Southern coach Dawson Odums is trying to solve the mystery of his team’s sluggish starts this season and he’s got an inkling of the source.
The problem is that Odums is limited in what what he can do about it.
The Jaguars’ practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday start at 6 a.m. By 6 p.m., roughly the start time of three of their four games this season, the players bodies are used to being at rest.
That explanation is partially affirmed by the one game Southern started fast, the Week 2 loss at Memphis. Kickoff was 11 a.m. and the Jaguars offense took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in five plays against an FBS team. They also had a 17-play scoring drive for another touchdown and scored 24 points.
Odums has said in the past he would like to practice in the afternoon like most college teams but because of class schedules would have trouble having enough players there. Practice times haven’t change in his seven seasons, which he said is why his teams are notoriously slow-starting.
"It’s challenging to do something at the same time every day and your game time is totally opposite,” he said. “Your body is in a different mode at 6 p.m. We practice at 6 a.m. At 4-5-6 p.m. in the dorm they’re probably on a pillow. On Saturday, their body is still on the pillow. To get them where they need to be at 6 p.m. is what we are discussing as a staff.”
Odums said he’s trying to address the issues with changes in nutrition and by adjusting Thursday and Friday practice habits. He said he’s already begun cutting back on practice time and trying to prepare his team for the later kickoffs.
One fortunate part for Southern is the team has only one more 6 p.m. kickoff. The remaining six games are set for 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. starts.
“You can’t Google this and get an answer,” he said. “This is more of a Dawson Odums trying to figure it out thing.”
One of the surprise offensive standouts for Southern has been wide receiver Jamar Washington. Saturday he had the best effort among wideouts all season with five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he is tied for the team lead in receptions (10) with Cameron Mackey and has a team-high 148 yards. His 54-yard catch against Florida A&M and run set up the Jaguars' first TD.
“I’ve been waiting on somebody to have a breakout game in that wide receiver corps,” Odums said. “We missed some throws when we had guys open to make plays. Jamar blocked well, caught the ball well and ran after the catch. He gave us a chance. He produced for us.”
END OF THE LINE
Senior defensive end Joe Davis had a strong defensive effort and earned the team’s Defensive Player of the Week honors with seven tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. One of those TFLs was a sack.
“He came to play like we expected a lot of other guys to,” Odums said. “He carried out his mission.”
Southern hasn’t had a running back rush for more than 39 yards in a game this season, except for the 61-0 victory against overmatched Edward Waters. Odums said it’s a spinoff from the inability to pass successfully.
“Teams are loading the box,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking shots. This week I think we’re going to have a chance to get the running game going and take the pressure off our quarterbacks.”
Devon Benn is ranked No. 11 in the league with 228 yards on 41 carries for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. Subtracting his 17 carries for 120 yards vs. Edward Waters, Benn is still averaging 4.5 yards per carry (24 for 108).
Southern is averaging 186.8 yards per game but more than half of its 747 total came in that one game against Edward Waters.
Odums continues to preach stopping the run, even in the face of giving up 355 passing yards to Florida A&M. It will be crucial against a UAPB team that has shown great balance, averaging 191.3 yards per game rushing and 267.5 passing.
“I tell our guys, ‘Stop the run. We can fix the pass issues but we’ve got to stop the run to have a chance to win the football game,’ ” he said. “We’ll challenge our guys. They’ll get better. We know what time it is. We need to play much, much better to have a chance against UPAB.