It’s official. Dray Joseph is the starter.
In a move that surprised almost no one, Southern coach Stump Mitchell said Joseph will start the Jaguars’ season opener Sept. 3 in Nashville, Tenn., against Tennessee State.
Mitchell confirmed Joseph’s status as the No. 1 quarterback Saturday, despite an up-and-down performance from the sophomore during Southern’s second preseason scrimmage.
Unofficially, Joseph completed 14 of 21 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but he and the SU offense struggled on third downs.
“I’ve just got to get him playing better every day,” Mitchell said. “For the most part, he does it. Today just wasn’t one of those days. But I’m not worried about that. He’s a guy who will go back, look at the film and make corrections.”
Joseph came off the bench in the second half of Southern’s only two wins in 2010. He also started three of the final four games.
Joseph threw for 1,117 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions. He split time with Jeremiah McGinty, who started eight games last season and is still on the team, but appears to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.
Joseph has worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense during training camp.
J.P. Douglas, who has taken most of the second-team snaps during camp, appears to be the backup.
Douglas, a freshman from Roswell, Ga., completed 5 of 17 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions Saturday.
RB Rice leaves scrimmage
In what could be a serious blow to Southern’s ground game, projected starting tailback Brandon Rice left Saturday’s scrimmage after only one carry, having suffered an apparent shoulder injury.
Mitchell said he didn’t yet know the severity of Rice’s injury, but added this: “Hopefully we’ll have him back for the (Tennessee State) game.”
Rice, a junior from Columbus, Ohio, spent his first two years as a bit player, but he began preseason camp as Southern’s first option as a between-the-tackles runner.
In two seasons, Rice has 230 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries, averaging a little more than 4 yards per attempt.
More chances for Alex?
Senior running back Terrell Alex got extensive playing time Saturday, ranking second on the team with seven carries — but he also fumbled for the second time in two scrimmages, prompting some concern from Mitchell.
Alex fumbled after catching a screen pass from Joseph and taking a hit from linebacker Jamie Payton.
“What (Alex) has to understand is that a running back plays the game under control, not out of control. Right now, I think he does not understand that,” Mitchell said.
“But he’ll get a chance to watch the film and see why he needs to be under control. We had three linemen out in front of him on the screen play — and if he had executed the screen like we do all week long, he would’ve scored a touchdown.”
Alex, a Redemptorist High graduate, sat out last season after transferring from Division II Ouachita Baptist.
Little work for DT James
Beset by minor-but-nagging injuries during much of camp, defensive tackle Dexter James saw little playing time during Saturday’s scrimmage.
That was by design, defensive coordinator O’Neill Gilbert said.
“We’ve got to have Dexter down the stretch. We’ve got to keep him healthy,” Gilbert said. “We’re thin up front, so, with that being said, we’ve got to make sure we have all our weapons when we go to Nashville in two weeks.”
James, a fifth-year senior, hasn’t played since the third game of the 2009 season, when he suffered a shoulder injury. He was academically ineligible last year.
One more to go
Southern will hold its third and final scrimmage Saturday inside A.W. Mumford Stadium, Mitchell said.
The team had three scrimmages last season, though last year’s third scrimmage was light. Mitchell said at the time that his coaching staff treated the third scrimmage like the final game of an NFL preseason, resting starters after one or two series.
Classes begin Monday at Southern.