’re on the field it should be so loud that it causes them some problems,” he said. “I think that’s what playing at home is supposed to be about. You’re supposed to have a home-field advantage.
“When we sell out A.W. Mumford Stadium and we make noise and really root for the Jags I think it can give opposing offenses a lot of trouble. We can’t put a lot of people in there, but the more noise we make the harder it is for their offense to execute.”
Odums was told that a former Tigers coach once referred to the Jaguars fans as “loud and obnoxious”. He then was asked if he had a message for the Southern fans planning to attend Saturday’s game.
“Yeah,” he said, “be loud and obnoxious.”