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Jackson State WR Daniel Crowell is brought down by Southern S Jakoby Pappillion during their game Saturday with Jackson State at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi.

College football has made a transition from a game where linemen slugged it out and offenses pounded the ball with a physical running game to one that coaches describe as basketball on grass.

Twenty-two players using the whole field creates space and the edict these days is get the ball to playmakers in space. For defenses, that means tackling in space or a short pass can easily turn into a long gainer.

If Southern struggled with any aspect of its defensive game in the spring season, it was tackling in space. Part of the solution is the health of safety Jakoby Pappillion.

Papillion missed almost all of the spring season but he’s back, having moved from SAM linebacker to alternating between weak and strong safety. He likes his new gig with the whole field in front of him.

“It’s a blessing every day, I’m not taking it for granted any more,” said Pappillion, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from Lake Charles. “I’m better in all aspects. Being out helped me to self-check and see what I had to do to get better for my team.

“The secondary has changed up a little signal wise. They’ve got me playing weak safety and strong, rotating back and forth. I’m trying to be more versatile so nobody can one up the defense. We’ll be moving around a lot. We feed off each other. We know the flow, everybody has been in the fire before. It’s great having guys on the right and left knowing what they’re doing.”

Pappillion is prized for his tackling ability and says he’s faster and more agile. His last name means ‘butterfly’ in French, but he stings like a bee.

“He’s extremely athletic and a very good tackler in space,” said Southern coach Jason Rollins, who has specialized in coaching defensive backs. “He’s got a lot of experience. We’re happy to have him back.”

In 2019, Pappillion was all over the field as one of the Jaguars’ most consistent players. He had 48 tackles, 4½ for loss, three interceptions and two pass breakups. His ability to play angles and leverage makes him indispensable.

“Pap brings experience, talent, energy, everything you want,” defensive coordinator Lionel Washington said. “If he’s healthy, he’s the guy bringing energy. He moved to safety so we could get all the best people on the field.”

Southern switched its secondary to a three-safety package with Papillion along with a pair of All-Southwestern Athletic Conference players Chase Foster and Tamaurice Smith, who is moving from cornerback. Glenn Brown has one corner spot and the other is up for grabs among numerous players, including Robert Rehm.

Pappillion says it's an experienced group that communicates well.

“Brown has been running it with me since we’ve been out here,” Pappillion said. “He’s battle tested. He’s here to play. We’re bend but don’t break. We came out sluggish for some reason last year. We turned a couple of things around to change that.”

Bus trips

The Southern University Quarterback Club is sponsoring bus trips to away games this season. The first trip is for the Troy game on Sept. 4 and will depart at 6 a.m. from the F.G. Clark Activity Center. For more information, contact Reginald Jarvis at (225) 939-5906 or rjarvis@yahoo.com.