Southern football coach Dawson Odums is trying to parlay a quarterback issue into an advantage going into Saturday’s clash with Alcorn State.
With backup quarterback Bubba McDaniel coming on strong in relief of starter Ladarius Skelton and helping the Jaguars beat Texas Southern last week, Odums might have the solution for cranking up the Jaguars’ passing game to reach the level of expectation.
Odums all but said both would play and the situation would seem ripe for it. Southern is trying to break the hex Alcorn State has had on it during Odums’ tenure, beating the Jaguars eight out of nine times, including twice last season.
While both might play, Odums put the brakes on the possibility of them being on the field at the same time, similar to what the New Orleans Saints sometimes do with Taysom Hill.
“We hadn’t really thought that far ahead,” Odums said, considering the possibility. “We have thought about playing both guys. Our offense changes a little bit between the two. We try to take advantage of their skill sets. Each guy possesses a different skill set. We try to maximize it when either is in the game.”
Skelton is by far the better runner whether on designed carries or scrambling out of the pocket. But his passing has regressed from last season. He’s thrown for fewer than 100 yards in four of Southern’s seven games and has thrown five interceptions in the last three.
McDaniel came off the bench in Saturday’s 28-21 win over Texas Southern and threw for a career-high 252 yards and three touchdowns while completing 17 of 26 passes. Those numbers are better than Skelton’s last two games combined. He might have had 300-yard day and a fourth touchdown if not for a dropped pass.
The downside on McDaniel is mobility. He was sacked twice and Odums doesn’t want to use the extra weapon Skelton provides as a runner, especially when the Jaguars go to their option game. Odums has admitted Skelton is the team’s best runner.
“Skelton is a dual threat quarterback with the ability to stretch the field with his feet,” Odums said. “His ability to run is second to none. Bubba stretches the field with his arm. It’s two different offenses.”
Odums said playing both wouldn’t affect the game plan, which he said both quarterbacks are prepared to execute. Skelton is a good enough passer that defenses wouldn’t be able to assume a running play and McDaniel is a good enough runner not to shelve option plays when he is in the game.
“We always have a cluster of plays for McDaniel,” Odums said. “The game plans aren’t so far-fetched that you have two separate ones. On our call sheets we have plays that are comfortable for both. We allow them to pick the ones they are comfortable with and marry them into one game plan. There are a lot of back and forth conversations between the coaches and players. We allow input. We build it around what everybody is comfortable with.”
Southern senior center Jaylon Brinson doesn’t think the Jaguars offensive continuity would be affected if the two quarterbacks split the snaps on a regular basis.
“It’s a good feeling knowing you have two quarterbacks who can game manage,” Brinson said. “Both are great guys on and off the field. They communicate with us the same. Both can run and pass. There’s not too much (difference), none at all. Everybody has a job to do their 1/11th. We have to work as one.”
For the season, Skelton has completed 66 of 116 (57%) for 664 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions. One of his recurring issues is decision making. Four of his interceptions were the result of waiting too long to deliver the pass and one was returned for a touchdown.
McDaniel has connected on 34 of 58 (59%) for 482 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He showed improved accuracy, hitting a pair of deep sideline throws for big gains and was right on target with post patterns for his first two touchdowns last week. On the third touchdown, he stepped up in the pocket and delivered a touch pass to tight end Jadarion Davis for an 8-yard score.
“He’s (McDaniel) done that all year,” Odums said. “This is not a one-hit wonder. That’s something we have to take notice of. He made some throws that we expect of our quarterbacks.
“I don’t know who is going to get the first team reps when we get there. Both of those guys are quality guys, but McDaniel has proved he is more than capable of being our starting quarterback.”