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Players discuss opener at La. Tech

The Southern football players have been practicing for and talking about the upcoming season for the past month.

Finally, the opener is within sight as the Jaguars close in on their trip to Ruston, La., to place Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday:

Here’s a sampling of what the players have said this week:

QB Austin Howard on opening against a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision: “We’re going to see what kind of team we’ve got. It’s different between practicing against our own guys and going against somebody else. I think if we go out there and just handle our business we’re going to be all right, but this season opener is going to determine what kind of team we’ve got.”

S Dionte McDuffy on the same topic: “If you play your best opponents first you see where youre at for the rest of the season and what you need to work on from here on out.”

CB Danny Johnson on the Jaguars losing starting nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter to ineligibility earlier this week: “Losing somebody who’s been preparing to play just a week before is still kind of hard because you have to adjust and see who you’re going to put in. If you would have known earlier you could have had people ready to play in that particular area.”

NICK Jamal Jenkins on leaning on his defensive teammates as he prepares to make his first career start on defense in place of Ledbetter: “Dionte McDuffy, (LB) Demetrius Carter and (LB) Daniel Brown. I speak to them a lot about my assignment. It’s a brotherhood and we’re going out there playing together. I’m ready to play.”

McDuffy is one of a handful of Southern players from North Louisiana, who will be closing at or close to home Saturday. He’s from Shreveport and will have 12 friends and family members in the stands. “The most that’s ever been to one of my games,” he said.

CB Jamar Mitchell on the Jaguars defense trying to match Tech’s ability to take the ball away. The Bulldogs led the nation in takeaways last season: “That’s what we’re trying to do – create turnovers and give the ball to our offense and let them make plays. As a defense we’ve just got to create turnovers and get the ball back to our offense and let them do what they do.”

RB Lenard Tillery on his counterpart, Kenny Dixon, who’s Tech’s career rushing leader: “I really like him. I’ve seen him all three years that he’s been there, watching highlight tape all the time. I just really like the way he runs. Whenever you get to go against another running back that you know is great, who’s going to leave records, who’s going to leave an impact on his team, you want to see that guy and you just want to try and come out and do better.”

LB Daniel Brown on the anticipation of his first game since 2013 after missing lasr season while ineligible: “It means a lot to me to be able to go back and represent my family and represent my school and all the people that believe in me as a whole. I feel blessed to be back.”

Brown on playing an FBS opponent: “They’re going to come out of the gate fast and try and get us overwhelmed. They’re going to try to out-physical us because we come from a lower-division school and they’re going to think they can manhandle us. It’s just, be ready for anything in the game because some teams might come and play with you and some teams might try and finish you right then and there.”


Ledbetter ineligible for season opener at La. Tech

Southern starting nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter is academically ineligible for the season opener Saturday at Louisiana Tech, Jaguars coach Dawson Odums announced Tuesday.

“We’re going into this week planning to be without him,” Odums said at his first news luncheon of the season. “Hopefully we can get him back, but if we don’t, Jamal Jenkins has to step in there and he’s backed up by Jason Dykes. We’ve got to get ready to go play football.”

Jenkins, a fifth-year senior, has played mostly on special teams and will be making his first career start on defense. Dykes also is a fifth-year senior.

Odums wouldn’t rule out getting back Ledbetter, a senior who started last season after arriving as a transfer from Florida.

“There’s still hope,” Odums said.

Ledbetter’s absence further depletes the experience in the secondary, which was already the least experienced part of the defense.

Nicholas McDonald is a transfer who will start at free safety, a spot that was vacated when returning starter Bryan Anderson was declared ineligible during the summer. Jamar Mitchell is a new starter at cornerback. Safety Dionte McDuffy and cornerback Danny Johnson are the only returning starters in the secondary.

The Jaguars depth chart had a couple of noteworthy items in addition to Ledbetter’s absence.

Skyler Prol passed Eric Janeau for the starting spot at right tackle, continuing a back-and-forth competition that has taken place throughout the preseason.

Deonte Shorts is listed as the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Jarrad Hayes as the primary backup to starter Austin Howard. Hayes was pushing Shorts during the preseason. Odums said Southern will decide later in the week whether to use Shorts and perhaps Hayes as well to spell Howard against the Bulldogs.

Odums confirmed that senior place-kicker Greg Pittman will also be the punter, which had been expected. Freshman Taylor Merritt will back up Pittman at both positions.

The Jaguars captains are Howard, running back Lenard Tillery and guard Anthony Mosley on offense, Johnson and linebackers Demetrius Carter and Daniel Brown on defense and Pittman and running back Malcolm Crockett on special teams.


Mailbag: Late-night practices unusual issue

We’re trying something new this football season by soliciting questions via Twitter for an online mailbag about Southern athletics.

I’ll tweet out a weekly series of requests for questions via Twitter, then post them and my answers at a predetermined date and time.

Today is our first mailbag:

Les East @EastAdvocate

Tweet your #Southern Jaguars football questions to me and we’ll post the mailbag on Monday at @AdvocateSports

Travis Carrell @TcarrellTravis

@EastAdvocate @AdvocateSports can you recall a season when a team had to practice at 9 to accommodate class schedules?

No, I can’t. I don’t recall a team ever practicing as late as 9 p.m. or having as much trouble balancing class schedules and practice schedules. Usually student-athletes are registered into classes during a predetermined window that keeps conflicts with practice to a minimum.

Unfortunately, that was the only question that was tweeted for this week’s mailbag, but hopefully things will pick up.

Had we received more questions, it might have gone something like this:

John Smith @KingJag74

Is there any news about the new practice field?

It’s still not ready and there’s no projected date for its completion, though it appears progress is being made. Workers were on site Sunday and light fixtures have been attached to the poles that have been lying next to the field since before the start of preseason camp.

Fortunately for Southern, it has a pretty good set-up at the Louisiana Leadership Institute, so it doesn’t have to rush to complete the field. Still, the preference would be to have it done early in the season.

Stay tuned.

Mary Jones @JaguarAlum

How is the team’s health going into the opener?

The team is about as healthy as a team can be coming out of a month-long preseason camp. Freshman linebacker Jordan Williams had minor thumb surgery and will miss the opener at Louisiana Tech. He could be back for next week’s game at Mississippi Valley.

Otherwise, no one is in jeopardy of missing the opener because of injury.

Keep an eye out for next week’s mailbag on Twitter.







Odums sizes up Louisiana Tech

Southern coach Dawson Odums gave a scouting report on his team’s season-opening opponent during the Southwestern Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference Monday.

The Jaguars play Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday in Ruston, La. They’ll be facing a talented running back in Kenny Dixon, a dual-threat quarterback in Jeff Driskel and an aggressive defense.

Odums said one of the key match-ups will be Southern’s offensive line against the Bulldogs defensive line, especially end Vontarrius Dore and tackle Vernon Butler.

“What stands out is how well they communicate and how fast they are at getting to the football,” Odums said. “They bring their safeties from different angles and they can confuse your line. You always have to be alert to what’s coming and that’s difficult.”

Odums said Southern’s wide receivers and Tech’s defensive backs will provide a marquee match-up, especially of the Jaguars line gives Austin Howard adequate time to throw.

“He’s been tough on our defense (in preseason practice),” Odums said of Howard. “He can throw with the best of them. He’s throwing to what I think is the best receiving corps in our conference and one of the best in the country.

“If our offensive line can give him some time he can deliver the football we have some guys that can catch it. I think that will be one of the better match-ups to watch –- how our offensive line holds up and our wide receivers against their DBs.”

Senior Kenneth Dixon already is the Bulldogs career rushing leader.

“You’ve got to tackle well and be aggressive,” Odums said. “Not too many teams have stopped (Dixon). He always seems to fall forward for a couple more yards. You’ve got to get people to the ball and corral him.”

Senior Jeff Driskel, a transfer from Florida, adds a running dimension to the Bulldogs quarterback position.

“We see great running quarterbacks every week in our conference,” Odums said. “It’s all about being able to make adjustments during the game. You can count on more edge rushes.”

Odums said the Jaguars can count on fan support as well, even though they’ll be opening away from home.

“We’ll have fan support,” he said. “Our fans pride themselves on going on the road and they’re going to support us. There’s never a question that they’re going to go on the road. It puts money in the pockets of the other team, but it’s good for us seeing them in the stands.”

Odums said it has been helpful for Southern to practice on the turf field at the Louisiana Leadership Institute, which is similar to the field at Joe Aillet Stadium.

Football team takes break from the heat

After practicing in 100-plus degree heat the last three days, the Southern football team decided to stay indoors Tuesday.

The Jaguars canceled what was scheduled to be a 100-plus play scrimmage at the Louisiana Leadership Institute. Instead the players attended meetings, studied film and prepared for the start of classes Monday.

Southern is expected to return to practice at Louisiana Leadership Institute on Wednesday. Preseason camp ends Saturday.

Volleyball team picked to win SWAC West

The Southern volleyball team was picked to win the West division in the Southwestern Athletic Conference preseason poll released Tuesday morning.

It’s the first time the Jaguars have been picked first in 20 years. They received 67 points, nine more than second-place Texas Southern. Alabama State (78 points) was picked to win the East.

Southern’s Diamond Williams was named the preseason defensive player of the year and teammate Leilani Lealaimatafao was named to the All-SWAC second team.

The Jaguars open the season Aug. 28-29 at the Southern Miss tournament in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Here is the news release on the SWAC preseason poll and teams:



Football practice to begin off campus

Southern U. will begin preseason football practice at an off-campus location Monday because the Jaguars new practice facility is not ready.

The university announced Sunday morning as players were reporting for camp that practice would begin at the Louisiana Leadership Institute on Hooper Road, a short drive from campus.

“Due to elevated water levels of the Mississippi River, Army Corp of Engineers have restricted construction to install the football practice field light poles as a part of the Jaguar Park project until the river recedes,” Southern said in a statement. “SU athletics anticipates practice returning to campus once clearance for the project’s continuation is received and the light poles have been installed.”

The Jaguars practiced at Louisiana Leadership late last season after the expiration of daylight savings time caused the end of practice to occur after sunset. The exisiting practice field has no lights.

Southern coach Dawson Odums was scheduled to have a news conference late Sunday morning.

Here’s a link to the news release:


Two Jaguars football games to be televised live nationally

Two Southern football games will be televised nationally, according to the Southwestern Athletic Conference television schedule released Tuesday.

The Jaguars game at Mississippi Valley State at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 will be shown on ESPNU and their annual Bayou Classic game against Grambling on Saturday, Nov. 28 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be televised by NBC.

Southern’s home game against Jackson State at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 will be available live on ESPN3 and shown within 24 hours via tape delay on ESPNU.

Addtionally, the SWAC Championship game on Dec. 5 will be shown on an ESPN network and two weeks later the Celebration Bowl featuring the champions of the SWAC and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference will be shown on ABC.

Here’s the entire news release and schedule regarding nationally televised games featuring SWAC teams:

Football team will play at Tulane in 2016

Southern and Tulane will meet in 2016 in Yulman Stadium, the Green Wave announced Thursday.

It will be the third meeting between the two schools. Tulane won the previous meetings in the 2001 and 2002 season openers for both schools in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Green Wave also announced a home-and-home series with Massachusetts. Tulane and the Minutemen will meet in Gillette Stadium, home of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, in 2016 and they will meet again at Yulman Stadium in 2022.

Dates and times for the games will be announced later.


Southern-McNeese baseball game moved to Wednesday

The Southern baseball game against McNeese State at Lee-Hines Field has been moved from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Wednesday because of severe weather that hit Southeast Louisiana on Monday.

The Jaguars are 13-21 after being swept in a doubleheader at Texas Southern on Sunday. The Cowboys are 24-20 after a 5-4 victory Sunday gave them a series win against Nicholls State.

Southern beat McNeese State 5-4 on March 31 in Lake Charles.