Southern tried to simulate a football game as best it could for its first scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday morning.
A modest-sized crowd turned out, providing the largest group of spectators during the first nine days of practice.
The coaches tried to give their headsets a dry run, though the reception didn’t work as well at the Jaguars practice field as it does next door inside A.W. Mumford Stadium.
An officiating crew was on hand, helping the players get closer to being game ready three weeks before their season opener at Louisiana-Lafayette.
And football-wise, things pretty much went according to plan. The Jaguars ran about 120 plays in stifling heat and humidity and appeared to escape any serious injuries, though a few players did leave after being nicked up.
“I think we accomplished our goal,” coach Dawson Odums said. “We got in the plays that we wanted. We tested these guys in the elements. We didn’t have any major injuries.
“One thing about college football is you don’t get that many scrimmages. We don’t have a preseason. So you’ve got to get guys work and they’ve got to learn to fight through the elements. I’m pretty pleased. I saw some good, I saw some bad, I saw some ugly.”
The execution got a little ugly about midway through as the heat took its toll. Odums gave the players a pep talk during a much-needed water break.
“They were a little sluggish as we got to about play 70,” Odums said, “but they had to fight through it.”
“We were getting a little fatigued early because it was hot and stuffy,” defensive end Arthur Miley said. “He (Odums) got us fired up and got us going.”
The No. 1 units went against the No. 2 units and the No. 3s squared off with each other. The workout began with the No. 1 offense backed up against its goal line.
On the first play, freshman linebacker LeMar Martin broke into the backfield and dropped Lenard Tillery for a safety.
Subsequent possessions began in progressively better field position until the workout concluded with red-zone and goal-line situations.
There were five touchdowns scored, two of which resulted from drives, two from the goal-line-work and one from the red-zone work.
The first touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Jamarcus Jarvis at the end of a drive led by Deonte Shorts. The second came on a 5-yard pass from Austin Howard to tight end Montrell Jones.
During the red-zone situations, Jarrad Hayes ran 15 yards on a quarterback keeper for a touchdown. In goal-line work, Tillery ran in from the 2 on fourth down and John West ran in from 8.
The scrimmage tested the players’ conditioning more than any of the preceding 10 practices.
“It’s real humid in the mornings and these guys are losing a lot of fluids,” Odums said. “They’ve got to be able to push through that. It’s important.
“You don’t know how many plays you’re going to play so you’ve got to be fit. It’s just a mindset. You can’t control the elements, you can’t control the heat index. You’ve got to push through it with a mindset and I saw some guys trying to motivate themselves to get going again to close out the scrimmage so I was pretty pleased with what I saw.”
The workout included the most sustained work of camp as both units stayed on the field as long as the offense kept moving the chains.
“Drives are going to continue, so they’ve got to get used to playing seven or eight plays in a row,” Odums said. “In practice, you might have a five-play rotation or a four-play rotation. They’ve got to get used to being out there seven, eight, nine plays. They probably felt that today when the offense made first downs and they had to stay on the field.”
Odums stuck with the quarterback rotation he’s used the past few days of practice. Shorts worked with the first team, Howard and Hayes split time with the second team and Francis Kanneh worked with the third team.