Gameday: Southern at Mississippi Valley State — the next level and Les East’s four downs _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern's Justin Morgan hurdles over Alabama State's Meryles Gilbert II on his way out of bounds last season at A.W. Mumford Stadium.

The next level: Morgan takes his versatile talents into Southern’s secondary

Southern wasn’t kidding when it signed Justin Morgan as an “athlete” four years ago.

He has played wide receiver, cornerback, quarterback, kickoff returner and holder during his four-year career.

During preseason camp this year, the Jaguars worked him at running back, but now a return to cornerback has taken priority because of a depleted secondary. He was moved to second-team cornerback Monday because of injuries to Jamar Mitchell and Ki-Jana Curtis and is expected to play there Thursday at Mississippi Valley State.

Morgan said coach Dawson Odums’ advice to him was straight-forward: “Don’t get beat deep. Play the ball. Do what you can do. Use your athletic ability.”

Morgan finds himself in the unusual position of a senior being mentored by a sophomore: Danny Johnson, who started all of last season. “I have to kind of look up to my little brother now,” Morgan said.

Johnson made two interceptions last week, catching one more ball than Morgan did at receiver.

“People usually say that defensive backs can’t catch, but Danny’s kind of proving that wrong right now,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to change the corner game up.”

Morgan isn’t the only player taking his versatility to the depleted secondary. Southern also is using running back Dakota Starks at safety and linebackers Martin Henry and Roshaud Taylor at nickelback, where Rhaheim Ledbetter is sidelined because of ineligibility.

Four downs: breaking down the SWAC opener in Itta Bena

1. Kicking into danger

Southern return specialist Willie Quinn could be even more dangerous than usual this week. He had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week — his fifth career return for a TD — as the Jaguars averaged a SWAC-best 31.4 yards per return. Valley had a SWAC-worst net kickoff average of 24.0 yards last week.

2. Quantity or quality

Penalties were a problem for Southern last week — sort of. The Jaguars were penalized nine times, but for just 45 yards. Seven of the penalties came against the offense: five false starts, one delay of game and one illegal touching. The defense was offside once, and the kickoff return team was penalized for holding.

3. Quantity/Quality II

Valley’s performance last week showed how time of possession can be misleading. It’s how productive you are with the ball, not how long you have it. The Delta Devils had the ball for more than 32 minutes, but that wasn’t helpful as they managed just 74 yards in their 66-0 loss to New Mexico.

4. Second verses

This is the fourth straight year Southern has come off a lopsided opening loss to an FBS team. Last year, it followed with a 56-14 win over Central Methodist, and two years ago it followed with a 55-14 loss at Northwestern State. In 2012, it followed with a 6-0 loss to Valley, leading to coach Stump Mitchell’s dismissal.