Southern does not know how much time senior quarterback Austin Howard will be required to miss, but it does know two things: He won’t suit up Saturday against UT-San Antonio, and he won’t return next season.
With these two truths in mind, how useful can the minimum two weeks without Howard be when plotting Southern’s future at the quarterback position?
Someone on this roster — whether it’s Bubba McDaniel, Darquez Lee or John Lampley — will almost certainly go into the 2018 season as Southern’s starter. But these two weeks, at minimum, are probably not enough to be the sole determinant of who that may be.
“It’s always an ongoing evaluation, so it’s not like these games are going to make or break them as quarterbacks,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “I just think you hope they play well and get some confidence, some experience.”
That experience, Odums said, is not coming the way Southern hoped. The plan all along was to ease the backup quarterbacks into the games, letting them build on a drive here and there without the pressure of being the No. 1 guy.
That plan for their development accelerated when Howard went down with a knee injury in the Sept. 3 opener against South Carolina State.
“They don’t have time to ease into it, take one rep here, two reps here, get in in the fourth quarter when we’re up — they don’t have time for that,” offensive lineman Christian Rodriguez said. “The offense, at this moment in time, is depending on you to get points on the board. You don’t have time to make these mistakes.”
There weren’t many things about Southern’s 45-0 loss to Southern Miss that pleased coach Daw…
What Odums and the Jaguars are most eager to see is if the youngsters can show growth after a rough debut.
McDaniel, a true freshman, was thrown into a difficult situation, getting his first career start on the road against a team that may be wind up being Southern’s toughest opponent this season.
Predictably, he struggled. McDaniel turned over the ball twice while completing less than one-third of his attempts. His longest completion went for 10 yards.
But this is part of why Odums won’t put too much emphasis on one or two performances. Until last week, the only experience McDaniel had as a college quarterback was a month of practice and two drives against South Carolina State.
Everything in a game — especially against an opponent the caliber of Southern Miss — happens faster than it does in practice.
“I talked to Bubba, and he said he didn’t realize how fast the game was until he got a chance to take his first few college snaps,” running back Herb Edwards said.
Game speed is impossible to quantify until you’ve been in it, Odums said. It’s partly why he’s hopeful he can see the youngster bounce back when he sees the field Saturday in the Alamodome against UTSA.
McDaniel’s next opportunity may come in a reserve role, though. Southern showed a spark of life when Lee entered for the second drive of the second half last week.
Each week, Southern’s first 12 offensive plays are planned out ahead of time.
Though Lee’s overall numbers weren’t pretty, either — 5 of 10 for 56 yards — three of the four drives he directed were Southern’s longest of the game.
“We thought he did a good job,” Berry said. “We felt like he went in with no pressure, and he just went down and executed and moved the ball a little bit for us.”
He also did it with less pressure than McDaniel faced. When Lee entered the game, Southern was trailing 42-0.
“When you’ve got all week to think about starting, you’ve got a chance for those nerves to build-up,” Odums said. “I always say the relief pitcher is always in a better role to be successful, because you’re coming in, you’ve seen the game, you’ve had a chance to stand on the sideline.”
Odums said again Thursday that the starting quarterback against UTSA will be a gametime decision, though he also said it is likely McDaniel and Lee will see the field.
He expressed hope that both would build upon their debut performances. He said Lee and McDaniel showed improvement in practice this week with that game experience in their pockets.
As far as what it means for next season, showing improvement in the games can only help their causes.
“At the end of the day, we’re getting a chance to play in games, and we’re going to get a chance to and evaluate them from there,” Odums said.
About a half hour before Southern coach Dawson Odums addressed the media for his weekly news…