The Southern offense won’t be the same next season without All-Southwestern Athletic Conference quarterback Dray Joseph.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be as good or even better just because it’s different.
Southern’s spring game Saturday at A.W. Mumford Stadium demonstrated how the offense will evolve with an inexperienced quarterback in either Deonte Shorts or Francis Kennah and a deep stable of running backs.
Shorts and Kennah were among 10 players to rush the ball, and Southern ran it 45 times and threw it 27. Unofficially, the Jaguars rushed for 258 yards and passed for 120.
“The quarterbacks’ ability to run will put some pressure on defenses,” coach Dawson Odums said. “They’re a lot more mobile than Dray was, and we didn’t ask Dray to be mobile, because he was a pretty good pocket passer.
“Both these guys can stretch the field vertically and horizontally with their feet as well as their arms. They’re dual-threat guys, and I think that’s going to put a lot of pressure on defenses.”
Shorts, who has a slight edge on Kennah in the battle to start, was the more effective runner and Kennah the more effective passer. Shorts rushed eight times for 66 yards and Kennah rushed just twice for 16 yards.
Each had one touchdown pass as Kennah threw a 74-yarder to Dontrell Brown for the second team, and Shorts threw a 1-yarder to Bradley Coleman for the first team’s only touchdown. Kennah completed 7 of 16 for 120 yards, and Shorts completed 2 of 11 for 23 yards.
“We didn’t see the big plays that we would normally see in the passing game,” Odums said, “but that’s a testament to our defensive backs getting better.”
Kylum Favorite rushed seven times for 57 yards during the second-team offense’s first possession, a 14-play, 89-yard march that yielded a 36-yard field goal by Greg Pittman.
John West had a 40-yard touchdown run for the second team’s other touchdown, and Lenard Tillery, Malcolm Crockett, Herb Edwards and Jamarcus Jarvis combined for 73 yards as each had six carries.
“All of those guys do a good job of running the ball, so this year will be more of a balance for us,” Coleman said. “We’ll be able to run the ball and pass the ball, whichever way we want to attack a team that week.”
Odums said the depth at running back and experience on an offensive line that returns four starters will be key to Southern doing a better job of running the ball effectively, especially when preserving fourth-quarter leads.
The first-team defense held the first-team offense to 21 yards on 13 plays over the first four possessions. Then came Shorts’ touchdown pass to Coleman, an 8-yard scoring run by Crockett and a 15-yard drive to Matthew Hill’s 29-yard field goal.
“It’s our third year in the defense,” linebacker Daniel Brown said, “so everybody is more accustomed to what we need to do and how we need to do it.”
The second-team offense scored 10 points on its first two possessions, but lost a total of six yards on nine plays during its next three possessions.
Each offense started its final possession on the defense’s 20-yard line. The second-team defense forced Jamie Galvin’s 34-yard field goal, and the first team didn’t allow any points as Kevin King blocked Pittman’s 22-yard attempt on the final play.
“It got pretty intense on the goal line,” safety Dionte McDuffy said. “Anytime an offense gets near the goal line, you always want to do your best to keep them out of the end zone.”