Sophomore QB will work with starters in scrimmage
The Southern football team will hold its first scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday, but a few key players will be missing.
Quarterback Dray Joseph (toe), receiver Michael Berry (hamstring) and running backs Sylvester Nzekwe (ankle) and Jerry Joseph (knee) will likely have to sit out.
Dray Joseph’s absence is the most problematic, as the others will give their backups a much-needed chance to gain experience. The junior quarterback is battling J.P. Douglas for the starting job, and the scrimmage would have brought his most extensive amount of live-game experience so far this fall.
Dray Joseph was at practice Friday in flip-flops, with his right big toe heavily bandaged.
“Dray has got a bad blister on his right toe,” coach Stump Mitchell said. “It’s pretty bad. I’m hoping he’s not out too long, but there’s nothing he can do right now. It’s a tough deal.”
In his stead, Douglas and freshman Justin Morgan will split the majority of the reps, with senior backup Reid Sanders seeing some time, as well.
With the spotlight to himself, Douglas will hope to showcase improved accuracy and sharper decision-making — the two areas Mitchell is watching most closely during the quarterback battle.
On Friday, Mitchell was pleased that Douglas didn’t try to force passes during a red zone drill.
“He threw the ball away a couple of times when we were in the red zone,” Mitchell said. “Yesterday, we were there and he threw an interception. So he got better from that. Once we’re in the red zone, we can’t afford to have turnovers.”
While Douglas tries to make the most of his practices in Joseph’s absence, Morgan will pick up valuable time as well. He switched from quarterback to receiver before his senior season at Pell City (Ala.) High and could use the extra reps.
“Justin has got to come along a lot faster, because you never know; something may happen to one of those guys,” Mitchell said. “That’s football, and the next guy has to step in and step up.”
Mitchell open to transfer?
Speaking soon after talented cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from LSU for a violation of team rules, Mitchell indicated he’d be open to taking in the Heisman Trophy finalist, pending further information.
“We would definitely have to find out everything that’s going on and see if he had any interest in playing at Southern,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he would take a wait-and-see approach, and he also has set a high bar for conduct in his two-plus years at Southern, trying to run what he calls “a pretty tight ship.”
Asked this offseason about two troubled former Southeastern Conference running backs, Michael Dyer (Auburn) and Isaiah Crowell (Georgia), both of whom were dismissed from their previous schools, Mitchell said he wouldn’t have taken in either.
His stance on Mathieu would depend on the details of his case.
“I know coach (Les) Miles tried to do everything he possibly could do to help him, as well as stay in line with the rules he has for his team,” Mitchell said. “I think every individual is different.”
He added that while Mathieu made a mistake, he’s likely to find a second chance somewhere, and Mitchell is just hoping he’s able to get his life back on track.
“This might be a stumbling block for him, but all is not lost,” Mitchell said. “He’s a great player. Everybody is going to be interested in helping him.”
Scrimmage to test defense
Mitchell has said repeatedly he wants Southern to be a more physical team this season, and he’ll get a good look at how the Jaguars are coming along during the scrimmage.
Much of the team drills during fall camp have brought a steady rotation of defensive players — with the offensive line holding constant — but Mitchell plans to keep the starting defense on the field for longer periods of time Saturday.
“I think we’ve been going with our offensive linemen more so than the defense, because I want to see that offensive line jell,” Mitchell said. “So (Saturday) may be a little more taxing on the defensive linemen than it will on the offensive linemen.”