Southern’s preseason preparation for the fall 2021 football season went off without much of a hitch, even with a hurricane thrown in at the last minute.
Outside of some schedule changes, the Jaguars are in game week mode and on schedule for Saturday’s season opener at Troy at 6 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN3 and broadcast on KQXL-FM, 106.5.
It will be the first meeting between the two programs.
The Jaguars are coming off a 5-1 spring showing but with first-year head coach Jason Rollins at the helm. Rollins had to replace five assistants, but his team will play the same Southern “brand of football” as in previous years.
“We had a really good fall camp,” Rollins said. “Our veteran leadership showed in how we went about our business preparing each day. We came out fairly healthy, and focused on the Jags in the early part. We tried to build off the spring season.
“Going into Troy we expect to play our brand of football: physical, smart and fast. We have guys who have played a lot of snaps together, so they know how to prepare for a game. They’ve been in big games in big venues. They’re excited for another opportunity.”
Southern averted a major issue with the storm, only having to adjust practice times. The school did not lose electricity, leaving preparations relatively unaffected.
Rollins released the depth charter earlier in the week and there were few surprises. Graduate Ladarius Skelton has been the starter at quarterback all along and Rollins says he’s in position for his best season. Skelton, who finished his undergraduate degree in May, has totaled 6,388 yards and 52 touchdowns rushing and passing going into his final season.
“He’s been working all summer and throughout the offseason,” Rollins said. “Being a graduate, you can spend a lot of time on football. He did a really good job working through the fall, taking it on himself to say ‘This is what I need to improve on.’
There was one notable on the offensive depth chart: freshman wide receiver Tyler Kirkwood won a starting spot alongside Marquis McClain and transfer Chandler Whitfield. Kirkwood caught two TD passes in Southern’s final scrimmage.
“He’s been very consistent catching the ball and doing what we like to do after the catch,” Rollins said. “We can depend on him.”
On defense, Robert Rehm won the starting cornerback job opposite Glenn Brown. Rollins said not to make much of safety Jakoby Pappillion being listed on the second team. Pappillion will likely play starter’s snaps and his presence is dependent on the personnel package and health.
“The depth chart is always fluid, it depends on packages,” Rollins said. “He’s still a starter, picking up where we left off in the spring. He missed a lot of snaps due to a hamstring injury and was a little slow getting back. We tried to nurse it so he can play a full season.”
“What we look for isn’t just a two-deep. We look for 17-18 guys who can play on each side of the ball. It’s never a true two-deep.”
Other positions that were settled for the time being include punter, where junior Martell Fontenot gets the nod; placekicker, where Luke Jackson is listed No. 1; and kickoffs, where freshman Joshua Griffin gets the call.
“Griffin had a really good camp, very strong leg,” Rollins said. “We’re pleased with where he started to where he ended. Martell has kicked under the lights before so that’s a plus. Luke has the potential, but we haven’t had the chance to witness it on a Saturday.”
Rollins said cornerback Terence Dunlap and tight end Danny Jackson, both transfers, still had a chance to be eligible for the game. Dunlap transferred from Troy and is hoping to play against his former team while Jackson came from Louisville where he was a wide receiver.