Asked to remember each of his position coaches from the past five years, Southern University defensive end Kedy Enabulele paused.
Then, he estimated.
“Four or five. I don’t know,” Enabulele said, adding a grin. “You have to get used to change, I guess.”
Enabulele knows all about change.
A native of Crosby, Texas, the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Enabulele spent two years at Kilgore College before transferring to SU.
Along the way, he learned to assume that coaches are sort of like T-shirts: You love them, and you get attached to them. But sometimes, you have to give them up.
Last season, Enabulele and his fellow linemen were coached by O’Neill Gilbert, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator.
This spring, Gilbert moved over to linebackers, and new coach Tayrone Odums filled the void.
Odums, fresh from a four-year stint at North Carolina A&T, concedes his new group is still a work in progress - even with less than two weeks to go before Southern’s season opener Sept 3. at Tennessee State.
“We’re probably at about 65 percent of where we want to be right now,” Odums said. “We want to get to 100 when it’s kicked off.”
Can they close the gap?
“Oh, yeah,” Odums said. “It’s a lot of little things that come with reps and seeing it on film, making the adjustments. When you talk about percentages, it’s not like we’re that far away. We’ve just got to clean up some little things.”
At different times last season, Southern’s defensive line was both impressive and disappointing. The Jaguars often got deep penetration in the backfield - but while they finished with 26 sacks, they probably should’ve had more.
Plenty were the times opposing quarterbacks slipped past tacklers or unleashed passes just before SU knocked them down.
Naturally, the Jaguars would like to have more to show for their efforts.
This time, however, Southern will try to do it with different schemes and different personnel.
Although the team’s base defense is still a 4-3, it will spend plenty of time with three down linemen and four linebackers - in part because, as head coach Stump Mitchell said, Southern is “a little thin” at defensive tackle.
Former tackle Jordan Miller, who led the team with nine sacks, is now in the NFL. Miller signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent and, for the moment, is still with the team.
The Jaguars also lost reserve tackle Jeremiah Booth, who became academically ineligible, and still hasn’t seen Jonathan “Tank” English, who had 15 tackles in six games after transferring to SU from Arizona State.
English was taking a class “at another school” this summer, Mitchell said, and the credits should be transferable to Southern.
But fall classes started Monday at SU, and there’s still no sign of English.
“He is not back at this present time,” Mitchell said. “I?think he’s done with the summer class that he was taking, but I haven’t heard from him.”
That leaves only three tackles - senior Dexter James and juniors Casey Narcisse and Brandon Turner - with college experience. James hasn’t played since the third game of the 2009 season, and Narcisse and Turner are returning from the ACL injuries they suffered in October.
Narcisse (50 career tackles) and Turner (14 career tackles) will get the first chance to start; they’ll be backed up by James and Traé Tiller, a third-year sophomore who has moved from the offensive line.
“I think Brandon feels pretty good, because this is his first time that he really feels he’s getting an opportunity,” Mitchell said. “So we’ll see what comes out of that with Brandon and Casey.”
While the team is short on numbers at defensive tackle, it has plenty of options at end - nine in all, and a handful of veterans with experience, including senior Delwin Williams, sophomore Kadeem Lewis, junior Dion Palmer and Enabulele.
For now, however, Enabulele and Jaylen Jordan - a true freshman - are the projected starters.
A 6-foot-2, 250-pound Houston native, Jordan enrolled at Southern this summer and has excelled during preseason camp, earning a promotion to the first team.
“He’s just as powerful as a freshman as most of our guys are playing defensive end that are seniors or juniors,” Mitchell said. “We don’t lack anything there. ... He works hard. He goes to study hall without having to be told twice. So he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do, and I think he’s going to be a heck of a football player for us.”
Of course, Jordan is like most of the rest of Southern’s defensive linemen.
Together, they show potential, but individually, they have work to do.
Last week, Enabulele gave a good example.
When defensive ends see a handoff going away from them, Enabulele said, they’re supposed to stay wide and chase running back from behind. That way, if the handoff is actually a fake and the quarterback attempts a naked bootleg, the defensive end is in position to contain him.
Enabulele said that sometimes, he’s still guilty of taking the bait and chasing the running back.
“We’re working on it, trying to do different drills to fix it,” he said. “So it’s going to be good by the time Tennessee State comes around.”
But the clock is ticking.
POSITION COACH: Tayrone Odums.
PROJECTED STARTERS: DE Jaylen Jordan, DT Casey Narcisse, DT Brandon Turner, DE Kedy Enabulele.
ON THE BENCH: DT Dexter James, DT Tra? Tiller, DE Delwin Williams, DE Kadeem Lewis, DE Dion Palmer, DE Christian Allen, DT Kenneth Hill, DE Kam? Asonye, DE Arthur Miley, DE Jeffrey Watkins, DE Keathon Ransom, DT John Williams.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON: Of the 26 sacks Southern collected last season, 22 came from defensive linemen. Fifteen of those 22 sacks came from players who are back on the team this season.
RISING STAR: Jordan. A 6-foot-2, 250-pound true freshman from Houston, Jordan looks the part, and last week, he was promoted to the first team. ?He?s doing everything we?re asking him to do,? head coach Stump Mitchell said.
LETTERMEN LOST: DT Jordan Miller, DT Jonathan English, DT Jeremiah Booth, DE Steven Williams.
NUMBER OF NOTE: 5. Southern ranked fifth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference against the run last season, giving up 148.3 yards per game.
QUOTABLE: ?We are still a work in progress, but we?ve still got a little time to polish some things up and get better. Right now, it?s just about cleaning some things up.? ? Odums