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.