When the Southern defense takes the field for the opener against Houston on Aug. 30, there will be a feeling of uncertainty in what they will be facing.
The Cougars will open the season with a new offensive coordinator, a new starting running back and an on-going competition at quarterback that has yet to yield a starter for the opener.
Southern coach Dawson Odums said he is not anticipating anything unique out of the Cougars offense.
“They’re just going to do what they do,” Odums said. “I don’t think they’ll put together an elaborate game plan against us — just line up and go play football.”
Newly hired co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was brought in to run the offense this year, replacing Mike Nesbit who resigned after Houston fell to Texas State in an embarrassing 30-13 loss in last season’s opener. Texas State ranked 119th defensively last season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Travis Bush took over last season as the interim coordinator and will work alongside Meacham. Bush will also serve as the Cougars running backs coach this year.
Meacham had served as Oklahoma State’s inside receivers coach and passing coordinator for the past eight seasons.
Meacham and Bush will have their hands full with the difficult task of replacing running back Charles Sims, who left the program in May and subsequently transferred to West Virginia this summer.
Sims led the Cougars with 851 rushing yards last season and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Starting quarterback David Piland is back for the Cougars after throwing for 2,929 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Yet with new faces across the board for the Cougars, Odums noted speed will be the name of the game Friday.
“We have speed at linebacker and with everyone wanting to spread you out, I need to have speed on the field,” Odums said. “We have no chance if we have guys out there that can’t run.”
Odums defensive scheme will also provide an opportunity to mask coverage and blitzes.
“Having a 3-4 defense will give us a better chance to disguise some things that’s we’re trying to do.” Odums said.
Despite employing a 3-4 defensive front, Odums said his squad should hold up against inside, power running teams.
“Against the power-run teams, I think we’ll be fine,” Odums said. “We’re in a 3-4 but my outside ’backers are 230 and 250 pounds each, so they’re really just undersized defensive ends.”
“We’re not going to change who we are.”
The Jaguars practiced Friday night in full pads under the lights at Mumford Stadium in what Odums described as a “dress rehearsal” practice.
“We’ll be going through a gameday mock and just getting the players used to a gameday regiment,” Odums said. “We’re just trying to mock it as close as possible.”
The team went through about 35 plays for the closed practice.
Those 35 snaps were to be divided in scouts vs. offense, scouts vs. defense and some special teams’ plays as well.
“We just want to rep our calls for the Houston game,” Odums said.
Odums and his staff have reached a decision on who will be the backup quarterback to senior starter Dray Joseph as well as the top-four wide receivers in the rotation this season.
Junior Wynton Perro will be the “immediate” backup while freshman Deonte Shorts will be Joseph’s “longterm” backup, as described by Odums.
“If something were to happen to Dray (Joseph) in the game, Wynton (Perro) would go in,” Odums said. “If Dray would be out for a lengthy period of time, Shorts would be the quarterback.”
Starting freshman tailback Leonard Tillery has been officially ruled out of next Friday’s season opener with a bone bruise.
“If this was a game that we had to have him, he could probably go,” Odums said. “But we’re not going to risk the first one when we’ve got 11 to go after that.”