Photos: Fans mingle with players at Southern University's Fall Fan Fest Saturday _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Football head coach Dawson Odums interacts with a young fan during the fourth annual Southern University Fall Fan Fest refreshed by Coca-Cola, Saturday, August 15, 2015, in the F.G. Clark Activity Center in Baton Rouge.

Since the start of preseason camp, Southern coach Dawson Odums has preached to his team to “get everybody to the gate.”

That means having everybody healthy when the Jaguars figuratively enter the starting gate and play their season opener at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 5.

That was on Odums’ mind Wednesday afternoon when he canceled practice amid strong day-long thunderstorms, opting instead for a walkthrough inside Southern’s Horace J. Moody intramural complex — even though the practice field at the Louisiana Leadership Institute has artificial turf.

“You don’t want guys slipping or pulling anything,” Odums said. “We’re just going to take our time and try to not get anybody injured. We’ll get back to work (Thursday). You’ve got to get everybody to the gate.”

The Jaguars’ practice schedule was already a work in progress, accommodating as many players’ class schedules as possible.

Classes began Monday at Southern; the first practice after that was 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the team was able to move the start of practice-turned-walkthrough to 3:15 p.m.

Odums said he’d have Thursday’s start time sometime that day.

“We’re trying to figure out schedules and the best block available to get most of the guys there,” Odums said.

Practice is closed to the public.

Awaiting eligibility answers

Odums said he hopes to have a finalized roster in the next week or so. The school is sorting out eligibility questions for a few unnamed players.

“We’ve got this week to figure that out,” Odums said. “We’ll move back any guys that are ineligible and start repping the next guys.”

On the road again

The Southern University Quarterback Club will make bus trips to all seven of the Jaguars’ away games.

For the trips to Louisiana Tech (Sept. 5), Mississippi Valley State (Sept. 10) and to New Orleans for the Bayou Classic against Grambling (Nov. 28) the busses will leave the morning of the game and return after the game.

The games at Georgia (Sept. 26), Alabama State (Oct. 10), Texas Southern (Oct. 24) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 7) will include one-night hotel stays.

For information, contact Jonathan Dearbone at (225) 572-5878 or or Reginald Jarvis at (225) 939-5906 or

New-look coach

Odums has undergone a makeover since the start of preseason camp a couple of weeks ago.

He has a full beard, which he plans to keep indefinitely.

It’s a new look for a new season,” said Odums, who’s keeping the beard closely trimmed. “You can’t do the same thing every year and expect different results.”

When will he return to a clean-shaven look?

“If people start complaining,” Odums said, “or if we start losing.”

Odums also has lost 35 pounds in the past six months.

Familiar place

Odums kept an eye on Retif Oil’s run to the championship game of the American Legion World Series.

“I was going through the channels and I saw the game was in Shelby (North Carolina),” Odums said. “I was wondering what was going on in Shelby.”

Odums is a native of Shelby. He didn’t attend Shelby High School, which was the site of the ALWS, but Jaguars freshman defensive back Demerio Houston attended Shelby High.

Jesuit-based Retif Oil finished as national runner-up after a 9-2 loss to a team from South Carolina in the title game Tuesday night.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.