It’s not easy to intimidate Southern coach Dawson Odums. Georgia might just have what it takes.
The Jaguars travel to Athens, Georgia, this weekend to play the No. 7 Bulldogs in the program’s first ever matchup with a Southeastern Conference school, and Odums is spending most of this week preparing his team for what lies ahead of them between the hedges.
“(Sanford Stadium) moves and it rocks and it’s loud,” Odums said at his weekly news conference luncheon Tuesday. “You won’t be able to hear anything. … It’ll be loud and intimidating. It’s got a lot of history, and the ghosts will be flying around.”
One of the biggest issues Southern has to overcome against Georgia will be quarterback Austin Howard’s communication with the offense despite the noise of a 92,000-seat stadium bearing down on him.
Southern won’t be adjusting practice in any way to account for the level of noise the stadium produces, Odums said. The offense already uses hand signals to make calls and will rely on that system to cancel out the effect of crowd noise.
“The communication between the quarterback and the receivers will have to be hand signals and communication to the O-line. He has to walk up and talk to them,” Odums said. “You really don’t want to have a whole lot of checks. You want to run with what you do and be good at what you do, because you’re not going to be able to communicate.”
While Saturday will most likely be one of the largest crowds any of the current Jaguars have played in front of, this won’t be the first time Odums has taken an FCS program into Sanford Stadium.
As an assistant coach with Georgia Southern in 2000, Odums was with the Eagles when they opened the season at then-No. 11 Georgia with a 29-7 loss.
“This is something they’ll be able to talk about for the rest our their lives; being able to run out between the hedges in Sanford Stadium,” Odums said. “I tell them not to get lost in the stadium. We still have to envision how we want to play.”
Saturday marks the second FBS team the Jaguars faced this season after opening their schedule with a 62-15 loss to Louisiana Tech on the road. Before that game, Odums said Louisiana Tech was a step up in competition from what Southern is used to.
Odums called Georgia a “Goliath” of college football Tuesday, saying the Bulldogs were “another step up” and deserving of their No. 7 ranking after a trio of blowout wins in the first three weeks of the season.
Georgia has outscored opponents 134-48 behind a 12th-ranked rushing attack that features potential Heisman Trophy candidate, running back Nick Chubb.
“What we’re telling our players is, ‘They can only put 11 guys out there,’” Odums said. “‘We’re not taking on the whole Georgia team at one time, we’re playing 11 individuals at one time. They put their pants on the same way you do.’
“Usually in games like this, it turns into a route when they’re able to get a special teams score, get a scoop-and-score on a fumble or a pick-six.”