Thursday afternoon, when the Southern football team wrapped up its first day of preseason practice, the temperature was 94 degrees, with a heat index of 111.
“Blazing hot,” linebacker Anthony Balancier said.
The Jaguars offense, by contrast, looked a little cold.
Although the unit appeared out of rhythm Thursday - left tackle Chris Browne used the word “rusty” to describe his first day back in action, but said he is “thankful to be back at it.” SU coach Stump Mitchell said he?s not overly concerned.
Before long, he said, the passing game will start to take shape.
“We have some receivers who have pretty good size, and we have more experience at quarterback than we had last year,” the second-year coach said. “So I feel pretty good.”
Southern has a deep group of receivers, but Mitchell said he plans to quickly identify the top four to six and give them more repetitions in practice than the others.
“That way, it’ll be much better for the quarterbacks to get some consistency with the guys that they?re really going to be working with during the season,” he said.
That would amount to a drastic change from last season, when eight receivers played nine or more games. A ninth receiver, Corderious Gregory, played six games, entered the deep rotation after returning from an early-season injury.
As for this year, Mitchell identified several top-tier candidates: senior LaQuinton Evans; senior Jared Green, a Virginia transfer; junior Charles Hawkins; and junior-college transfer Michael Berry.
A handful of top-tier spots are up for grabs, Mitchell said.
Meet the new GA
Thursday marked the SU debut for Brian Powers, who replaced Breck Ackley as a graduate assistant on SU’s staff.
Powers was a punter at Ole Miss from 2007-09 and served as an intern on the coaching staff last season.
He was recommended by SU receivers coach Jorge Baez, who also worked at Ole Miss while Powers was there.
Powers’ main responsibility is coaching kickers Jamie Galvin and Matthew Hill, who are both new to SU.
They will replace punter Josh Duran, who was a senior last season, and kicker William Griswold, who had a standout freshman season but withdrew from the university and returned home to Tampa, Fla. (his dad, William Sr., cited personal reasons).
Ackley transferred to another school to pursue his master’s degree, Mitchell said.
Galvin is a freshman from Evans, Ga.
Hill is a sophomore transfer from East Central (Miss.) Community College.
Free safety Jason House, who suffered season-ending knee and ankle injuries in SU?s third game last season, has appealed to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, Mitchell confirmed.
“House filed an appeal, but I think that might be a little difficult for him (to get),”Mitchell said. “But we’ll see.”
House led the nation with 10 interceptions in 2009, his first year on defense (he was a wide receiver before then), but missed Southern’s final eight games last year.
Southern moved Friday?s practice to 9 a.m., in part to keep players out of the severe heat. Temperatures should be in the low-to-mid-80s during practice, according to the Weather Channel. ... TE Javon Jordan sat out Thursday?s practice because of tendinitis, though Mitchell said he should return Friday. ... As expected, sophomore Dwayne Houston practiced at RT, taking the place of Lee Almanza, who moved to C. As it stands, Houston would be the only new starter on the offensive line.