Southern’s preseason camp ended the same way last season started: with the Jaguars cooling their heels while waiting to hit the football field.
Last season, they were stranded on the team bus while university officials sorted through which players would have to be left behind for the opener at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette because they lacked proper academic certification.
Saturday morning, the players waited 90 minutes for the buses that would transport them to the Louisiana Leadership Institute for the camp-closing scrimmage.
“It was a little joke in the locker room,” linebacker Demetrius Carter said with a laugh. “But it was nothing, just a little adversity. We’re used to it.”
A missed communication was cleared up, the buses arrived, and Southern’s 90-play scrimmage got under way at 10 a.m.
When things finally got started, the Jaguars offense hit the ground running — and passing. On the first play, Austin Howard launched a 99-yard touchdown pass to Mike Jones that set the tone for the 1-hour, 45-minute workout.
“I knew I had a speedy guy on the outside in Mike Jones,” Howard said. “So I just read the safety, and he came down, and I went over the top on him.”
Quarterbacks coach Chad Germany told Howard in advance what the first play was going to be.
“I said, ‘OK coach, I’m going ride with it. We’ll make it work,’” Howard said. “When I get to show off my arm, it’s always a good thing.”
The offense had five touchdown drives and reached the end zone three more times during red-zone work.
Jones scored again on a 5-yard pass from Deonte Shorts, Devon Gales caught touchdown passes of 15 yards from Shorts and 8 yards from Jarrad Hayes, Willie Quinn caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Howard, Austin Opara caught a 10-yarder from Hayes, Lenard Tillery scored on a 2-yard run, and Herb Edwards had a 3-yard touchdown run.
“Our receivers did an outstanding job,” coach Dawson Odums said. “I think we did an outstanding job of throwing the ball today, and we did a great job of catching it.”
The scrimmage mostly matched the No. 1 units against the No. 2 units, though units featuring mostly ones went head-to-head in the red zone at the end.
“I think on both sides the ones played pretty good,” Odums said. “Most of the time your backups work against backups, so you can get a false sense of security of how good they are.
“Then when you put them against the better talent on the team, it’s a little easier to coach them now because they come back down to earth. And that’s what you saw today. You saw them realizing, ‘I might not be as good as I think,’ because our ones are pretty good. Our one offense and our one defense have got continuity. Those guys have played together awhile.”
The second-team defense featured four newcomers, including three freshmen.
“I felt like we had our ups and downs today,” Carter said of the defense as a whole. “I felt like we should have come out a little faster, a little more aggressive early on. We didn’t play dominating football today.”
The offense had plenty of big plays, and the defense wasn’t able to force any turnovers.
“Peaks and valleys, ups and downs,” Odums said. “Early on, if you look at it from an offensive standpoint, it was up. If you look at it from a defensive perspective it was down.”
The following players did not participate: defensive backs Jamar Mitchell and Demerio Houston, defensive linemen Joe Davis and Simeon Houston, offensive linemen Allan Spry and Jodeci Harris, and place-kicker Greg Pittman. Odums said Pittman and Simeon Houston had family issues, and the others had minor health issues. All are expected back when the Jaguars return to practice Tuesday. Freshman Taylor Merritt was 1-for-2 on field goals in Pittman’s absence. ... Classes begin Monday. … Shorts got the first opportunity with the second-team offense as he battles Hayes to be Howard’s primary backup. ... Odums said there were no major injuries during the workout. ... Interim Athletic Director Roman Banks said Southern met its Saturday deadline for submitting APR data to the NCAA for fall certification. The only data lacking was summer school info for incoming players who are not yet on campus.
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