Southern notebook: Jaguars switch to 4-3 to counter spread

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern coach Dawson Odums
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern coach Dawson Odums

When the Southern defense is on the field this season, the Jaguars will operate in a 3-4 alignment.

Coach Dawson Odums said the move is partly to accommodate the personnel he has on his roster, which includes 15 linebackers and 11 defensive linemen. But he also believes it will help the Jaguars counter the boatload of college offenses that have adopted spread-formation attacks.

“All these teams want to spread you out and play sideline to sideline,” Odums said Friday. “We want speed on the field.”

It so happens that the personnel Southern returns fits nicely into those plans.

“I think we’re athletic and have a lot of guys that can run,” Odums said. “We’re going to utilize that.”

Senior linebacker Anthony Balancier, a preseason All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection, helps anchor a unit that returns seven defensive starters.

Odums, a defensive coach by trade, will call the defensive plays for Southern on game days.

Williams back in action

The most encouraging development of Friday’s workout was the sight of Virgil Williams back in his No. 7 practice jersey and covering pass routes for the defense.

Williams, a preseason All-SWAC selection at cornerback as well as return specialist, missed the first practice of fall camp Thursday because of a heart murmur discovered during team physicals.

Hall looking good

Offensive lineman Aaron Hall missed the final four games of 2012 after suffering a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but the Central High graduate appears to be back at full strength heading into his senior year.

“He’s moving well,” Odums said. “He’s good to go.”

Odums said he was impressed that his 6-foot-2 center weighed in at 331 pounds this week after hovering around 355 earlier this summer.

Experienced teammates Allen Spry and Terrell Lee are back to compete for playing time, but Odums said he would like to have Hall snapping balls to Dray Joseph when the season begins.

“He’s a player, and he’s a senior,” Odums said. “You would think he will have the upper hand if he’s healthy.”

Odums targets new rule

The new NCAA rule that calls for officials to eject players who are flagged for “targeting” will surely be a controversial topic throughout the season.

The rule could create a special kind of dilemma, Odums said, for teams like Southern that do not play all of their games on television.

Under the new ejection rule, officials are allowed to review the play in question using instant replay and can overturn the ejection. In the case of non-TV games, such reviews will not take place until after the game has ended.

“It’s the rules, and you have to follow them,” Odums said. “But I really think at some point this year that ruling is going to affect the outcome of a football game. I just hope they get it right. The games that don’t have replay, I’m really concerned about how some of those calls are going to come out. The problem I have is, if you go back and look at it and say it wasn’t targeting, that kid can’t get those snaps back. Nor can his team get those snaps back.”

Targeting penalties will continue to come with a 15-yard penalty, as in years past. The difference this year is the ejection rule.

Targeting is defined as taking aim at a defenseless player — generally leading with the helmet and showing apparent intent that goes beyond legal tackling or blocking.