NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Before it even left for Saturday’s season opener against Tennessee State, bad news forced the Southern football team to adjust on the fly.
In the days leading up to the Jaguars’ 33-7 blowout loss in the John Merritt Classic, coaches learned that their top three tight ends - Javon Jordan, Rashaun Allen and Kesean Peterson - weren’t available to make the trip, forcing Southern to use a converted tackle and wide receiver at tight end during the game.
Jordan, a sophomore who led all SU tight ends with 148 receiving yards last season, applied with the NCAA for a waiver that would make him academically eligible to play this season, coach Stump Mitchell confirmed. When the team left campus Thursday, it still had not gotten a decision from the NCAA.
As for Allen and Peterson, they have both been deemed academically ineligible after the academic support staff received their summer grades. Both players will miss the entire season.
“Yeah,” coach Stump Mitchell said, “it changed our game plan a little.”
Jordan, Allen and Peterson all practiced during the preseason, though Jordan occasionally sat out with what coach Stump Mitchell called a concussion and a groin injury.
As a result of the sudden attrition, Southern had one true tight available - true freshman Eric Janueau. During pregame warmups, while players went through warmup drills with their position coaches, Janeau was alone with tight ends coach Jason Palermo.
Southern tried to compensate by moving 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver Mike Berry and 6-1, 257-pound tackle Clinton Boyd to tight end.
“That’s what we’ll do from here on out,” Mitchell said. “Mike Berry will be a tight end.”
That also affected the offensive line, because Boyd, a sophomore, was supposed to start at right tackle. Instead, Taylon Jones - who played at left guard last season and practiced as a guard during the preseason - started Saturday’s game at right tackle.
Boyd moved to tight end, changing jerseys from No. 71 to No. 88.
Also, middle linebacker Corey Ray did not travel with the team. Ray, a fifth-year senior who also practiced throughout the preseason, is awaiting an NCAA waiver similar to that of Jordan.