At Southern's first football preseason camp practice Friday, coach Dawson Odums sent an early message that he was serious about discipline being the watchword.
When the Jaguars assembled for stretching and the lines weren’t quite straight enough, Odums blew the whistle and the players were running 100-yard sprints.
“We had a discipline issue at the beginning of practice and Coach got it fixed,” senior center Jaylon Brinson said with a smile.
Otherwise, Odums was pleased with the energy and effort to open preparations for the 2019 season. He expected nothing less, being blessed with a strong contingent of experienced players who have bought into what he wants to do.
“We’ll shut down any drill if the tempo is not to our liking,” Odums said. “If the fundamentals and attention to detail is not the way we like it, we’ve already agreed we’re going to run 100s. Today we didn’t make good stretch lines, so hopefully tomorrow we get a little further in practice.
“We’re going to hold those guys accountable for it. They embrace that. They understand we’re not doing it because it’s something to do. We know at the end there is a reward.”
Odums doesn’t often want to have to remind his players of such things. He’s watching details like having the right shoes, shirts being tucked in, being 10 minutes early and sitting together at team dinners.
“The intensity was high,” running back Devon Benn said. “We knew we had to come out today and have a great practice. We know Coach O wanted high intensity.”
With 17 starters returning and 34 fourth- or fifth-year players in the fold, the Jaguars have more depth than in any of Odums’ previous seven seasons. That’s why he can push them a little harder, with dual huddles during drills and a fast pace at practice that focuses on getting as many reps as possible. Odums said he will slow things down somewhat after the first week.
Being three-deep at nearly every position adds incentive for players who aren’t starters.
“When you have depth, it makes practice more fun,” Odums said. “A lot of guys realize they’ve got a chance to play so they’re going to be competitive. You get better each day. If we can stay healthy the competitiveness will stay there and we’ll get better.
“A lot of people don’t practice like we do to start camp. We’re going to run a lot of reps.”
Odums wants his team to realize how narrow the margin is between success and failure. He’s been reminding his team that Alcorn State wasn’t necessarily the better team when the Braves beat them 37-28 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game. But Alcorn showed better attention to details and did the little things that helped it win.
“We went to the championship and came up short,” safety Montavius Gaines said. “We want to get back where we were at but we have to take it day by day. We can’t look ahead to the SWAC championship.”
Said Brinson: “Our biggest focus is discipline. Coach is harping on it really hard because we got so close last year. We were leading in the fourth quarter. We working on finishing so we won’t have any issues when we get to that point this year.”
Odums said defensive end Jahmal Tillman, a starter last season, will not be with the team, having exhausted his eligibility. Tillman had 20 tackles, 4½ for loss and two sacks in 2018.