Monday marked the first day of classes at Southern, bringing with it the start of the football team’s NCAA-mandated reduction in practice time.
The Jaguars are being limited to 16 hours of game and practice time per week, part of the program’s punishment for having a substandard score in the Academic Progress Rate.
Southern coach Stump Mitchell said most of the Jaguars kept busy Monday afternoon tying up loose ends in their academic schedule and dealing with other first-day priorities.
During the season, Mitchell said the team will devote Mondays to “academic-related activities” and practice Tuesday-Friday each week.
“We will have tutors or we will have speakers,” Mitchell said. “We will be doing something that is geared toward academics.”
The APR is a rolling four-year system that uses a score to measure the classroom performance of student-athletes.
In May, the NCAA reported Southern’s football program to have a score of 899, which subjected the Jaguars to severe penalties. The score reflects data covering the 2006-09 football seasons, the final four years of the Pete Richardson era.
In addition to the practice time reduction, Southern received a one-year postseason ban (the Southwestern Athletic Conference has banned the Jaguars from the league title game as well) and was forced to surrender nine scholarships.
Despite having less time on the field with his players, Mitchell said he’s confident the Jaguars will show up Saturdays ready to play.
“I have no choice but to feel that way,” he said. “It’s what the NCAA has given us to deal with and we plan on preparing to win every game. I feel comfortable with it.”
The Jaguars, who face Tennessee State in their Sept. 3 opener, conducted their second scrimmage Saturday of the preseason.
They begin their typical game-week practice schedule Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s the first day we start using a depth chart, using guys we think will be playing in that first game and putting them in position and working with the group that we feel will be on the field at any particular time,” Mitchell said. “We’ve given guys two weeks to show us what they can do.”
The competition at tailback, however, could begin anew.
Projected starter Brandon Rice went down Saturday with a sprained right shoulder after only one carry in the scrimmage. The junior from Columbus, Ohio, has been a role player his first two seasons but entered fall camp as the team’s best between-the-tackles runner.
Mitchell said he wasn’t sure if Rice would be available for the opener.
“Right now, I don’t think Brandon Rice will be practicing any this week, so it’s going to be probably hard for him to play next week just because he’s experiencing so much pain from that shoulder,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think he can afford to miss any practice next week and be ready to go next Saturday.”
Mitchell said Kaelen Mayfield, Dallas Fort, Terrell Alex, Byron Williams and Jerry Joseph will have to step up in Rice’s absence. He looks forward to seeing which of the players separate themselves with their performance in Saturday’s final preseason scrimmage.
“All of those guys will have an opportunity to see who we will go with in that first ballgame,” Mitchell said.