With only 16 days remaining before Southern heads west to take on the Houston Cougars in Reliant Stadium, distractions and mental fatigue in the South Louisiana heat continue to be the theme this early week.
Motivation, determination and a player’s will come into question at times like this for a football team.
Yet the Jaguars have the added benefit of two seasoned veterans in senior quarterback Dray Joseph and senior wide receiver Lee Doss to help motivate and push the team during this grueling stretch before the start of the season.
The two senior leaders have gone through the rigors of seasons past, gaining the experience needed to be best-prepared for the season that lies ahead.
“As senior leaders, you understand that you can get better each day, and you don’t want to get complacent,” Joseph said in regard to his and Doss’ leadership. “You don’t want to ever get into that mindset of being complacent, because there’s always something that you can be better at. There’s always someone out there that’s working harder than you.”
Joseph and Doss have seen more than their fair share of struggles, suffering through losing seasons each of the past three years in addition to a midseason coaching change.
Yet having been through the process multiple times before has allowed Joseph and Doss to take on the role of mentor, particularly in juggling distractions off the football field.
“When school starts, there’s going to be a lot of distractions,” Joseph said. “You’re going to have girls on campus, you’re going to have class. Some guys are going to have problems with their class schedules and need to change classes. That’s when you separate yourself.”
For the first time, Joseph is entering the season as the team’s starting quarterback, and with that role comes an added level of responsibility.
“This is the first year that it really feels like it’s my team,” Joseph said. “With it being my team, I have to be held accountable for every action.”
Joseph takes that accountability to heart, going so far as to make sure guys are eating right and where they’re supposed to be at all times, particularly off the field.
“All meals are mandatory, and sometimes guys try to substitute sleep for breakfast,” Joseph said. “With me, I have to be there. I get on the guys that are in my hallway and make sure they get to breakfast. For room checks, I’ll sometimes go around knocking on doors.”
Despite sitting out the occasional practice, Joseph and Doss are always doing what they can from the sideline to stay mentally sharp and help the younger players along.
“When on the sidelines, I want to be able to help out when (Deonte) Shorts or (Wynton) Perro make mistakes and help them learn from them,” Joseph said. “See what they did wrong and help coach those guys on the field.
“When I’m telling those guys what they did wrong, I find myself sounding like (co-offensive coordinator Chad) Germany. And it just helps me get better.”
Doss, who sat out Saturday’s scrimmage, took the opportunity in watching from the sidelines to better himself and the team.
“Coach (Dawson Odums) sat me out because even though he knows I’m not on the field, he knows I’ll get my mental work in and I’ll help the other guys with me,” Doss said. “Instead of me being negative for sitting out, I looked at it as a positive and tried to help the other guys out to make the whole team better.
“I think that’s why coach Odums sat me out. Just in case a situation like this does come along during the season in which I do have to sit out, and someone else needs to step up and not look to me to step up. They can do it.”
Players have even gained added motivation from a documentary film in which a small school took down one of the giants of college football six years ago.
“We watched ‘Under the Lights’ with Appalachian State and how they prepared to beat Michigan back in 2007. Those guys’ intensity was great. The whole time they practiced in camp they were focused on themselves. It was all about what they’re game plan was. And that’s what I try to help implement with our guys. Let’s focus on ourselves.”
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