Odums keeps Jaguars defense in high gear
Southern defensive coordinator Dawson Odums paced the practice field Monday shouting instructions in a voice that always stands out above the smack of helmets and shoulder pads. But what distinguished Odums even more than the noise that came from his lips was the gray Southern sweatshirt he wore on his lineman-sized frame.
It was early August. In south Louisiana.
“I’ve been running in the summer and been training,” Odums said. “It’s just another cool day for me.”
Most men would keep their winter clothes in the closet a few more months, but Odums wants the players he coaches on defense to know he’s right there with them as they run beneath the steamy summer sun in helmets and pads.
“I think he wants to get sort of the same feel we’re getting,” Southern cornerback Virgil Williams said. “He wouldn’t feel like it’s fair for us to be out here and then him be on our butts like he is. I think he’s trying to get the same feel we get. One goes through it, we all go through it.”
Odums will pull out whatever stops necessary to shape up a unit that allowed averages of 24.8 points and 375.6 yards last year.
The defensive line coach at Southern last year, Odums got the call to head the defense after O’Neill Gilbert submitted his resignation in the spring. Previously, he served as a defensive coordinator at Clark Atlanta and North Carolina A&T.
An early riser, Odums generally starts each morning by sending his players a text message.
“Usually a ‘Good morning, champs,’ something like that,” Southern defensive end Jaylen Jordan said. “He wants to be able to put something positive in our life to keep us going.”
But it’s on the practice field that the Shelby, N.C., native sends the loudest messages.
“He never talks in a regular voice — always screaming, always yelling,” Jordan said. “He’s fired up all the time.”
If the Jaguars continue to make the kind of plays Jeremy Coleman and Detrane Lindsey provided during Monday’s team drills, the entire Jaguar Nation might be fired up about a defense that returns Williams and Levi Jackson in the secondary but must replace leading tackler Jamie Payton at linebacker.
Coleman returned an interception for a score. Lindsey stripped the ball from a receiver fighting for extra yardage.
Most of the schemes Southern ran under Gilbert remain intact.
But the terminology has been simplified.
“I want them to play fast,” Odums said. “The less they have to know, the faster I believe they will play. We’re just trying to scale down on the verbiage. Scale down on what they’ve got to know. So they can play fast.”
If every Jaguar executes his assignment and every gap gets filled, Odums is confident Southern will improve on a rush defense that ranked last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference last year.
But it all starts with having the right mindset, he said.
Maybe that means shaking off a missed tackle and moving on to the next play. Maybe that means encouraging a teammate who commits a costly penalty.
Maybe that means forgetting about the heat.
“This is a mentally tough football game,” Odums said. “You can’t show no mercy to your opponent.
“You can’t show no mercy in practice. We’ve got to get
better at being mentally tough.”