As the calendar turns to October, Southern football coach Dawson Odums is giving his team a midseason tune-up heading into Saturday’s road trip to Alabama State.
Odums likened his team to a foreign car at his Tuesday luncheon news conference, saying he’s using several changes to the depth chart to spark the Jaguars back to high performance levels before they head into a stretch of seven consecutive Southwestern Conference matchups.
“Football is like a car, you put so many miles on it and you have to tune it up,” Odums said. “Well, this is just a little tune-up. But usually (the starters) recognize the tune-up, understand they need a little oil change, and this will help them. But right now, we have to get ready for that next 100,000 miles.”
Tuesday’s depth chart featured three true freshmen moving into the starting defensive lineup: Christopher Jones at nose guard, Jaron Johnson at defensive tackle and Andrea Augustine at free safety.
Odums said the changes were not related to injury, but rather because the usual starters are not playing with the level of passion and hard work he expects.
There’s still a possibility the depth chart will change again before Saturday, Odums said, and the usual starters will have the opportunity to play, regardless, but for right now, the coaching staff chose to list the players performing at a higher level as the starters.
“We have a passion about how we practice and a passion about how we play. And we expect everybody to bring that same passion,” Odums said. “As we go through it and go forward, we look at practice film, we look for effort and energy.
“It’s the month of October, there’s no such thing as looking back. Everything we want to accomplish is ahead of us.”
The changes come out of Southern’s off week, in which Odums and the coaching staff took a chance to not only look ahead to Alabama State this weekend, but also evaluate where the team is after five weeks.
Odums said the team is as healthy as could be hoped for heading into the bulk of conference play, but the week off gave them the opportunity to work on the fundamentals of football.
“It’s October. Everybody knows once you hit October, mainly in the SWAC, we’re playing conference games,” Odums said. “We have a stretch here where it’s all conference. You don’t get a break. You have to have the right mindset.
“That’s our goal at practice this week is to create the right attitude at practice and create the right mindset.”
Odums took pride that during his tenure at Southern, the Jaguars have lost only four games during October, two of which came in his first season. Odums is also a perfect 5-0 after off weeks.
But he isn’t taking the Hornets lightly while they’re on a two-game win streak, including a 45-15 win against Mississippi Valley State and a 41-23 victory against Texas Southern.
“Any time you can win games, it creates confidence,” Odums said. “We’re coming off a loss (to Georgia) the last time we were out, (Alabama State is) coming off a W. They won two games in a row, and their confidence is soaring high. And really, that’s what kick starts the month of October. You have to be playing confident football and good things have to happen for you.”