Dawson Odums would like to see his defense create more big plays this season, especially turnovers.
But maybe not so much in practice.
“I had to run again today,” Odums said after his defense came up with four turnovers in Wednesday’s practice against the scout team offense. Coaches and players agreed any practice with four or more turnovers and the coaches run sprints.
Odums is trying to encourage his defense to improve on the good-but-not-great numbers from last year, 20 turnovers and 25 sacks. If the concentration on run defense Odums has stressed in spring and fall practice works out, that could happen.
“We are set up for creating more turnovers,” Odums said. “If we can stop the run and make the them throw, we’ve got guys that can rush the passer.
“Getting those turnovers is plus. We had two a game and we want to increase that.”
Stopping the run consistently leads to longer yardage plays on second and third down. That means more pass plays and it plays to Southern’s strength. Defensive end Jordan Lewis led the SWAC with 12 sacks last year and there are a few behind him that can put heat on the quarterback.
Odums likes the way defensive tackles Dakavion Champion and Davin Cotton push the pocket while ends like Lewis, Jalen Ivy, D.J. White and Chazmyn Turner come off the edge.
“We’ve got some long and athletic ends,” he said.
Even though the turnovers came against the scout team, Odums still likes what he sees. The Jaguars were in full pads but will got to shells Thursday and helmets only Friday. On Saturday they will take team photos and have a full-pad run through at 6 p.m. to mirror the time of the season opener at McNeese State on Aug. 31.
“We’ve got a long way to go and we’re not going to get there overnight,” Odums said. “I really don’t know how they are going to act. They’ve been through this before but they’ve had so much preseason talk about them. Blocking out the noise is going to be big. If we can do that, everything else will take care of itself.
“It will come down to discipline. Are we disciplined enough to do the things we’ve been coached to do, play-in and play-out?"
Hop on the bus
When Southern athletic teams go on the road, they’ll be traveling in style with an added savings to the department budget.
The school received a full-sized bus as a donation from former U.S. congressman and alumnus Cleo Field. The bus pulled onto campus for the first time Wednesday.
The bus has “Southern University” emblazoned on the sides next to the state flag. The school seal is located on the front. The vehicle will be added to the school’s motor pool fleet and used whenever possible, starting with the Jaguars' trip to McNeese State for the opener.
“We’ve had some smaller buses and vans, but never a bus like this; it’s a first,” said Southern athletics director Roman Banks. “This is very good for us. It’s really going to help us budget-wise.
“He knows the struggle. It’s his (Fields) way of helping us get ourselves going in the right direction. The coaches can concentrate on winning instead of worrying about transportation. This will help put us at another level.”
Banks estimated the bus will save the school the cost of a bus which can range from $3,500 to $5,000 per trip. It will be available not only for athletic teams but other school organizations.
Because several sports run concurrently during the spring, Banks said the bus will have a busy schedule, from long road trips to taking teams to the airport or picking them up. It will help defray the cost of multiple buses on football road trips.
“Outstanding, a great gesture from a great young man,” Odums said. “We’re doing some things to make the program better and there’s more to come.”
Eight of Southern’s 12 football games are away from home.
“Hopefully this is just the first and anybody who sees this donation can match because we’re looking for seven more,” Banks said with a laugh.