Southern’s kicking and punting game - a major concern during preseason camp - turned out to be one of the few bright spots in the Jaguars’ season-opening loss Saturday against Tennessee State.

Former Lee High soccer player Manuel Canto averaged 41.4 yards per punt during the team’s 33-7 defeat. Canto’s average could have been longer, but two of his attempts came on a short field, when he and the SU coverage team tried to pin Tennessee State inside its 20-yard line (both attempts fluttered into the end zone).

Canto also averaged 54.5 yards on his two kickoffs, and he connected on his only extra-point attempt.

“He had a lot of steam on his PAT, as well, because it got blocked,” second-year coach Stump Mitchell said. “It didn’t get good height, and there was great penetration. But he had a lot of heat on the ball.”

Punting was a major concern during preseason camp, when several players, including kickers Canto, sophomore Matthew Hill and freshman Jamie Galvin, were inconsistent during special-teams drills. Two other players, Demetric Rogers and Justin Williams, have experimented with rugby-style punts.

A little P.T. for J.P.?

Mitchell made it clear again Monday that sophomore Dray Joseph is still his starting quarterback, he planned all along to give a few snaps to freshman J.P. Douglas in last week’s opener, adding that Douglas might play occasionally when the Jaguars (0-1) host Alabama A&M (0-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in their Southwestern Athletic Conference opener.

“He’s a smart guy,” Mitchell said, “but I think you need some type of playing experience in order to have an opportunity to be successful in this league. He will get an opportunity to play some. However, Dray Joseph is my starter.”

Joseph was 9 of 18 for 122 yards and one interception last week. Douglas, who replaced him early in the third quarter, was 7-of-15 for 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Plan B for tight ends

Mitchell said his team should be better at run-blocking now that the coaching staff has a full week to prepare without its top three tight ends.

The team learned Wednesday night that Javon Jordan, Rashaun Allen and Kesean Peterson would miss the Tennessee State game because of questions about their academic eligibility, and Mitchell said Allen and Peterson are certain to miss the rest of the season.

The late-breaking news prompted SU to move two players to tight end - 205-pound receiver Mike Berry and 257-pound right tackle Clinton Boyd.

Mitchell said Boyd might flip-flop between tackle and guard, and that Berry would probably play the rest of the season as a receiving tight end.

The only remaining true tight end is true freshman Eric Janeau, who “has soft hands, but he’s just not strong enough right now to help us as a blocking tight end,” Mitchell said.

DE Palmer out for season

Defensive end Dion Palmer suffered a torn ACL and a partially torn meniscus in his right knee Saturday and will miss the rest of the season, Mitchell said Monday.

Palmer, a 6-foot-1, 247-pound junior from Houston, was listed as a backup to freshman Jaylen Jordan but figured to see plenty of action. Palmer, who had one sack in six games last season, should be eligible for a medical redshirt. He played as a true freshman in 2009.

“Because it was only a small tear (in the meniscus), he should have a pretty fast recovery,” Mitchell said.

DT hangs on in Chicago

Former defensive tackle Jordan Miller, who walked on at Southern after playing only one year of high school football, was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad, the team announced Sunday.

“It’s a blessing - not what I was aiming for, but (I’m) still very happy to be a part of this wonderful organization,” Miller said Monday. “I see (this) as a redshirt year - a time for me to really work on my craft and get better.”

Miller, who signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent this summer, played minimally in four preseason games for Chicago, though he got a sack in the Bears’ final exhibition Thursday against Cleveland.

Practice-squad players can be signed by other teams - but if those teams do sign a practice-squad player, they must put him on their 53-man roster for at least three weeks.

Miller led Southern last season with nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss.