The Southern football team is getting an extended look at the depth it has at nose tackle.
Starting nose tackle Jaylen Jordan has missed the first six days of preseason practice as he awaits medical clearance after being involved in a minor car accident the day before practice began.
His absence has given Gabe Echols, Justin Woods and Mikale Jenkins added opportunities to show the coaching staff what they can do. It also has provided an opportunity for defensive linemen Gerald Brent, a sophomore from New Orleans, and Audry Tompson, a transfer from College of the Canyons (Calif.), to audition at nose tackle.
“Jaylen Jordan knows the defense. He’s a senior. He’s played in it,” coach Dawson Odums said between practices Wednesday. “But it’s a really a benefit for all those guys in his absence.”
Odums said Echols, a 6-foot-1, 305-pound junior, “is doing a great job.”
Echols’ 27 total tackles last season matched those of starter Trae Tiller. Echols had 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and Tiller and four tackles for loss. Jordan, 6-4, 270, had 18 tackles, including a half a sack.
“It creates a great opportunity for us,” Echols said of Jordan’s absence, which could end any day. “It’s a few more reps than usual so I’m just capitalizing on my opportunity.
“We’ve always got to be ready when a man goes down. It’s a chance for me to get my playing out there and let them see what I can do on the field, as well and Jenkins and Woods.”
The Jaguars’ nose tackle’s primary responsibilities are to occupy one or more blockers and occupy space; making tackles is secondary.
“Jaylen being out gives us a little more opportunity, but there’s always opportunity,” Woods said. “You just have to be ready when you get it.
“Our job is to eat up blocks and make it easier for our linebackers. Basically it’s just being a team player and making opportunities for your other players. When you get a chance you make the play but it’s mostly maintaining your gap.”
Woods, a 5-10, 300-pound junior from Lake Charles, had 10 tackles, including one for loss last season.
Jenkins, 6-2, 270, who’s from Alexandria, was redshirted as a freshman last season, and most of his practice reps came on the offensive line after he was moved in the wake of multiple injuries to that unit in preseason camp.
“We’re all disappointed that Jaylen can’t practice right now, but I’m grateful to get these reps and the opportunity to show what I can do and that I can play on this level because this is my first year I’ve had a chance to play,” said Jenkins, who moved back to defense for spring practice.
He said offensive line coach Chennis Berry’s emphasis on the details of blocking technique helped him with the transition last season and has carried over into this camp.
Jenkins said he’s better able to look at his blocker’s stance and anticipate whether the upcoming play is likely to be a run or a pas..
“It’s helped me out big time,” he said.
“The most important thing,” Odums said, “is don’t get knocked off ball, penetrate and cause havoc. We say dominate your man to the ball and that’s what we believe. They’ve got to make plays too.
“We tell them to make their plays. Don’t try to be a hero and make somebody else’s plays.
“Do your job. If you do your job, then the guy behind you can do his job.”
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