Next man up.
That’s the motto for the Southern football program, and the Jaguars have been putting it into action.
After losing starters Anthony Balancier and Franchot West from last year’s team, Southern had replacements ready: Daniel Brown and Detrane Lindsey.
When academic uncertainty pushed back the team’s arrival to UL-Lafayette to 45 minutes before kickoff last week, causing Brown and Lindsey to miss the season opener, the Jaguars had to adjust.
Brown was named preseason All-Southwestern Athletic Conference after finishing second on the team in total tackles in 2013 with 86. Lindsey finished last season with 49 tackles and one interception.
The Jaguars had seven linebackers available for the game and played each of them. At the time, five of those seven were playing in their first collegiate game. Southern linebackers coach Lorick Atkinson said his job is to have not only the starters, but also each backup, prepared for every game.
“In this business, you have the next man ready,” Atkinson said. “(The Ragin’ Cajuns) were going to kick the ball off no matter what, so our goal as a staff was to make sure the next two were ready. We did.”
Junior Demetrius Carter made 19 tackles throughout the entire 2013 season, but led the Jaguars in tackles with 10 against the Cajuns. Carter’s first start was in last year’s SWAC Championship Game against Jackson State, but his age and intensity got him the start against UL-Lafayette.
Southern coach Dawson Odums credits Carter’s recent success to his knowledge of the defense and natural leadership skills.
“He’s all over the field,” Odums said. “The guy comes to work every day. He’s just a humble guy, great character just a true leader for us. Even though he’s not one of our team captains, everybody looks to him for his leadership because he’s played in a lot of football games.”
Atkinson said he was proud of the job Carter did on the field Saturday, but there are areas for Carter to improve looking ahead to the Jaguars’ home opener against Central Methodist.
“He made some mistakes but he played hard, and that’s one that Demetrius has always done for us,” Atkinson said. “That’s why we felt comfortable starting him in the championship game. He plays with such a high intensity that he makes up for some of the mental mistakes. As long as he’s playing hard, that’s all you can ask for as a coach. It’s my job to correct the mental part of it.”
Atkinson said despite the off-the-field distractions and the 45-6 loss to UL-Lafayette, the linebackers came to practice on Labor Day focused on CMU, their home-opener and the chance to keep playing.
“We tell our kids there’s some things you can’t control,” Atkinson said. “We tell them, how you handle it is how you’re going to be judged. They understand that it’s a long season, and you’re going to get your chance to play. We gained some experience last week, and we’ll move on this week because of it. We put that one behind them and get ready for Central Methodist.”