The way Southern football coach Dawson Odums figures it, Reggie Travis’ timing is about right.
Travis is a senior wide receiver who is in his first season with the Jaguars after transferring from Memphis. He has gradually integrated himself into Southern’s passing scheme and had a breakout game Saturday.
He caught five passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-36 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a performance that earned him Offensive Player of the Week honors from both the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association on Monday.
“He’s just arrived here,” Odums said. “This is really about the time that you start to see guys start to produce. After three or four ballgames, they settle into what they’re doing.”
Travis’ timing is especially helpful because the Jaguars are missing two of their top receivers — Randall Menard and Mike Jones — because of injury.
Coming out of preseason camp, Travis was caught in a logjam as part of a unit that featured preseason second-team All-SWAC receiver Willie Quinn; Menard, who emerged as a big-play threat late in his freshman season last year; and veteran contributors Jones, Justin Morgan and Sam Altman.
Menard, a former standout at Plaquemine High, didn’t play in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette and had just four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in the first four games.
While Travis was adjusting to his new team, Menard was sidelined after injuring a toe on the first series of the season, and he later had surgery that ended his season. Jones injured an ankle in the third game of the season against Northwestern State and hasn’t played since.
As the number of receiving weapons shrunk, opponents devoted more manpower to slowing Quinn, challenging the Jaguars to produce someone else who could be a playmaker.
Morgan had a 79-yard touchdown reception against Northwestern State.
But the next week, in a 34-24 victory at Prairie View, Quinn was limited to two catches for 28 yards. Altman and Travis were the only other receivers to make a catch, each grabbing one pass: Altman for 11 yards and Travis for 7. Tight ends Dillon Beard, Bradley Coleman and Montrell Jones chipped in one catch each, Beard catching a 26-yard touchdown, Coleman gaining 26 yards, and Jones gaining 10.
The productivity of the passing game against Prairie View was limited in part by a running game that produced 231 yards, and by the fact that the Jaguars nursed their lead in the second half. Still, the modest numbers — eight completions for 108 yards — wouldn’t be sufficient on a weekly basis.
A week later, Southern had to throw the ball 35 times in a 56-16 loss at Alcorn State and had limited success. Travis, though, tied for the team lead with three receptions for a team-high 68 yards.
Then came Saturday, and Travis, who best replicates Menard’s frame at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, caught touchdowns of 79 and 11 yards from quarterback Austin Howard and 41 yards from Quinn.
Travis said it was his first three-touchdown game since the first game of his senior season at Plaquemine.
“When I was recruited here, (Odums) said he expected me to be a leader,” Travis said. “I knew I had to step my game up.”
Travis has developed a rapport with Howard, who has gone the distance the past three games. In the first three games, Howard split time with Deonte Shorts, who started the first three games but has missed the past three because of injuries.
“It’s starting to come together because, at first, we had a different starting quarterback. And, when Shorts got hurt, we gathered ourselves to come together and rally around him,” Travis said.
Though Travis is new to the Jaguars, he played three seasons with Memphis, starting 16 of 25 games. He caught 29 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown.
When he went in search of more playing time, Southern was a logical destination. He grew up as a Jaguars fan, after all.
“I just wanted to play in front of my hometown and in front of my family,” Travis said. “A lot of them couldn’t travel to Memphis every weekend, and I wanted to come here.”
Southern is glad he did. Jones did some running at practice Monday night, but it’s questionable whether he’ll be available when the Jaguars visit Alabama A&M on Saturday.
“With Reggie, you’re starting to see the big-play capability,” Odums said. “As you make plays, your confidence grows, and now he’s starting to see that he can become the player that we all knew he could be.”
Notes: Southern had a second player honored by the SWAC on Monday as freshman defensive back Danny Johnson was named Co-Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against UAPB. He shared the award with Darry Ragsdale of Alcorn State. ...
Openings remain for the Sixth Man Club’s trip to Alabama A&M. The cost is $260 for a single, $475 for a couple or $600 for a triple; the trip includes a night at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites and departs at 8 p.m. Friday, returning immediately after the game Saturday. For more information, contact Gail Ray at 356-5252; Anna Jones at 387-1982; Freddie Green Sr. at 388-9403; or Elijah Wilkinson Jr. at 355-9249.