The Southern football team convened on the practice fields Saturday morning to conduct its final intrasquad scrimmage — and to hopefully put a stamp on what has been a long, grueling and hot preseason camp.
In the time between last week’s scrimmage and Saturday, the offense displayed signs of significant progress in moving the ball effectively against the first-team defense.
Unofficially, quarterback Dray Joseph completed 19 of 28 passes for 157 yards to go along with an interception and a touchdown.
Sophomore wide receiver Willie Quinn continued to shine in camp. He led the receiving corps with four catches for 47 yards — including a 35-yard touchdown play, on which he ran a 5-yard hitch route, caught the ball, made two defenders miss and scampered down the sideline for the score.
“That’s the type of things we are going to need out of Willie,” Joseph said. “We need for him to be explosive.”
Southern coach Dawson Odums also was very pleased with Quinn’s play Saturday.
“I think people are going to find out about Willie Quinn this year,” Dawson said with a sly grin. “Our opponents are going to find out about him. The guy makes plays.”
The Jaguars running game proved effective Saturday — a point of emphasis for co-offensive coordinator Chad Germany all camp.
Freshman running back Kylum Favorite was impressive running with the first-team offense in place of injured back Lenard Tillery.
Favorite carried 10 times for 42 yards.
Odums said he was extremely excited with what he saw out of his running game and credited offensive line coach Chennis Berry concerning the future prospects of his team’s ground attack.
“Other than the fumbles, the running backs did a decent job,” Odums said. “We have one of the better offensive line coaches in the country. We’ve been able to run the ball everywhere him and I have been.
“I think Wynton did a decent job of moving the team today,” Germany said. “Shorts did some good things. But both of those guys have some things to work on.”
Joseph, for his part, broke down the race from his perspective.
“What we do as a unit is, we get together and watch the film,” Joseph said. “Me, coach Germany and the rest of the quarterbacks, we sit down together and we track each throw.
“What we do to make it fair is, whoever got the better completion percentage, whoever has the least mental mistakes, that’s who’s going to be the backup. It was neck-and-neck before today, so we’ll watch the film and see what that tells us.”
The defense still made plenty of plays throughout the scrimmage, unofficially collecting four takeaways and eight sacks while delivering a few bone-crushing hits.
“This is a defense that’s designed for linebackers and safeties,” Odums said. “If they can get themselves into the right position, they can set themselves up for some major hits.”
Sophomore safety Dionte McDuffy has been putting himself into position to deliver these violent hits.
Just as he did in the Aug. 10 scrimmage, McDuffy applied a solid hit to receiver Sam Altman, who was streaking across the middle of the field for a pass.
This time, McDuffy applied the hit without penalty.
“The defense did a great job of cleaning up the targeting today,” Odums said.
Odums said he believes the rule lacks merit.
“If it’s not a television game, how can you expect the official with a naked eye to make that split decision?” Odums said. “To be able to determine whether the hit was targeting legally or illegally, that’s too much pressure to put on the official.
“The officials have been trained that if it’s a close call to throw the flag. And that doesn’t benefit the kids.”
As for the rest of the team, one area seems to need dramatic improvement between now and the Aug. 30 opener at Houston: the kicking unit.
The Jaguars were a mere 1-for-5 on field-goal attempts Saturday, missing kicks from 20, 23, 30 and 35 yards.
The lone connection came from senior kicker Matt Hill, who drilled a 28-yard attempt.
“I’m not happy,” Odums said. “I’m not happy with our kicking game right now. We’ll give them an opportunity to see if they can’t get better before Houston.”
The Jaguars escaped preseason camp with only a few injuries, losing only fullback Brian McCain (leg) for six to eight weeks and starting running back Lenard Tillery (ankle) for two to three weeks.
But Southern suffered injuries to two crucial defensive players Saturday: starting senior linebacker Anthony Balancier, and sophomore starting defensive end Donald Phillips.
Odums said after Saturday’s scrimmage he was unsure of the severity of the injuries but hopes to have an update soon.
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