Southern University football coach Dawson Odums didn’t make many promises in the preseason about his new offensive game plan, but he did say tight ends would be more of a factor and that has been borne out.
Freshman tight end Ethan Howard caught TD passes of 38 and 18 yards in the Jaguars’ 51-23 victory at Texas Southern Saturday. For the season Southern tight ends have six receptions for 165 yards and three scores. The group also plays a big role in the running game.
“We have a good set of tight ends,” Odums said on Monday’s SWAC coach Zoom conference. “We still have a couple of guys down and hope to get them back this week. They are an extension of our offense. They give us added advantage in the run game and are good receivers. You’re tough on offense when you utilize the tight end.”
Howard, a freshman from Breaux Bridge, looked good breaking two tackles on his 38-yard TD catch from Ladarius Skelton. Howard caught an 18-yarder from Skelton in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman Gregory Perkins has the other score, a 59-yard reception that tied the game against Alabama State.
In 2019, Southern tight ends had 11 receptions for 74 yards and two TDs. Jadarion Davis, who is listed as the Jaguars’ starter this season, had six for 20 yards. Davis was hurt against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and didn’t play Saturday. Travis Tucker is another tight end in the rotation.
The value of the position was underscored when injuries hit against UAPB and Southern struggled to run the ball. On Saturday, the Jaguars rushed for 256 yards, 195 in the second half.
“Ethan Howard is only going to get better,” Odums said. “Travis Tucker is coming on. We’re getting them healthy, they’re playing better. It’s about playing with confidence and they are doing that.”
Thomas earns SWAC honor
Southern return specialist Shykee Thomas was named SWAC special teams Player of the Week for his performance Saturday in Southern's 51-23 victory against Texas Southern.
Thomas had 130 yards on three returns, including a 98-yard return for a touchdown.
Alabama State running back Ezra Gray and Arkansas-Pine Bluff quarterback Skyler Perry shared the offensive honor, Isaac Peppers of UAPB won the defensive honor and Alabama State quarterback Ryan Nettles was Newcomer of the Week.
Another true freshman
Southern faced a true freshman quarterback for the second time in three games when Texas Southern started Jalen Brown, who did not play in the opening loss to Prairie View. Quarterbacks Devin Williams and Thaddeus Peyton were both injured in that game and unavailable. Brown completed 20 of 35 passes for 275 yards and one touchdown and had another potential TD pass dropped in the end zone.
Southern also faced true freshman Ryan Nettles in the opening 24-21 victory at Alabama State.
“We had some momentum until the kickoff return took some of the air out of us,” Texas Southern coach Clarence McKinney said. “Jalen Brown fared pretty well, better than a lot of guys would have done. Jalen has been right there in the competition and we felt confident putting him in the game.”
Another freshman who started and shined was wide receiver Jyrin Johnson, who played high school football at East Ascension. The 6-4, 220-pound Johnson led the Tigers with six catches for 52 yards and has nine receptions for 91 yards in two games.
Grambling fell to 0-2 after a 48-21 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which leads the West Division with a 2-0 mark. The Tigers are now 0-2 at home and had a 16-game home winning streak snapped earlier this season. The Tigers trailed 14-7 at halftime but gave up 28 points in the third quarter and rushed for only 87 yards.
Grambling punted seven times and threw an interception returned for a touchdown in its first 10 possessions.
Grambling offensive coordinator Mark Orlando resigned early last week and head coach Broderick Fobbs fired interim OC Kendrick Nord after Saturday’s game. Fobbs and quarterbacks coach Kenton Evans will call plays in tandem going forward.
“We’re not a good football team right now,” Fobbs said. “There are a lot of changes going on. It’s all of us. It’s not what we’re doing in one phase. It’s all on me. I have to do better, and it has to trickle down from me.”
UAPB is off to its first 2-0 start since the 2000 team went 6-5 under coach Lee Hardman. First-year coach Charles “Doc” Gamble snapped a six-game losing streak to Grambling.
The Lions started the game by recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff. The drive faltered at the Grambling 30, but two plays later Jalon Thigpen intercepted a pass and returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown.
Quarterback Skyler Perry, a New Orleans native who excelled in the victory against Southern, completed 18 of 30 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns.
“You practice some things sometimes that you keep in your hip pocket and you may not have a chance to get to,” Gamble said. “You say ‘Let’s go ahead and do it.’ The guys ask about it. This was a good chance to use it and we did.
“Skyler has improved with his passing. The last two games have been against schools from his home state. The biggest thing is just getting him to settle down. Once he settles down he’s been a real good player for us.”
Southern stayed at No. 5 in the BOXTOROW HBCU media and coaches top 10 rankings released Monday. Alabama A&M moved into the No. 1 spot in both polls with Alabama State’s victory over previous No. 1 Jackson State. Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View moved into the 2 and 3 slots,. The coaches voted Alabama State No. 4 while the media had Jackson State in that slot.
Only two games are on tap for SWAC teams Saturday: Grambling is at Alabama A&M at 2 p.m. and Alabama State travels to Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a 7 p.m. contest. Southern was scheduled to play Alcorn State at home, but the Braves opted out of the spring season.