Jackson State at Southern: Les East goes Next Level on kicking away from Willie Quinn is easier said than done _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern kick returner Danny Johnson slips away from Alabama A&M's Cesar Ramon-Diaz during a game last season.

Next Level

You might be wondering why opponents continue to kick the ball to Southern’s Willie Quinn.

After all, he has seven returns for touchdowns in his career, including three in two games this season.

Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said kicking away from Quinn just isn’t all that simple, though he obviously has a vested interest in other teams continuing to put the ball in Quinn’s hands.

“It’s not easy to not kick to somebody,” Odums said. “We have a special group of guys over there on offense. Do you want to give them the ball on the 35? If you kick it short, you give the offense a short field. I think that’s a balancing act these coaches are trying to figure out.”

Odums noted that kicking away from Quinn’s side on kickoffs is no bargain for opponents either, because of Danny Johnson’s presence over there. Johnson averaged 34 yards on kickoff returns last season and had a 98-yarder for a touchdown. This year Johnson gained 36 yards on his lone return and backups Mike Jones and Justin Morgan have proven to be dangerous as well.

Still, it doesn’t seem all that complicated to JSU coach Harold Jackson, who saw Quinn return a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against his team last season.

Jackson cited that return and a 97-yard kickoff return for a subsequent score as reasons the Tigers should avoid Quinn, not recalling that the the kickoff return came from Jaleel Richardson when JSU kicked away from Quinn.

But Jackson seems to have his mind made up: “We’ve got to make sure we don’t let him touch the ball no matter what,” Jackson said.

Four downs

1. Air it out

Southern is looking for more of an impact from its passing game. The Jaguars passed for 187 yards in the season opener and 239 last week, but 89 of that came on one play. “We’re not at our best right now,” QB Austin Howard said, “but we’re working toward that and we’re making very good progress.”

2. Grind it out

JSU is looking to get its running game untracked. The Tigers lead the SWAC in passing yards per game (296.5), but they’re last in rushing yards per game (73.5). That’s partly because they have not had a lead this season and they have been tied for less than 10 total minutes in their first two games.

3. Dan vs. Dan

At some point, the leading receiver in the SWAC — JSU’s Dan Williams — figutes to match up with one of the top CBs in the league — Southern’s Danny Johnson. Williams is averaging 8.5 receptions and 151.5 receiving yards per game and Southern is short-handed on the other corner.

4. Road warriors

The Tigers are playing their third consecutive road game to start the season and first outside the state of Tennessee. They opened against Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, then played Tennessee State in Memphis. The Jaguars are finally home after playing away their last two games last season and first two this season.