Southern football coach Dawson Odums intentionally made the first week of fall practice rigorous for his veteran team, climaxed by last Saturday’s 120-play scrimmage.
Odums knew his team was mature enough to handle it and now the Jaguars will begin a gradual scaling back of the workouts in preparation for the season opener at McNeese State Aug. 31.
The focus of the next three weeks is to keep his team healthy. The team will once again build toward a Saturday scrimmage at 7:45 a.m., although Odums said how much the Jaguars scrimmage will depend on the team’s overall health.
“This one might not go an hour," he said. "The scrimmage will be open to media and fans as part of Fan Day festivities. We’re dialing it back this week. We’ll scrimmage a little every day. There’s a lot on film from the last scrimmage we had to correct and install. We’ll do situations and scenarios every day from here on out.
“We saw some good and some not so good on the scrimmage film. Typical scrimmage, you find out what your weaknesses are. Officials are there to point out some things. You can evaluate, make corrections and hope they’re better the following week.”
In addition to getting quarterback Ladarius Skelton back into the fold Monday after a heat-related illness, center Jaylon Brinson returned. Brinson played in the scrimmage after missing some practice time. Tight end Jeremias Houston is rescheduled to return Tuesday.
All three were held out for precautionary reasons. Odums said Skelton could have played if the Jaguars had a game that day.
Odums lamented penalties but said overall his offensive line had a good day after a slow start.
“The first team offensive line did an adequate job,” he said. “They can play better and they will, but overall they gave our quarterbacks good pockets. We had some opportunities with some holes for the running game.
“The big boys began to flex their muscle inside the 35, they got better as the scrimmage went on. They got some energy and excitement. When we get rolling it starts with those guys up front.”
The Jaguars offensive line is led by seniors Brinson and Jodecit Harris at right tackle. Harris said the unit is coming along although its not quite ready for prime time.
“We’re jelling well together,” Harris said. “I’m glad we don’t play soon. Day by day we’re getting better. We’ll be more than ready Aug. 31st."
Harris in particular took steps to improve himself, coming to camp much lighter than last season.
“I dropped 25 pounds in the off season,” he said. “I can move a lot better, I’m more nimble, and I can play faster. I’m glad I did that. I didn’t have an issue on the first day in pads. My footwork is better. I’m a lot lighter on my feet.”
Odums said the offense converted one of two fourth down tries and produced two red-zone touchdowns. Both kickers, Martell Fontenot and Cesare Barajas, performed well. Kendrick Jones caught a long TD pass and freshman running back Jarod Sims broke a long run on a draw play.
He also praised the blocking of his wide receivers.
“Our perimeter running game was good and the blocking by our receivers was good,” he said. “We got called for a couple of holding penalties, but we showed aggressiveness at the point of attack. In order to be good you have to have receivers willing to block.”
Southern will hold Fan Day activities Saturday at the Clark Activity Center at 2 p.m. following the scrimmage.
Jaguar athletes from the football, softball, volleyball and across country teams will be available for autographs. Southern’s marching band, The Human Juke Box, will play, and an appearance by Gov. Edwards is expected.