Southern’s wide receivers have been able to succeed despite the obstacles of injury and academic uncertainty.
Southern lost two key wide receivers on the day of its season opener. One went out after injury and the other because of academic uncertainty.
With team mottos like “Adapt and Overcome,” “Next Guy Up,” “Pray Hard,” “Stay on Faith” and “Pray Again,” head coach Dawson Odums has put emphasis on preparing his team for adversity since arriving on The Bluff three years ago.
“(Coach Odums) has been telling these guys even before this season started that at some point there was going to some adversity,” wide receivers coach Chris Coleman said. “I don’t think we knew it was going to be the first game into the season and not having some of the guys you were planning on counting on present, but he at least conditioned their minds for the possibility that anything can happen.”
With 13 of 15 players available to take the field, the receivers are still one of the deepest positions, with Mike Jones, Justin Morgan, Mason Ceaser and Reggie Travis leading the way.
Last season, Southern suspended leading receiver Lee Doss against Alabama State, but Jones pitched in 211 yards and three touchdowns on five passes in the win. Last week against Central Methodist, Jones caught three passes for 75 yards.
Odums says he wants to develop Jones into a multifaceted player who not only catches those long distance passes but also runs intermediate routes for first downs.
“I’m trying to develop him to becoming an all-around receiver,” Odums said. “I’m excited about his growth and development at the wide receiver position.”
Morgan and Travis also caught touchdown passes against Central Methodist. Travis’ TD was a 17-yard pass from Shorts, while Morgan’s was a 16-yard pass from Austin Howard.
Ceaser contributed two catches for 45 yards. Odums calls Ceaser a “great route runner with great hands,” but says his most valuable trait is his work ethic.
“That guy comes to work ever yday,” Odums said. “A lot of people don’t know that about him. When he’s open he catches the football. He was able to get a catch in a game, and he was happy, excited. That just creates confidence going forward.”
Jones, a sprinter for the Jaguars track and field team, said the depth at the positions helps ease the transition onto the field for redshirt freshman and freshman quarterbacks Deonte Shorts and Austin Howard.
“It’s a big confidence booster for the quarterbacks to know that he has other receivers to rely on,” Jones said. “It helps them mature. He can rely on the whole group not just one or two guys.”
Coleman said obstacles appear for teams around the country, whether it’s injury or even rain canceling or delaying practice.
But what sets the Jaguars apart from others is their ability to “roll with the punches” and use positivity to deal with a negative situation.
Morgan added that as a member of the Jaguars football program, it’s necessary for players to have determination and stay focused at all times.
“You never know when its going to be your chance,” Morgan said. “You have to be (on your) Ps and Qs. If you’re not focused and somebody calls your name and you don’t have your helmet, or you’re getting passed up.”