Southern opens spring football practice

Advocate file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Southern football coach Dawson Odums eyes his players as they warm up for their first spring practice on campus last year. The Jaguars begin spring drills Wednesday morning.
Advocate file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Southern football coach Dawson Odums eyes his players as they warm up for their first spring practice on campus last year. The Jaguars begin spring drills Wednesday morning.

With the first day of spring still three weeks away, the Southern University football team took to the practice field Tuesday afternoon with a nip in the air.

Some coaches wore sweatshirts and sweatpants. Some players wore long sleeves.

This felt like winter.

Or, from any football lover’s perspective, late fall.

“It’s football weather,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said.

So it was that Southern began the first of 15 scheduled workouts during spring practice, taking its first steps toward the March 23 spring game and beyond.

Odums was promoted from defensive coordinator two games into last season and ran the team on an interim bases for the final nine. But Tuesday was his first chance to coach a practice with the interim label removed and the program officially his.

Three new assistants joined him: offensive line coach Chennis Berry, wide receivers coach Chris Coleman and linebackers coach Lorick Atkinson.

Berry will also serve as co-offensive coordinator, sharing those duties with quarterbacks coach Chad Germany.

“The whole thing about this spring is the fundamentals,” Odums said. “Let’s get better at our fundamentals and teaching so we can increase our execution.”

It was Football 101 everywhere you looked Tuesday afternoon.

On one end of the practice field, Atkinson sent linebackers through a fumble-recovery drill that ended with a scoop of a bouncing football.

On another, defensive backs coach Marty Biagi worked with the defensive backs on back-peddling.

Coleman waited as wide receivers zipped around miniature orange cones, mud flying from their cleats as they completed their routes and caught passes that popped as leather met hand.

But there were also signs Tuesday that Southern will address more in spring practice than simple fundamentals.

Before the two-hour workout in helmets, jerseys (no shoulder pads) and shorts was 10 minutes old, the zone-read option Odums said Southern will introduce this fall was already on display.

Odums said the offense will use more no-huddle this year as well.

“Trying to expand the offense a little bit to fit what every other college is doing,” he said.

Berry and Germany have returning Southwestern Athletic Conference passing leader Dray Joseph to build around.

Joseph threw for 2,511 yards and 25 touchdowns — with only seven interceptions — as a junior. But Odums said the Jaguars believe he can do even more.

“He’s a work in progress,” Odums said. “We look forward as coaches to helping make him better.”

Odums has not announced who will serve as Southern’s defensive coordinator because he wants to let the spring play out. But he said Southern will run a multiple defense.

Because of the experience Southern has at linebacker, Odums said the defense of choice could often be a 3-4 look.

On both sides of the ball, Odums said “tempo” will be a point of emphasis.

Southern officially begins Odums’ first season when the Jaguars travel to face the University of Houston in the 2013 opener. That game will be played Friday, Aug. 30, at Reliant Stadium, Southern spokesman Chris Jones said.