Jaguars defensive line excels during preseason camp

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern football coach Dawson Odums said running back Lenard Tillery should return from an injury in time for the Jaguars' season opener at Houston.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern football coach Dawson Odums said running back Lenard Tillery should return from an injury in time for the Jaguars' season opener at Houston.

If preseason camp is any indication, the Jaguars defense appears to be the strength of the team, with the line being the anchor on that side of the ball.

It should come as no surprise that the defense has excelled during preseason practice in coach Dawson Odums’ second year at the helm.

Odums, a former defensive line coach himself, naturally maintains a higher expectation in regard to his guys up front and is enthusiastic about the group he has coming back.

“Our defensive line is a veteran group, and they’ve played a lot of snaps,” Odums said. “It’s exciting to have that depth up front.”

That depth starts with sophomore nose guard Gabe Echols and junior end Arthur Miley.

Miley, a preseason second-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection, is a vocal leader on the practice fields, making sure every defender knows his responsibility pre-snap so that they can perform at their highest level on every play.

“We need to make sure everyone is ready to go and fly around and make some plays,” Miley said. “We’re flying around the ball. Everyone is showing pursuit and effort.”

Echols, a native of Decatur, Ga., shared similar thoughts in establishing what the defense needs to show on the field.

“We’re showing great pride and discipline,” Echols said. “(It’s about) being tough. Playing our assignments and staying in our gaps.”

Echols, a Decatur, Ga. native and former high school wrestling standout, was recruited by Odums, who served as the defensive coordinator for the Jaguars at the time.

Echols is in competition for the starting nose guard position in Southern’s 3-4 front.

Southern practices in rain

With just over two weeks left before the opening kickoff and no indoor practice facility, the Jaguars worked outside Wednesday in less-than-ideal conditions.

Rain was in the forecast, and it was a tough day for the Jaguars to get done what they intended to do.

Odums made no excuses, though, and instead took the day as a positive for his football team.

“You’re going to play some games outside in the rain,” Odums said. “So when we get to a game-like situation, it won’t be the first time we’ve dealt with the rain.”

Despite wet conditions, execution served as the theme of the day from Odums.

“We’re working to clean up what we’re doing,” Odums said. “We’re trying to make sure our execution is down. The game will be a lot faster. So we try to create the game-like situations and get the guys prepared.

“The other team is going to play fast, and fatigue is going to set in. There’s going to be some adversity you’ve got to get past.”

The ultimate goal, Odums said, is to persevere through all obstacles.

“We want to get the mindset that no matter what, we won’t be denied,” Odums said.

Injury update

Senior fullback Brian McCain is the lone Jaguar suffering from a long-term injury, aside from the normal nicks and bumps typically associated with preseason camp.

McCain is expected to miss six to eight weeks, Odums said.

Tight end Bradley Coleman sat under a tent during Wednesday’s rainy practice with a leg injury.

“Coleman is dealing with a sprained Achilles, and he is day-to-day right now,” Odums said. “And we don’t want to risk him, we want to be sure he’s 100 percent before he comes back.”

Also absent from Wednesday’s practice was junior defensive lineman Justin Woods.

“Justin Woods tweaked his knee a little bit, and he’s doing some rehab. But I feel if we had a game to play right now, he’d be ready to go.”

Running back Lenard Tillery was seen on crutches at Wednesday morning’s practice.

Odums said he feels Tillery should be ready to go by the season opener.

“Tillery is probably out another couple weeks,” Odums said. “Other than that, I foresee everyone being ready to go by the time we get ready to play our conference opener.”

Bus trips

The 6th Man Club is sponsoring bus trips for road games to Houston, Northwestern State, Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Texas Southern, Alabama State and the Bayou Classic.

Prices vary depending on each trip.

For information, call Anna Jones at (225) 387-1982 or (225) 907-7212, Freddie Green Sr. at (225) 388-9403 or (225) 572-3060 or Elijah Wilkinson at (225) 355-9249.

Fan Fest moves location

Saturday’s Fall Fan Fest, originally scheduled for Seymour Gym, will be relocated to the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Doors will open at 12:30 p.m.

Coaches and players from the football, soccer and volleyball teams will be available to autograph posters and take pictures.

Houston tickets go on sale

Tickets for Southern’s season opener Aug. 30 against Houston will go on sale at the SU ticket office at 9 a.m. Thursday. For information, call (225) 771-3171.