Worth repeating: Stump Mitchell

“Camp Stump: The Sequel” is closed. The fall semester has begun. The Nation is finalizing travel plans … and come to think of it, I don’t know a whole lot about Nashville, Tenn., so if you’ve got some good restaurant ideas, I’m all ears. Tweet me!

Anyway, the first football game is almost here. Southern is preparing for Tennessee State. The two teams meet at LP Field at 6 p.m. Saturday, ready to kick off another fall.

Tuesday afternoon, Stump Mitchell met the media for his first formal press conference of the season. Here are a few select quotes from the big to-do.

On the state of the offensive line:
“I think the offensive line is doing pretty good. We have some returning starters up front, and we have some freshmen who we fill can come in and play as well. I don’t know if we’ll have to put any freshmen in that situation. We’ll see. We’ll get a unit together today, and we’ll see who we go with come Sept. 3.”

Any plans to play anyone beyond Dray Joseph at quarterback?
“We’ll see [laughs]. That’s all I know about that one.”

How is his progression going?
“Well, I think it’s great, in terms of the quarterbacks. We only completed, as a unit, 47 percent of our passes. Dray completed 49 percent, and Jeremiah (McGinty) completed 47. During training camp, I think we’re near 64 percent. So we’ve definitely gotten better in that area, and some of it is just familiarity in our offense now. Guys understand what we expect from every play.”

What has Dray gotten better at, in particular?
“I would say his dropback, No. 1. Also, getting the ball out on time, and also, knowing where his initial read is, and his checkdowns, if the initial read is not there.”

On being on the road, and whether there’s an us-against-the-world mentality:
“Well, I can’t ever use us-against-the-world, because the (Jaguar) Nation is going to be there. So I would never use that as an excuse.
“We’re going to pay our bills to stay there, so I think we deserve the right to win. We’re taking a lot to Nashville, in terms of money to that city, people traveling. So we deserve to win, if we just go play the type of game we’re capable of playing.
“They want to win, too. It’s the John Merritt Classic. It’s a big deal. So it’s going to be a physical football game.  But if we take care of the football, and do the things we’re capable of doing … we have some players that I think can make some things happen.”

How has Jared Green looked so far?
“He’s catching the ball better. I think that was one knock on him that someone could’ve said. But being one of the primary guys here, he’s had a lot of repetitions of catching the ball. When he catches it, I mean, he is explosive. So we’re looking to get the ball in his hands and giving him a few opportunities.”

How big of a fight do you expect this game to be?
“It’s a big deal. This is probably one of their biggest games, in terms of attendance. This is The John Merritt Classic. They’re expecting Southern to show up, and of course, their pocket is going to be higher than it is for the normal games, because we’re the Jaguar Nation. But that’s OK. We’re going to give them an extra dime. And we’re going to go there and do what we know we’re capable of doing.”

News, notes quotes and other doodads from around the SWAC

Aside from teenage girls, is there anyone out there who could actually enjoy a two-hour phone conversation?

Actually, yes. If you take part in the SWAC’s weekly football teleconference, you’ll be informed. Entertained. Riveted, in fact.

In yet another sign that college football is nearly upon us, the league went through its first teleconference of the season Monday.

Here are a few notes, quotes and doodads:

PRAIRIE VIEW: First-year head coach Heishma Northern said quarterback Jonathan Troast will start Sunday’s game against Bethune-Cookman. Troast filled in for a injured senior K.J. Black early last season, but suffered a season-ending injury and received a redshirt. He’ll probably split time with another (unnamed) quarterback.

“My plan is to probably play two quarterbacks early on,” Northern said. “They won’t start off being K.J., but hopefully they’ll end up being like K.J.”

JACKSON STATE: Around campus, there’s the sense that it’s now or never for sixth-year coach Rick Comegy. He might have the best team in the Eastern Division, but APR-related penalties will keep the Tigers from playing for a conference championship. One other thing: Comegy is in the final year of his contract, with no promise of an extension forthcoming. His take?

“I let God handle those things,” Comegy said. “You start worrying about those things, and you cheat the kids. I have to give the kids 100 percent of Rick Comegy, and what happens, happens.”

ALABAMA STATE: The reigning Eastern Division champion has lost more than offensive coordinator Melvin Spears. Some 14 players are academically ineligible, and two offensive linemen left the team for personal reasons. Still, coach Reggie Barlow is optimistic. He said the core of his team is back; ASU has a new quarterback in Troy transfer Greg Jenkins; and its new offensive coordinator, Fred Kaiss, is a familiar name in the SWAC. He coached under Pete Richardson and turned down an offer from Stump Mitchell this spring.

TEXAS SOUTHERN: TSU may have won a SWAC championship last season, but its three-year run under Johnnie Cole was more bitter than sweet. Under  investigation by the NCAA, the school fired Cole and four assistants, then promoted Kevin Ramsey to interim head coach. For these reasons and others, Ramsey says there’s no time for a championship hangover.

“That’s behind us now,” he said. “We’ve got our hands on the plow, and we’re looking forward.”

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF: How’s this for a stunner? Monte Coleman, in his fourth full year at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is the longest-tenured coach in the Western Division. Injuries ravaged his team last season, and UAPB has to find replacements for quarterback Josh Boudreaux and superstar wideout Raymond Webber.

Coleman said he and new offensive coordinator Eric Dooley, the longtime Southern assistant coach, have not yet decided on a starting QB. They’re choosing from three main candidates.

ALABAMA A&M: Things couldn’t have gone much better in 2009 for quarterback Deaunte Mason, who transferred from Kentucky to Alabama A&M and led the Bulldogs to the SWAC championship game (they lost to Prairie View, 30-24). But Mason suffered a severe groin injury and missed four games last season, and A&M finished 3-8. His coach, Anthony Jones, said the whole thing might have been a blessing.

“He had to mature,” Jones said. “His level of maturity has increased vastly, and hopefully, that will translate into improved performance. … I’m hoping that will be the magic button, if you will.”

GRAMBLING: Yes, D.J. Williams will start at quarterback.

Doug Williams, who held off on naming a starter until last week, said he understands that handing the job to his son could be a touchy issue. But after Anthony Carrothers transferred to Winston-Salem State, the team had three freshman quarterbacks to choose from, and D.J. Williams was the only one of them who went through spring practice.

D.J. Williams spent last year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, where he completed 72 of 102 passes for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“I think that in itself kind of gave him a thumb up,”

Grambling has a whale of a matchup to open the season. The Tigers face Melvin Spears and Alcorn State on Saturday in Shreveport.

Listings for Stump Mitchell TV show

Stump Mitchell’s weekly television show will start taping at 7 p.m. each Monday at DJon’s Restaurant, 5255 Florida Blvd.

The show airs several times throughout the week:

-9 p.m. Monday, Cox Cable Ch. 4

-9:30 p.m. Monday, Pelican (Cox Ch. 113)

-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Pelican-HD (1013)

-9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Pelican (113)

-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, CST (37)

-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, CST-HD (1037)

The show also streams live at pelicansportstv.com at 7 p.m. Monday.

 

Three things to watch as preseason nears finish line

Want to know how football season is here? Friday afternoon, as the Southern football team wrapped up practice in 100-degree weather (it was 106 with the heat index, in case you weren’t there to sweat it out with everyone else), RVs started pulling into the parking lot north of A.W. Mumford Stadium.

For a scrimmage.

The Jaguars hold their final scrimmage (and their annual Fan Day) Saturday inside the stadium, and Stump Mitchell said it will look very different from last year’s final scrimmage, which the coaching staff basically treated like a fourth NFL preseason game (rested starters, lots of backups, heavy focus on special teams, and so on).

Southern, of course, opens the regular season Sept. 3 against Tennessee State — but because the Jaguars can’t practice Sunday or Monday, thanks to the APR-related penalties, they’ll make this scrimmage a little more intense.

And make no mistake, they’ve got a little self-improvement work to do.

Here are three areas to watch:

Pass protection.
Let’s put it this way: If you’ve got an offensive line full of first-team All-Pros, you tell them to line down and handle their business. If you’re mixing and matching after more than two weeks of preseason practice, well, you don’t have an offensive line of first-team All-Pros.

Even though quarterback Dray Joseph used a lot of three-step drops during last Saturday’s scrimmage, the team struggled in pass protection, as defensive linemen often bowled through the line of scrimmage and got their hands on the QB.

Eventually, Southern pulled freshman guard Isaiah Webster and promoted Donald Glover to the first team. Glover has remained there during practice this week.

It’s pretty obvious, but there’s no way around it: The offensive line has to keep Joseph from getting roughed up. Otherwise, the SU passing game is headed nowhere fast.

The defensive line.
Yes, the defensive linemen applied heavy pressure on passing downs in the first two scrimmages. Some of it had to do with their effort and execution, sure. As for the rest of it, see above.

Southern is thin at defensive tackle, and though it has a whole busload of defensive ends, most of them are unproven or inexperienced. What’s more, the defensive line spent much of SU’s second scrimmage getting pancaked on running downs.

It was a strange sight, in fact: The offensive line dominated the run game; the defensive line dominated the passing game. It may say more about Southern’s weaknesses than its strengths.

The kicking game.
Though he’s prone to the occasional shank, Manuel Canto will be the team’s No. 1 punter. Mitchell thought Canto might also be the team’s best option at place-kicker, as well, based on Canto’s 2-for-2 effort on field goals in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

“But we come out (Tuesday), and Matthew Hill kicks better. So we’ll see in the scrimmage,” Mitchell said. “Right now, it’s a toss-up as to which of those guys will be kicking field goals and PATs.”

Updating the depth chart … and takin’ notes

Stump Mitchell said Monday that with less than two weeks to go before Southern’s season opener, he and his staff were close to hammering out a depth chart — one that would look very, very close to what the team will use heading into the Sept. 3 game at Tennessee State.

Here we are.

What follows is a list of the Jaguars’ updated two-deep, with a few surprises and a few comments:

OFFENSE
LT
72  Chris Browne (6-3, 290, Jr.)
76  Taylon Jones (6-0, 274, So.)
LG
74  Zach Brown (6-4, 320, Fr.)
76  Taylon Jones (6-0, 274, So.)
C
78  Lee Almanza (6-3, 293, Sr.)
60  Aaron Hall (6-2, 331, So.)
RG
61  Donald Glover (6-3, 330, Fr.)
75  Isaiah Webster (6-3, 270, Fr.)
RT
77  Dwayne Houston (6-2, 318, RFr.)
71  Clinton Boyd (6-1, 257, So.)
TE
89  Kesean Peterson (6-3, 240, So.)
88  Rashaun Allen (6-2, 241, So.)
WR (Z)
3  Charles Hawkins (5-10, 164, So.)
8  Jared Green (6-1, 184, Sr.)
WR (X)
82  LaQuinton Evans (6-0, 205, Sr.)
80  Mike Berry (6-3, 205, Jr.)
QB
10  Dray Joseph (5-11, 213, So.)
4  J.P. Douglas (6-1, 171, Fr.)
RB
35  Kaelan Mayfield (5-9, 180, Sr.)
12  Dallas Fort (5-6, 203, RFr.)
FB
45  Brian McCain (5-9, 235, So.)
41  Lee Mitchell (5-8, 233, So.)

Worth noting:
Glover practiced sparingly with the first team until Saturday, when the offensive line had major problems in pass protection. Mitchell said the other RG candidates, including Webster and Hall, had plenty of chances to prove themselves and didn’t show enough. Glover is a big body who knows his assignments, Mitchell said. … Mayfield, rarely used in preseason camp, will get a chance to shine in the final scrimmage Saturday. Projected starter Brandon Rice suffered a shoulder injury in the last scrimmage, and Mitchell said he’s unsettled at the other RBs’ lack of inside running. … Jones is listed as the backup at LT, but freshman Brandon Thibodeaux has practiced there more often.

DEFENSE
LE
92  Kedy Enabulele (6-0, 259, Sr.)
94  Kadeem Lewis (6-2, 250, So.)
LT
65  Brandon Turner (6-2, 270, Jr.)
70  Dexter James (6-4, 296, Sr.)
RT
95  Casey Narcisse (5-9, 286, Jr.)
63  Traé Tiller (6-2, 298, So.)
RE
93  Jaylen Jordan (6-4, 250, Fr.)
96  Dion Palmer (6-1, 247, Jr.)
WLB
56  Jamie Payton (6-0, 201, Sr.)
58  Corry Roy (6-1, 210, Jr.)
MLB
57  Corey Ray (6-2, 235, Sr.)
51  Franchot West (6-0, 230, Sr.)
SLB
55  Jared Detrick (6-2, 229, Sr.)
43  Demetrius Bentley (6-0, 227, Sr.)
LCB
36  D’Mekus Cook (5-9, 169, Jr.)
15  Kevin King (5-10, 180, RFr.)
SS
1  Demetric Rogers (5-10, 182, Sr.)
23  Marlon Smith (6-2, 197, Jr.)
FS
22  Levi Jackson (5-9, 182, Jr.)
49  Anthony Balancier (6-2, 225, So.)
RCB
7  Virgil Williams (5-9, 160, So.)
17  LaMarkius Pettaway (5-10, 165, Fr.)

Worth noting:
Bentley, Roy and West are all listed as backup LBs, but don’t be surprised if they get playing time. Coaches have often used four linebackers in practice and are comfortable with their depth at LB. … Also, Balancier, who played linebacker all last season, could move back there. He has practiced some with the LBs lately. … No surprise at DT. James has missed chunks of preseason camp with minor injuries. … In the secondary, Pettaway, with two solid scrimmages, has come close to cracking the first team. But in those scrimmages, he also dropped three interceptions — perhaps the only thing that held him back.

SPECIALISTS
PK
17  Manuel Canto (6-1, 182, Sr.)
14  Matthew Hill (5-11, 180, So.)
P
17  Manuel Canto (6-1, 182, Sr.)
18  Justin Williams (6-0, 155, Jr.)
PR
7  Virgil Williams (5-9, 160, So.)
3  Charles Hawkins (5-10, 164, So.)
KR
7  Virgil Williams (5-9, 160, So.)
3  Charles Hawkins (5-10, 164, So.)
H
6  Hasoni Alfred (6-0, 200, Sr.)
2  Lee Doss (6-2, 170, So.)
LS
18  Justin Williams (6-0, 155, Jr.)
60  Aaron Hall (6-2, 331, So.)

Worth noting:
Canto did well as the place-kicker and punter in Southern’s most recent scrimmage, but Mitchell said he seemed to take a step back Tuesday. Kicking duties will be between Canto and Hill. … LaQuinton Evans has also practiced some as a kick returner. … Justin Williams hasn’t snapped over the punter/holder’s head in two-plus years.

Unofficial stats from Southern’s second scrimmage

Unofficial stats from Southern’s second scrimmage Saturday afternoon:

PASSING
Dray Joseph: 14 of 21, two TDs
J.P. Douglas: 5 of 17, one TD, two INTs
Jeremiah McGinty: 1 of 5, one TD
Hasoni Alfred: 0 of 2

RUSHING
Brandon Rice: one carry*
Dallas Fort: 10 carries, two TDs
Terrell Alex: seven carries, one reception, no TDs, one fumble
Sylvester Nzekwe: three carries, one TD
Byron Williams: three carries
Lee Mitchell: three carries
Jerry Joseph: two carries
Brian McCain: one carry, one reception
*Rice left with an injured right shoulder and did not return.

RECEIVERS
Rashaun Allen: four receptions, one drop
LaQuinton Evans: three receptions
Lee Doss: three receptions
Jared Green: one reception, one drop
Charles Hawkins: two receptions, one drop, one TD (25 yards)
Michael Berry: two receptions, two drops, one TD (5 yards)
William Waddel: two receptions, one TD (65 yards)
Kesean Peterson: one reception

KICKING
Matthew Hill: 2 of 2 PATs
Manuel Canto: 1 of 1 FGs (37 yards)

INTERCEPTIONS
Lamarkius Pettaway: one INT
Corey Ray: one INT

ALSO:
–Southern’s defense registered eight sacks.
–Most of the offensive touchdowns came on situational plays in the red zone.
–Southern quarterbacks and centers botched two exchanges.
–Dray Joseph and Jeremiah McGinty scrambled two times apiece.

 

More observations from Camp Stump

Camp Stump: The Sequel hasn’t been all perfect. No training camp is perfect, unless this is the early 1980s and you’re at SMU and your name is Ron Meyer.

(Meyer, the oh-so-charming old coach, once said that his 1981 team was so good, he opted not to hold intrasquad scrimmages during training camp, fearing that his super-talented players would beat each other up, thus doing more harm than good. Yeah, the Mustangs were incredible back then — indeed, the best team money could buy.)

Obviously, Southern doesn’t have that problem.

Anyway, it’s been an absolute steam bath of a preseason camp at SU. On most days, the heat index is well into the triple digits — and worse yet, we haven’t seen much rain in Baton Rouge. That, of course, isn’t normal; around here, we’re used to the routine, late-summer afternoon thunderstorm.

The lack of rain has taken its toll on the practice field, which is now dusty and rock-hard. Stump Mitchell is now concerned that if conditions stay like they are, the hard, dry field will start to take a physical toll on players.

The good news is, aside from a smattering of cramps, nearly the entire team has worked through the heat with relative ease. It’s not fun, but the heat hasn’t been debilitating, either. In other words, these guys are in good shape.

The other good news is that a brief-but-pounding thunderstorm rolled through Baton Rouge on Thursday afternoon.

Seventeen days have passed since players reported for camp. The Sept. 3 season opener is still more than two weeks away, and the team is gearing up for its second scrimmage. Until then, here are a few more notes, nuggets and doodads:

It looks more and more like Southern will start two freshman guards on the offensive line.

Left guard Zach Brown (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) has practiced with the first team for the better part of two weeks — essentially since last year’s starter, Taylon Jones, missed a handful of practices with a wrist injury.

On the other side, right guard Isaiah Webster (6-4, 310) has worked with the first team for most of the past week.

When training camp began, position coach Paul Lounsberry fiddled with the right side of the line, using any number of combinations. Among them: RG Aaron Hall and RT Clinton Boyd; RG Dwayne Houston and RT Clinton Boyd; RG Aaron Hall and RT Dwayne Houston. For a few days, Hall even worked at right tackle.

By and large, however, Webster has settled in at right guard, with Houston at right tackle. Hall is now backing up Webster, and Boyd is behind Houston.

Over the past week, Mitchell has made several comments about starting two freshmen at guard.

His post-practice comment Thursday: “Isaiah and Zach (Brown) are battling for starting positions. They’re big bodies, and they’re not making as many mistakes. And I think competition is the best thing that’s going to allow Taylon and Aaron Hall to improve.”

Jones and Hall started last season. At the time, they were freshmen, as well.

Don’t be surprised if, at some point, wideout LaQuinton Evans returns kickoffs. He has never done it in college, but when training camp began, the coaching staff put him back there during special-teams drills. Since then, Evans has stayed there.

How good will Evans (6-2, 190) be on kickoff returns? There’s no telling. Kickoffs (and kickoff returns) aren’t live during practice and are rarely live in scrimmages. So we haven’t seen Evans return a kick with bodies flying.

Also, several others have proven to be natural at special teams, including Charles Hawkins, who returned punts the past two seasons, and Byron Williams, who led the team in kickoff return yards in 2009.

—Freshman defensive end Jaylen Jordan has gotten a long look with the first- and second-team defenses. At 6-2, 250, he certainly looks the part. Remember, however, that he is only a freshman, and SU has more than a few defensive ends, including Kedy Enabulele (6-2, 280), Kadeem Lewis (6-4, 240), Dion Palmer (6-3, 245) and Delwin Williams (6-3, 250), among others.

If, however, Jordan can help the team develop depth at defensive end, that can’t hurt. It’s rarely a bad thing when teams can rotate defensive linemen and not lose much in the way of production or quality.

Good, bad and odd moments from SU’s first scrimmage

Southern’s first preseason scrimmage is in the books.

On a hot, muggy Saturday afternoon, a few dozen fans turned out to watch the Jaguars muscle their way through 110 plays.

What did we learn? Here’s a random sampling.

THE GOOD

—On this day, at least, the quarterbacks were much more accurate. By The Advocate’s unofficial count, they combined to complete 25 of 33 passes. If you do the math, that’s a completion rate of 76 percent — leaps and bounds better than their rate of 47 percent last season.

Dray Joseph was 13 of 20 (again, unofficially). Barring a disaster over the next two weeks, Joseph will be the starting quarterback when Southern plays at Tennessee State on Sept. 3.

Running backs broke free for several long runs — a rare sight in 2010, when Southern failed to gain 1,000 rushing yards as an entire team. The Jaguars’ longest run from scrimmage last season was 62 yards. It came on a busted play at Alabama A&M, when Gary Hollimon was nearly buried in the backfield, then slipped a few tackles and broke free for a touchdown.

Yes, on Saturday, reserve running back Terrell Alex fumbled once, and one of Jerry Joseph’s long runs was wiped out by a penalty.

More importantly, Southern showed the potential for big plays from its ground game.

The fade pattern is there. On consecutive plays, LaQuinton Evans scored on the left sideline on throws from Joseph — both on fade routes. He might have been out-of-bounds on the second TD, but with sure hands and balance — not to mention nice throws — Evans showed he can take advantage of smaller cornerbacks (the 6-2 Evans was working against the 5-9 Virgil Williams).

These guys are in pretty good shape. Think about it this way: Southern’s players went through 110 plays Saturday in brutal heat. We’re talking about a heat index into the triple digits—and no, it probably wasn’t much fun. But no one suffered cramps or major injury, and no one staggered to the sidelines in exhaustion.

If nothing else, the Jaguars are well-conditioned.

—You may not remember this, but Southern’s defense didn’t always tackle very well last season. Saturday, the defense had a smattering of missed tackles, but for the most part, the team’s tackling looked much better. Coordinator O’Neill Gilbert said he thought his linebackers would be the strongest part of the defense. For one day, at least, they looked the part.

THE BAD

Turnovers. Alex fumbled once, and Stump Mitchell said that’s his main concern with the senior transfer, who’s been holding the ball too far away from his body. Also, Joseph and Lee Almanza botched two exchanges, and the defense recovered one.

The defense also dropped three potential interceptions.

Penalties. There came a point during Saturday’s scrimmage that players got overheated — not with the conditions, but with the officials, who kept throwing flag after flag. Let’s be clear: On most occasions, the officials were right. But the sheer number of penalties (we lost count) brought to light a problem that plagued Southern all last season.

—Inside the 20-yard line, the offense bogged down. That often happened with Mitchell’s first team: It moved the ball well enough at times, but had to settle for field goals. The Jaguars first-team offense didn’t score until late in the scrimmage, when coaches moved them to the 20 to work on red-zone situations.

The kicking game. Matthew Hill was 1-for-2 on field goals (he was wide right from 24 yards, then connected from 38 yards), and Manuel Cantu was 0-for-1 (his attempt, from 30 yards, hit the left upright).

It’s a shame to have to harp on the kicking game, because it might improve between now and the season opener. But you get the feeling that the kicking game will bite the Jaguars in a game if they can’t get it fixed.

THE ODD

—OK, so maybe this isn’t really odd. But you got the feeling, after Saturday’s scrimmage, that Southern might wind up starting two freshman guards for the second straight year.

Last season, it was Taylon Jones and Aaron Hall. They’re back, but by week’s end, they had (apparently) been relegated to the second-team offense.

This preseason, it’s been Zach Brown at left guard and Isaiah Webster at right guard. They worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense during Saturday’s scrimmage, both players having benefited from extra time with the first team during practice (Jones was injured last week, and right tackle Clinton Boyd’s minor shoulder injury prompted a mix-and-match experiment).

This is not a sure thing. Dwayne Houston worked at right tackle Saturday, but he could move back to guard, opening a spot for Boyd at right tackle (and forcing Webster back to the second team).

But the two freshmen have been practicing — and as Saturday’s rushing performance showed, they’ve helped the offensive line produce.

—After the officials started throwing flag after flag, SU assistant coaches started giving them an earful. Before long, the players chimed in. By the end of the scrimmage, Mitchell told them all to cool it.

“Talking back to the officials — we have to eliminate that stuff,” he said.

Mitchell didn’t say so himself, but his implication to players was unmistakable: When the games begin, you’re going to have calls go against you. In football, that’s a given. The fact is, complaining isn’t going to do any good. Just move on to the next play.

As for Southern, it’s time to move on to the next week of preseason.

The team hits the field again Monday.

More notes, quotes and nuggets from a hot camp

Maybe it was because Wednesday marked the first session of two-a-days. Maybe it was because Southern practiced at 2 p.m. instead of 3:30, its usual afternoon start time.

Whatever the reason, it certainly seemed like it was blazing hot. I mean, it’s been hot every single day — bright sun, high-90s temperatures, heat index factors in the 110s — but Wednesday afternoon was ridiculous.

Remember, folks: sleep well, and drink lots of water. Even if you’re not wearing helmets, shoulder pads and pants.

Anyway, Southern football coach Stump Mitchell offered a few more nuggets of information after the first round of two-a-days. Here you go.

Southern is still very thin at defensive tackle.

Right now, the Jaguars have three players — Dexter James, Casey Narcisse and Brandon Turner — who have college experience at DT. James was academically ineligible last year. Narcisse and Turner are both coming off of ACL injuries.

Jonathan “Tank” English won’t be eligible until he finished summer school elsewhere (the courses should be transferable to SU). But as Mitchell noted, English hasn’t been in practice or conditioning drills (translation: he’ll probably need more time to get in shape).

To that end, Southern has played a lot of 3-4 so far during camp.

“We’re counting on the guys we have here,” Mitchell said. “We understand that, scheme-wise, so we have to do what our guys will allow us to do.”

—Should the Jaguars need to play a few freshmen on the offensive line (six of their 13 linemen are true freshmen, though none of them is expected to start), Mitchell said the coaches will have to simplify the offensive scheme.

“It’s to cut down the things that they would actually have to learn and execute, in terms of different pass protections, in terms of different run executions and techniques,” Mitchell said.

As it is, the starting offensive line would probably look like this: Chris Browne (LT), Taylon Jones (LG), Lee Almanza (C), Dwayne Houston (RG), Clinton Boyd (RT). One caveat: Jones and Boyd have missed some practice time with what appear to be minor injuries.

—The Jaguars are still a long, long way from their Sept. 3 season opener at Tennessee State (23 days to go, not counting Thursday), but at the moment, it seems as if Dray Joseph is inching closer to becoming the No. 1 quarterback.

Mitchell told his team Wednesday that it’s much farther ahead now than it was 12 months ago. Asked why he felt that way, the coach replied:

“Offensively, I think Dray, for the most part, understands where we want to go with the ball on every play. And he’s getting the ball to his check-down receivers when he needs to. Right now, I think he really has a pretty good grasp of the offense.”

Note that Mitchell did not mention freshman J.P. Douglas or junior Jeremiah McGinty.

Of course, it’s only been a week. They’re just getting warmed up.

What will happen with the kickers and punters? We don’t know. Yet.

Yes, it’s still early in preseason camp. No, when it comes to kickers and punters, we don’t exactly know what’ll happen at Southern between now and the Sept. 3 season opener at Tennessee State.

But for now, the nuttiness continues.

Manuel Cantu re-joined the team Monday afternoon, and Tuesday, he and strong safety Demetric Rogers were sharing the field during special-teams periods.

A refresher: Cantu was part of the team last season, but didn’t see a single snap. That’s because he didn’t need to; freshman kicker William Griswold and senior punter Josh Duran handled the job very, very well.

Griswold went home to Tampa, Fla., and never came back. Duran completed his eligibility.

Now the Jaguars have two newcomers in Jamie Galvin, a freshman, and Matthew Hill, a junior-college soccer player who hasn’t kicked or punter before.

As punters, Galvin and Hill both struggled during the first week of camp. That led to Rogers — a former quarterback/safety/punter at Northeast High — volunteering his foot to the cause.

Tuesday morning, Cantu punted using the conventional method, while Rogers continued with SU’s experimental rugby-style punts.

The final verdict isn’t in yet, but here’s what Stump Mitchell had to say afterward:

“I really like what Matthew Hill is doing. I think he gives us a little more consistency. Manny, I think, might be the better of the punters. So it’s going to be a three-headed monster. I’m going to definitely use Demetric Rogers with that rugby-style. I’m thinking right now that it’s going to be Manny as the main punter, Matthew Hill as our place-kicker and Demetric Rogers as the rugby punter as well.”

If it seems like we’re just using this for training-camp filler, think again.

Remember, in any game, how often a punter can pin the other team inside its 20-yard line. Or how often a bad punt and give the other team good field position. Or, the scariest situation of all: When a team needs a field goal in crunch time, and the place-kicker trots out, with all the eyes in the stadium focused on him.

Yeah. No big deal at all.