Southern has undergone a gradual youth movement on its defense.
The Jaguars could start as many as four true freshmen against Alabama State on Saturday. Some of the moves were out of necessity, some because coaches weren’t satisfied with the performance of more experienced players. All, though, are a reflection of the four first-year players — defensive backs Demerio Houston and Andrea Augustine and linemen Christopher Jones and Jaron Johnson — proving themselves during preseason camp and the first four games.
“They’re playing well,” coach Dawson Odums said. “I’ve got to take my hat off to our recruiting. We’re recruiting guys that are ready to play. You don’t want to make a living playing freshmen every year, but that’s the hand we were dealt.
“So we’ve got to get the best out of them and maximize what they can do. But I’m happy about those guys that are playing. They’re really paying dividends. I think that their early success is going to allow us to continue to improve down the stretch because now we’re starting to get some upperclassmen back.”
Veteran defensive backs Dionte McDuffy, Jamar Mitchell and Ki-Jana Curtis returned to practice from injury this week.
Through four games, quarterback Austin Howard has just two touchdown passes and three interceptions for the 2-2 Jaguars.
But, Odums said, don’t misread those stats.
“Let’s look at those stats at end of October,” Odums said. “We’re at .500 and those are pretty close to .500 numbers. The good thing about it is, we’re winning the turnover ratio (a Southwestern Athletic Conference-leading plus-0.75 per game), so that means he’s taking care of the football.
“I’m expecting him to take the next step in the month of October and if he can do that and get this offense where it needs to be and continue to play well I’ll be excited.”
Alabama, Louisiana ties
Alabama State has one player from Louisiana: sophomore punter/kicker Trevor Vincent from Youngsville.
Southern has two players from Alabama: senior CB/WR Justin Morgan, who’s from Pell City, about an hour from Montgomery; and freshman DT Darrian McMillan, who’s from Mobile, about 2½ hours away.
‘Longest playoff format’
From here on out, it’s all SWAC football for Southern, which played two FBS teams — Louisiana Tech and Georgia — in the first four weeks.
The Jaguars’ seven remaining games are all conference games as they conclude what coach Odums called “the longest playoff format in college football.”
Southern, which is coming off an open date, gets a second open date Nov. 21 ahead of the annual regular-season finale against Grambling in the Bayou Classic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Live stream available
Saturday’s game will be the first Jaguars game this season that hasn’t been televised, either live or on a same-day tape-delay basis.
But the game, which kicks off at 6 p.m., can still be seen live.
Alabama State is offering a free, live video stream on its website, www.bamastatesports.com/showcase.
As usual, the game can also be heard live on KQXL-FM, 106.5.
Seats still available
If you’d rather see the game in person there’s still time to book a bus ride to Montgomery for Saturday’s game.
The Southern Blue & Gold Fan Club is offering a round trip Saturday for $125 per person. The cost covers a game ticket, tailgate food and refreshments after the game. The bus will return immediately following the game.
A similar trip to Houston for the Texas Southern game on Oct. 24 is being offered for $90 per person.
If interested, contact Craig Pierre at (225) 324-7234 or Robert Square (225) 931-4052.
Next week is homecoming week at Southern, and the Jaguars basketball teams will tip off weeklong festivities leading to the football game against Prairie View on Oct. 17.
The basketball teams will hold “Jaguar Pandemonium” at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The free event will feature a slam-dunk contest and 3-point shootout as well as introducing both teams, which already have begun preseason practice.
Both teams open the season Nov. 13, when the women host Spring Hill College and the men visit Arkansas.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.