Kerrick Jackson hasn’t seen his family since Christmas and likely won’t see them but a handful of times until May.
It’s tough to be away from his two sons, 6- and 5-years-old, but he and his wife decided it was best to let them finish out the school year in Kansas City before moving them to their new home in Zachary this summer.
But if there is a bright side to their situation, it’s that Southern baseball’s first new head coach in decades is free to devote 100 percent of his attention to rebuilding the program that’s fallen on hard times of late.
“We needed to change the culture a little bit,” Jackson said. “We needed to raise the expectations as it referred to attention to detail and the little things and getting to understand that the little things are what matter and the little things are going to be the difference in winning and losing.
“We’re still trying to tackle that a little bit, but they’re starting to grasp the concept of what that means.”
Ever since his hiring was announced back in July following the retirement of longtime coach Roger Cador, Jackson has been hard at work reshaping the program into a new era.
For the entire first week of practice in the fall, Jackson had players do nothing but play catch for hours on end while he and the new coaching staff preached their philosophy for the new Jaguars.
Over the next few months, he instituted rules for his expectations of the players, like never walking on the field at any time or keeping caps faced forward.
At first Jackson was expecting some push back from those set to doing it the way they were used to, but was pleasantly surprised to find players eager to buy into his methods.
“Because my family is in Kansas City and because I’m here, (the players) know that I’m truly invested in seeing them succeed as people and as men first and then on the baseball side,” Jackson said. “That’s allowed them to say, ‘What do we need to do on our end to make that a neutral experience for everybody involved.' ”
If there was an obstacle that took Jackson by surprise, it was the effect of the restrictions placed on the program by the NCAA because of APR sanctions, namely the reduced practice hours.
Southern is still limited to only 16 hours of practice in five days throughout each week, down from 20 hours in six days.
It’s forced Jackson to be blunt in his expectations of simply improving every day as opposed to immediately climbing back into the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference in his first year.
That can be relatively easy for younger players to accept, but not so much for seniors who only have a few months left to their careers.
“I’ve explained to them that if the spectrum of a championship caliber team is A through Z, we may only get to D. We may not all the way there or we may get to F or maybe to J,” Jackson said. “But whatever it is we do cover, we’re going to do that very well.”
Once he figures out the new culture of the program, Jackson has to settle on the on-the-field look of the Jaguars.
A week until opening day and Jackson is satisfied with about three players on his roster.
He believes there’s a lot of potential for the future, but outfielders Ashanti Wheatley, Javeyan Williams and first baseman John Pope are the only ones to truly separate themselves from the pack.
As for pitching, Jackson hasn’t set so much as an opening day starter let alone a full weekend rotation.
Southern returns two of its three weekend starters from last season in Daniel Franklin and Tyler Robinson, as well as midweek starter Jacob Snyder.