Southern loses nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter for opener _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern's Rhaheim Ledbetter stretches on the field before kickoff against Alcorn State in the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 6, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Southern won’t have starting nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter for its season opener at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

Coach Dawson Odums said Tuesday that Ledbetter, a senior who became a starter after transferring from Florida before last season, is academically ineligible.

“We’re going into this week planning to be without him,” Odums said at his first news luncheon of the season. “Hopefully we can get him back, but we’ve got to get ready to go play football.”

Jamal Jenkins, a fifth-year senior who has played mostly on special teams, will replace Ledbetter and make his first career start on defense against the Bulldogs. Another fifth-year senior, Jason Dykes, will back up Jenkins.

Jenkins said he learned Sunday that he was being moved up to the first team, adding that he’s doing “my due diligence” by studying more film and picking Ledbetter’s brain in preparation for Saturday.

“Rhaheim has been one of the leaders of the defense throughout camp, and he’s been giving me some pointers all the way through,” Jenkins said.

Tackle battle continues

Skyler Prol and Eric Janeau’s battle to be the starting right tackle has been the most competitive battle in the preseason.

So it wasn’t surprising that Prol’s name popped up as the starter on the depth chart for Saturday’s game, even though Odums had said last week that Janeau would enter the season as the starter.

The two are essentially co-starters, and both figure to play a lot Saturday.

More depth-chart news

Redshirt freshman Jarrad Hayes has been pushing Deonte Shorts to be the primary backup to Austin Howard at quarterback, but Shorts is listed as the No. 2 quarterback.

Odums said Southern will decide later in the week whether to use Shorts and perhaps Hayes as well to spell Howard against the Bulldogs.

Senior place-kicker Greg Pittman will also be the punter, which had been expected. Freshman Taylor Merritt will back up Pittman at both positions.

Two sophomores among captains

The Jaguars’ captains are Howard, running back Lenard Tillery and guard Anthony Mosley on offense; cornerback Danny Johnson and linebackers Demetrius Carter and Daniel Brown on defense; and Pittman and running back Malcolm Crockett, who plays on four units, on special teams.

Howard and Johnson are sophomores.

“I think the way we do it is different than a lot of teams,” Odums said, “because I think you should have young guys as captains, fulfilling those roles and fulfilling those responsibilities because those guys are coming back — and when you have leadership coming back, the guys have somebody to look up to coming back. It creates more excitement and more understanding in the offseason. We want to put them in leadership roles and groom them for the future.”

Ex-Jaguar to face Jaguars

Tech running backs coach Jabbar Juluke said he’s looking forward to facing his alma mater Saturday. Juluke was a safety on Southern’s 1993 team, which won the black college national championship in Pete Richardson’s first season. He also lettered in basketball with the Jaguars and got his degree in sociology in 1999.

“I have a lot of friends who I played ball with, students and females I went to school with, that are very excited about the opportunity to come up north because they have never played up north before,” Juluke said. “It is going to be a great time. I know that the Jaguar Nation travels extremely well.

“I remember when I was a ballplayer, we would drive over to Jackson and to the Bayou Classic and we knew we would always have our faithful fans who were going to be there. It is just an exciting time.”

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.