Jaguars will try to make best of it after suspensions

As Southern football coach Stump Mitchell noted last week, his wasn’t the only team to engage in questionable activity lately.

Yes, a fight broke out after the Jaguars lost at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 15.

Yes, the Southwestern Athletic Conference suspended 16 Southern players and 25 UAPB players.

Maybe something’s in the air this month.

On Oct. 14, Baker High and Parkview Baptist engaged in a third-quarter brawl.

So did Bastrop and Carroll.

Last week, a Georgia high-school coach, David Daniels, was beaten with a football helmet as he and his Warren County team returned to their locker room after a 21-2 victory over Hancock Central.

And the Pac-12 Conference suspended 10 players for their roles in a fight Thursday during the UCLA-Arizona game.

Nevertheless, Mitchell said, he’s doing what he can to convince players that fighting isn’t worth it, regardless of circumstances.

“We’ve had several conversations, and it’s all about representing Southern in a great light,” Mitchell said. “We knew, whether the conference did anything or not, we were going to do something along the lines of what’s going on right now. We’re going to go to church on Sunday. There will be a meeting ... and people have come to speak with the guys already.”

Now, the Jaguars come off their first open date of the season with a tough assignment.

Saturday is senior day at A.W. Mumford Stadium. It’s also homecoming. And Southern — loser in four of its past five games, each defeat coming by less than six points — will probably host Alcorn State with a very lean roster.

Even if the SWAC grants Southern some relief — Mitchell said he’ll petition the league to allow four suspended seniors to play Saturday, then serve their penalties later — the team will have to adjust on the fly when it returns to practice Tuesday.

“We haven’t even talked about schemes,” Mitchell said. “But what this presents is another opportunity for someone else who had not been playing, or played as much as they would like, to get an opportunity to step in.”

Presuming the SWAC denies Southern’s request, the team will be extremely thin at the linebacker spot. Five linebackers — Anthony Balancier, Daniel Brown, Jamie Payton, Corry Roy and Franchot West — were penalized by the SWAC.

That leaves only three linebackers — seniors Jared Detrick and Demetrius Bentley and sophomore Larry Johnson — with any college experience.

Detrick has 22 tackles, Bentley 20 tackles and Johnson eight tackles this season.

“It’s all about opportunities,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, you don’t want it to happen the way this occurred. But it happened, and it’s over, so now we have to do it, and those guys who have to play have to step up and play just as good as the guys who were playing in front of them.”

Mitchell said he does not intend to remove redshirts to fill in the gaps.

Only a few freshmen appeared headed for redshirts, including receiver Bradley Coleman, center Allan Spry, defensive back Jamal Jenkins and tight end Robert Sanchez.

Sanchez practiced as a linebacker until this month, when he moved to tight end, adding depth to a thin position.

He has not played in a game this season, and Mitchell said he still plans to redshirt Sanchez.

“We’re not going to burn his redshirt year when we only have four games left,” Mitchell said.

Indeed.

Beginning with Saturday’s home finale against Alcorn, the Jaguars have four games left in a season that began with promise, but instead has been littered with what-ifs.

Now they’ll try to find a way to finish strong, whether or not they’re at full strength.