Next Level: Why Southern faces a tall order in Texas Southern
Texas Southern has a 6-foot-7 wide receiver.
Southern doesn’t have a 6-7 defensive back.
In fact, the Jaguars’ tallest defensive back is 6-3 safety Andrea Augustine. Starting cornerbacks Danny Johnson (5-10) and Jamar Mitchell (6-0) are most likely to be matched up against Derrick Griffin, a towering sophomore who has nine touchdown catches. He has had two three-touchdown games, including last week’s against Mississippi Valley State.
“It seems like everybody has had problems with him,” Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said. “You’ve got to do a whole lot of different things to try to contain him. It’s definitely going to pose a problem.”
Johnson said he enjoys the challenge of playing against taller players.
“I’ve got a big heart,” Johnson said. “I don’t mind playing against anybody.”
Mitchell said he’s been studying Griffin closely on tape.
“I’m watching his route running and how he goes up and gets the ball,” Mitchell said. “We have to be extra physical. You can’t back down from a challenge.”
Southern ranks last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in pass defense.
“Derrick is a special football player, and the scary part about Derrick is he’s just a freshman on the football field,” Tigers coach Darrell Asberry said. “His football game is so far out ahead of him.
“The biggest thing is to just continue to work on his fundamentals so he can continue to develop and who knows where he’s going to end up after he leaves Texas Southern.”
1. Familiar face
Former Southern and Glen Oaks High School standout player Heishma Northern is in his first season as Texas Southern’s defensive coordinator. The Baton Rouge native was fired in November after four seasons as head coach at Prairie View. Northern also coached at Glen Oaks and Grambling.
2. Leading rusher
Southern’s Lenard Tillery leads the SWAC with an average of 89.3 rushing yards per game, but he needs to pick up the pace slightly to be on track for a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He’s on track for 979 yards. Tillery is second in the conference in touchdowns with eight after scoring twice last week.
3. Special returners
Southern’s Willie Quinn has scored TDs on three kickoff returns and one punt return. Texas Southern hasn’t returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown, but the Tigers have been really good in the return game. Austin Watts is averaging 29.6 yards per kickoff return and Malik Cross is averaging 23.8 yards per punt return.
4. Second time
This is Southern’s sixth game in the Houston area in the past 2½ seasons. The Jaguars lost to Houston and beat Texas Southern in 2013, beat Prairie View last season and made two trips to the SWAC title game, winning two years ago and losing last season. They’re hoping for another trip to the title game in December.