From the end of spring practice, coach Dawson Odums began saying this would be the deepest team he’s had in six-plus seasons at Southern.
Still, the old star power isn’t there (yet), and questions abound.
Who has an edge in the three-man quarterback derby?
Who takes charge of a talented but somewhat unsettled defense?
Who can handle some of the key special-teams roles?
Bright and early at 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Odums’ players will have another big chance to make an impression.
After a full round of spring practice, summer workouts and the first week of camp, the Jaguars will hold their first preseason scrimmage in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The affair, which is open to media but closed to the rest of the public, begins a busy eight-day window for Southern as it continues to gear up for its season opener Sept. 1 at TCU.
The team is scheduled to hold another scrimmage Wednesday (that one is also closed), followed by another scrimmage and fan day Aug. 18.
Saturday’s scrimmage will begin with a few warmup periods, followed by situational drills, which are typically designed to simulate certain parts of a game (examples: red-zone series, two-minute drills and so on).
Naturally, the most intriguing part of Southern’s preseason is the quarterback battle.
Odums continues to say it’s a three-person race among sophomore John Lampley, sophomore Bubba McDaniel and junior Ladarius Skelton.
Lampley and McDaniel are the only two quarterbacks on the roster to have played in a live game.
Lampley threw for 114 yards and rushed for 118 in seven games last season. McDaniel completed 14 of 34 passes for 85 yards in four games. Skelton, a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, led his high school team to two Class 6A state championships and began at Fullerton College before he transferred to SU in January.
Who has the edge? Officially, Southern lists all three quarterbacks as co-No. 1s.
“We’ve got three nonconference games (to start the season) if we haven’t figured out who the quarterback is going to be, and we can decide in those nonconference games,” Odums said. “We can do it by committee and really try to figure out how these guys fit in our offense.”
The defense, meanwhile, is stacked with upperclassmen but has begun preseason camp without a true leader.
Each level of the defense has at least one experienced fourth- or fifth-year player — fourth-year junior CaeJae Bryant is a proven interior lineman; senior Calvin Lunkins led all returning linebackers with 52 stops and is poised to handle the middle; and senior Andrea Augustine and fourth-year junior Mantavius Gaines form one of the best safety tandems in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The team still needs to find the kind of game-changing return specialist it’s had since Odums took charge of the program full time in 2013.
Southern’s second Football Kickoff Extravaganza, a fundraising event and concert on the weekend of the home opener, will honor Pete Richardson in the F.G. Clark Activity Center the night before the Jaguars’ Sept. 15 game against Langston.
R&B music group Midnight Starr, zydeco artist Keith Frank and local blues act Vince Hutchinson and the Heavy Storm Band will play a three-hour concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 14. General admission tickets are $20 at the SU ticket office. VIP tickets are also available.
The event precedes the home opener, which Southern is promoting as the inaugural Pete Richardson Classic.
Richardson led the Jaguars to five Southwestern Athletic Conference titles from 1993-2009. His .684 winning percentage (134-62) is second in school history, trailing only A.W. Mumford’s .704 mark (176-60-14).