Southern’s quarterback competition resumed Friday with the first practice of preseason camp.
Every snap, every throw and every decision of four inexperienced players is being dissected by the coaching staff as they try to choose the one most capable of leading the offense when the Jaguars open the season Aug. 30 at Louisiana-Lafayette.
While the coaches look for clues as to which player deserves to start, observers are looking for clues as to what the coaches are thinking.
On Friday, Deonte Shorts worked with the first-team offense, and fellow redshirt freshman Frances Kennah worked with the second team.
And just what does that mean?
“He won the rock, paper, scissors battle today,” coach Dawson Odums joked. “We have an order, and we’re still evaluating. It doesn’t matter who goes first. All of those guys are going to get a chance to get first-team reps.”
The group also includes two true freshmen. Austin Howard of West St. John got under center ahead of Jarrad Hayes of Central, but don’t read anything into that, either.
Howard and Hayes are unavailable for interviews, as are all true freshmen. Shorts and Kennah were unavailable Friday, but they’re expected to be available for interviews beginning Saturday.
The rest of the offense is learning the nuances of each quarterback’s skills after being accustomed to then-senior Dray Joseph’s last season.
“Them being so young, the coaches are going to coach them, and we as players are going to uplift them and let them know that everything is going to be all right at the end of the day,” fullback Brian McCain said
Tight end Bradley Coleman said he’s mindful that the quarterbacks are much greener than was Joseph, a Southwestern Athletic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year last year, and is trying to adjust accordingly.
“It’s a lot different not having Dray back there,” Coleman said. “Last year, if I didn’t notice something, I’d say, ‘Hey, Dray, who do I have?’ This year, I find myself trying to take more responsibility and make it easier on the young guys, take less of a toll on them and make their jobs easier.”
The redshirt freshmen are understandably a bit ahead of the true freshmen, but Odums has called it a four-man battle now that the newcomers are getting up to speed.
“I’m excited to see how the competition goes throughout camp,” Coleman said. “It’s fun to see them go at it every day. Even in the summer we did 7-on-7 drills and, when they’d make a mistake one day, they’d come back and not make the same mistake the next day. As long as they get better day by day, they’re going to be where we need them to be when the first game comes.”
Odums said the starter will emerge when one player steps forward during camp and demonstrates he’s most capable of leading the team. That primarily comes down to one trait.
“Decision-making,” Odums said. “What’s going to separate them is who takes what the defense gives them and who takes chances, who throws the ball away versus who tries to force the ball down the field.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.