Southern football training camp preview: After sitting out spring practice, Jaguars have extra work to do _lowres

Photo by Edison Hogan -- Southern coach Dawson Odums is prepared for the challenges of playing at Louisiana Tech, an FBS school, in the Jaguars season-opener Saturday in Ruston.

Southern coach Dawson Odums is well aware of the differences in his program and that of FBS Louisiana Tech heading into this week’s season opener in Ruston.

While Southern is one of the top team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Odums acknowledged in his weekly luncheon press conference that there is a difference between the two leagues.

“(Louisiana Tech is) a level up from us, and just to have the opportunity to play in that kind of environment should create some excitement and should get you ready to play,” Odums said. “I think La. Tech is a worthy opponent. They’re a good program, and you have to come in with the right mindset. I think when you do that, you give yourself a chance.”

The biggest factor separating the two programs is the number of scholarship players each has on its roster, Odums said.

The Jaguars have only 65 scholarship athletes, filling in the rest of the depth chart with walk-on talent. Louisiana Tech has 80 scholarship players out of the Division I maximum allotment of 85.

Southern has no current walk-ons in the starting lineup. But several of the starters came into the program as walk-ons before later earning a scholarship, most prominently running back Lenard Tillery, who was awarded a scholarship after his redshirt freshman season.

Odums has consistently pressed the importance of every player, regardless of scholarship status, being prepared to get in the game, though, saying Southern doesn’t intend to give them a free meal just to sit on the bus.

“(The differences) show up more when that next guy comes in, “Odums said. “I think that’s when you see the difference or a drop-off or a letdown is when that next guy comes in.”

The Jaguars also have to overcome the reps they missed in spring practice, compared to the Bulldogs, who were able to practice in the spring and are in the process of moving into a new $22 million, 70,000-square-foot training facility.

While he said the Jaguars are prepared and excited for the trip to north Louisiana, Odums added that it’s hard to gauge the effect the lack of spring ball has played on the team’s preparations.

One of Odums’ primary objectives heading into the weekend is getting his team mentally prepared to take advantage of any opportunities Louisiana Tech may give.

“We haven’t had a chance to go full speed, even when we’re going against each other,” Odums said. “You can have a lot of reps, but it’s not like going against that opposite colored jersey.

“Not having spring ball, you miss a lot of full speed reps, so you can’t make up that, you just have to pick up fall camp and move forward, and you have to address the issues when they come.”

In his own press conference Monday, Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said he isn’t expecting any rust from the in-state rival due to missed practice.

“I am looking at the fact we are playing a SWAC champion-caliber team,” Holtz said, according to a team news release. “Those are their expectations going in. Those players have worked extremely hard throughout the summer and fall camp to get ready for this.”