Southern football players are seeing double during film study this week. That’s because the next opponent packs a one-two punch at every offensive skill position.
While the Jaguars sort out their troubles at quarterback, Arkansas-Pine Bluff has the opposite scenario with two quarterbacks playing equally well during a 3-1 start, the best in seven seasons.
That’s not all. The Golden Lions also have two running backs having equally good seasons and the wide receivers are also taking turns.
It could add up to trouble for the Southern defense when the teams collide at 6 p.m. Saturday at Simmons Bank Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
“We go with the hot hand,” second year coach Cedric Thomas said. He could be speaking about any of the three positions.
The quarterback spot is manned by starter Skyler Perry, a freshman who prepped at Karr High School in New Orleans. But redshirt junior Shannon Patrick is the stat leader with 691 yards and six touchdowns through four games. Perry is right behind with 379 yards and six TDs
At running back, Taeyler Porter, last year’s SWAC rushing champion, is playing second fiddle to Keshawn Williams, who is third in the conference with 339 yards and has three touchdowns with a gaudy 6.9 yards-per carry average. Porter is chasing him at fifth in the SWAC with 336 yards and five TDs on 61 carries.
All conference wide receiver Dejuan Miller is back and has been a big-play man with 10 catches for 183 yards and one touchdown. But Henry Ballard is eclipsing him this season with 20 catches for 437 yards and five scores.
Tight end Jeremy Brown has made it a threesome in the receiving corps. He has 11 receptions for 161 yards and three TDs.
Rather than creating dissension, doubling up has been helpful for UPAB, which has already surpassed its 2018 victory total.
“Me and Skyler really do root for each other, genuinely, on and off the field,” said Patrick, who missed eight games last season with a broken finger. “We’re great friends. Whoever is on the field, we’re the first one off the bench rooting on a big play.
“We rotate and feed off each other. If he has a big play when it’s my turn I try to match that energy, make a play. We strive to make plays for our team. We work within the offense.”
Patrick and Perry have been rotating in and out, back and forth through spring and fall practice, and have been taking turns during game week practices. Each player threw three TD passes in a 52-34 upset of Alabama A&M during Week 2. Perry threw three more the next week against Langston and Patrick threw two last week, including a 17-yard strike to Brown on the final play to beat Tennessee State, 37-31.
“Skyler’s maturation is through the roof,” Thomas said. “I can’t say enough about the job (quarterbacks) coach (Doc) Gamble has done. It helps to have a JC transfer, an older kid like Shannon, to be in there right with him. We start with Skyler pretty much and keep it as is.”
Porter led the SWAC with 1,220 yards rushing in 2018 as a junior college transfer despite missing three games with an Achilles tendon injury. Williams was the team’s leading rusher in 2016-17 but missed all of last season because of a torn ACL. Together, they have the Lions as the SWAC’s No. 3 rushing team at 191.3 yards per game
“It’s going great,” Porter said. “Last year I didn’t have anybody to lean on. I was taking the load. Keyshawn is bringing a lot to the table. He’s one of the best running backs in the SWAC.
“We feed off each other. I might have a good start and he have a good start, we just take it back and forth, throughout the game. It allows us each to play our best game every week.”
With both players coming off injuries, the reduced workload makes them more effective.
“He’s off to a great start,” Thomas said of Porter. “He’s playing at a high level. It helps tremendously to have those two running backs. It opens up the passing game and we have great receivers. There’s great balance. We have a lot of talent.”