The Southern quarterback debate continues — and this time, the Jaguars might be going with a different starter.
Coach Dawson Odums indicated earlier this week that Bubba McDaniel would have started if the team had a game Monday. Odums added he’s watching McDaniel and starter Ladarius Skelton closely to determine which one will start against Alabama A&M. The teams square off at 4 p.m. Saturday for homecoming in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Skelton has started the Jaguars' past 14 games, dating to midseason in 2018 but has been inconsistent this season. McDaniel has come off the bench in six games and sports a higher completion percentage (61%) than Skelton (52%).
McDaniel has thrown for 577 yards while completing 46 of 76 passes and has four touchdowns with three interceptions. Skelton has completed 79 of 136 passes for 778 yards with six TDs and five interceptions.
Odums said it would be a gametime decision but that the gap is “narrowing” between the two quarterbacks.
In Saturday’s 27-13 loss to Alcorn State, Skelton started but McDaniel subbed in after two series. Skelton had completed 6 of 10 passes but missed badly on a pair of screens. McDaniel led the Jaguars on a 20-play scoring drive and ran for the touchdown to give Southern a 6-3 lead at the half.
McDaniel, whose arm strength compared to Skelton’s is limited, was unable to produce another scoring drive, and he threw an interception that set up an Alcorn touchdown drive which made the game 17-6 in the third quarter. Skelton re-entered and threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Hunter Register with 2:18 left and the Jaguars down 27-6. He finished 13 of 20 for 114 yards.
McDaniel’s final numbers vs. Alcorn were 12 of 18 for 95 yards. If he gets the call this week, it would be the first career start for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore from Dothan, Alabama.
“It would mean the world,” McDaniel said. “I’d be ready to do my job. I’d treat it like another game, like every other week of practice. All I can do is be ready for my opportunity and when it comes play my heart out.”
McDaniel said there are no ill feelings between himself and Skelton, and they pull for each other on when the other is in the game.
“Our relationship is fine,” McDaniel said. “That’s my brother; I love him like a brother. When he’s in I learn from him and when he’s in he learns from me. He’ll watch the defense and look for tendencies and vice versa.”
Southern’s passing offense has produced 1,355 yards and sagged to ninth among 10 teams, averaging 169.4 yards per game, ahead of only Mississippi Valley State at 123.4. Southern’s 10 touchdown passes is tied for second fewest with Valley behind only Grambling with nine.
By contrast Saturday, Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass has passed for 2,298 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Skelton does bring the running element. He’s the team’s second leading rusher with 329 yards after factoring in sack yardage, and he leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.
Odums said Skelton’s issues have been with decision-making. Several of his interceptions have been the result of double-clutching before throwing the pass, giving defenses time to react to the play, and it’s not just throwing the ball.
“We called an option play Saturday, and the pitch was there,” he said. “We faked the pitch and kept it for 2 yards. If we pitch it, it’s out the gate. We have plays there to be made if we execute. You’ve got to trust in it. Both of those guys give us a chance if they both execute.”