Southern University football coach Dawson Odums is feeling his way through preparation for the seven-game spring season scheduled to begin Feb. 26 at Alabama State.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the recent weather, school, absent players and the lack of a true fall camp getting his team ready has been fraught with unexpected obstacles.
This weekend was a good example. Odums had planned a scrimmage for Saturday but opted for a normal practice to keep his troops healthy. The Jaguars had a clear but cold day of work in A.W. Mumford Stadium and Odums said there could be some minor scrimmaging as the team moves closer to kicking off the season.
“A lot of what you used to do and how you do it is not a factor,” Odums said. “We have live situations, but you have to make sure they are controlled. A seven-game season is not a short season.
Odums is anticipating the weekly worry of how many players will be available, on top to the usual concern about weekly injuries. Getting through practice with players missing from the position rotations also slows down the growth of the team.
While not scrimmaging might be good in the short run, it hurts the Jaguars’ chances of being in proper game shape when the season starts. It’s been especially difficult this spring knowing where to draw the line, said Oudms who consulted with his coaching colleagues who played in the fall.
“The Navy coach said his team stayed off the ground (live hitting) and if he had to do it over, he would have done it different,” Odums said. “Other teams had situations where they were live, but it wasn’t like a normal fall camp. It gave us a better gauge of what we needed to do. We just need to make sure our plan is in line with the safety of our team.
“You have to adjust the game speed and make in-game adjustments. One thing we aren’t going to be ready for, and is hard to be ready for, is the condition you need to be in for a game. With a limited number of players for travel, it’s going to be tough on both teams. We have to figure our way through it.”
Odums said practices haven’t had the rhythm and crispness he usually sees as the season gets closer. Not knowing which players might be out affects the development when trying to pull 11 players together into a unit.
“It’s a roller coaster trying to get our team to be consistent,” he said. “You can’t start out good in the morning, have a lull and pick it up in the end,” he said. “You can’t be good on Monday and bad on Tuesday. Some days you might not have a guy you are counting on, so the rotation is off. Trying to learn the rotation and get those situated every day is a challenge.
“Whoever is in has to provide consistency of execution. That’s what we’re harping on as a staff. They know what to do but we have to get past step A to step B. it’s taking longer than anticipated but we’ve got some time to work on it.”
Six or a half dozen
Odums said he would be “good either way” if Southern finds an opponent to replace Alcorn State if the Braves opt out of the season, or if the Jaguars end up with another open date. Alcorn announced last week it intends to opt out but the final word will come from the conference.
Southern is scheduled to play March 27. Athletic director Roman Banks indicated it was likely too late for the Jaguars to find another opponent that day. It is one of only two Southern home games.
“I would be OK if it was a bye week because of the length of the season,” Odums said. “I would be OK if we had an opponent to have another chance to play because our guys want a chance to play. I don’t know where we are in that decision making process, but I’m good either way. I’d like to play Alcorn.”
At least two players did not dress out for Saturday’s practice, wide receiver Corey Williams and cornerback Glenn Brown. Both attended practice and watched from the sideline.