Southern University coach Dawson Odums was the only real casualty from the Jaguars’ spring football game Saturday.
“I got a busted lip, (from) somebody’s face mask,” he joked after the game. “Got too close. It was a personal conversation.”
Odums will take it. His team came out healthy, and while no spring game can be perfect when a team goes intrasquad, he saw the growth in ability and plays made by a team that will enter the 2019 one of the most experienced in the SWAC.
“We threw the ball well, the defense played the run well,” Odums said. “It was up and down. When you got as good an offense as we’ve got, you’re going to find a way to score points. We gave up some big plays in the passing game, but we have a very good receiving corps and very good quarterbacks, so it’s a challenge to try and stop those guys.
“Overall it was a competitive scrimmage. We got out safe without injuries so that’s always a good thing.”
The most significant loss was on the coaching staff where Odums announced linebackers coach Steve Adams has left the program for another job, which led to Odums handling linebackers during the scrimmage. Adams was expected to co-coordinate the defense with secondary coach Lionel Washington.
Offensively, starting quarterback LaDarius Skelton had some struggles, throwing three interceptions, but Odums was pleased with the group overall. Quarterback Ladarius Skelton came back to run for a 2-yard score and hit Kendall Catalon with a laser throw for an 18-yard score. Backup John Lampley threw a 65-yard scoring pass to transfer Tim Bedford and ran 16 yards for a touchdown.
Skelton, who accounted for 1,515 yards and 18 TDs while starting half the season in 2018, finished seven for 14 for 120 yards. He completed five of his last six throws for 67 yards. Lampley was eight for 13 for 110 yards, and Bubba McDaniel was eight for 11 for 75 yards. All stats are unofficial.
Odums said he wasn’t worried about the picks because the scrimmage format limited how Skelton could set up his passing game.
“His biggest asset is getting that running game going,” Odums said. “With us not being able to tackle him, it’s unfair for the defense to have to tag off of him. He sets up his passing game with his running game. We weren’t able to get the running game going today because of how we did the scrimmage.
“One (interception) was an underthrow in the post, another on the sideline where he probably held it too long. He’s had a terrific spring. As he goes, we go. I’m excited with the progress he’s made.”
Tight end Jeremias Houston caught three for 62, Jamel Byrd caught three for 45 and Catalon two for 24.
Transfer running back Craig Nelson had the best day among running backs with seven carries for 32 yards and a 5-yard scoring run.
Odums did not forget to praise his offensive line with all five starters returning. All three quarterbacks enjoyed generally good protection.
“You saw all the clean pockets we had,” he said. “Our O-line is as good as any in the country. As their conditioning continues to get better and our weight gets better, so does our performance. It starts with them.”
Defensively, the Jaguars were without defensive backs Montavius Gaines, Robert Rheims and Andre Augustine, allowing some younger players like Kaycee Ntukogu and B.J. Harris a chance to excel. Jordan Eastling, Glenn Brown and Jakoby Pappillion had interceptions. Brown, who like Reims is expected to step into a starting role in 2019, also broke up a pair of potential touchdown passes in the end zone.
“He’s growing up,” Odums said of Brown. “You could tell he played some as a freshman. You can see the growth.”
Keyshawn Acker had a fumble recovery for the defense while Dakavion Champion, Dylan Walker and Christopher Thomas had sacks.
Southern was perfect on two field goal attempts with Cesare Barajas hitting from 38 yards and Martel Fontenot from 31.
The game does not signal the end of spring practice. The Jaguars will go four more times and close out with a scrimmage between the third and fourth teams to build depth.
“We come back and get four practices in to concentrate on some things and get this team prepared for the summer,” Odums said. “We’re going to be a deep football team going into fall camp.”