Southern quarterback Deonte Shorts hasn’t played as much as he expected this season, but he’s probably experienced more than he expected.
Shorts redshirted as a freshman last season and earned the starting position after a tight battle with true freshman Austin Howard in preseason camp, though both played in the early going.
After starting the first three games, Shorts missed the next four because of injuries, watching as Howard guided the Jaguars to a 3-1 start in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Shorts started his first game back, but that was because Howard was being disciplined for missing curfew, not because Shorts had been named the starter again.
The last three games have been the reverse of the first three with both quarterbacks playing and Shorts relieving Howard.
So Shorts has started, played through injury, been sidelined by injury, rehabbed from injury and adapted to a reserve role.
“We’ve played Austin more because he’s been healthy,” coach Dawson Odums said Tuesday. “But I think you can see the skill set that Shorts possesses.
He was named No. 2 and he has a great competitive spirit.
“He has the patience and the understanding that it takes to be a really good quarterback so he’s just been going with the flow. He’s back healthy now and we used him a lot in the second half (last Saturday).”
Shorts rushed five times for 40 yards and two touchdowns as Southern won its sixth consecutive game, beating Mississippi Valley State 44-13 in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
When Shorts is in the game, Southern tends to use more designed runs for the quarterback and the Jaguars tend to open up the passing game more for Howard. But it’s not like Shorts is “the running quarterback” and Howard is “the passing quarterback”; they’re both dual threats.
Shorts is ranked fourth in the SWAC in pass efficiency at 131.6, though he has only thrown 63 passes. His completion percentage is 54.0, but he hasn’t thrown an interception and has two touchdowns.
“I think he’s done a great job of staying mentally focused and understanding that his role has changed from being a starter to being a backup,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chad Germany said. “He’s been able to come in every day and study film and practice hard and he was able to go in last game and have some success.”
Germany said Shorts has more confidence in his arm now that elbow soreness that plagued him in camp and the first month of the season has gone away.
Shorts said he feels better prepared when he enters a game off the bench because in addition to the film study he always does, now he has the added benefit of Howard telling him what he’s seeing from the defense.
“(Coming off the bench) makes me more hungry,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to stay on the field and make the best of my opportunities.”
Howard will start when the Jaguars come out of their open date this week to face Grambling for the SWAC West Division title in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 29.
If Southern wins, Howard would figure to start in the SWAC title game against Alcorn State a week later. But Shorts will be involved. The Jaguars have played both quarterbacks in every game in which Shorts has been available.
“I feel like teams can’t prepare for what we’re going to do because you don’t know who’s going to play and what we’re going to do,” Shorts said.
“Every week the game is going to present an opportunity where Shorts can be present and show off his skill set,” Odums said.