The 1,000-plus-mile journey from Baton Rouge to Albuquerque, N.M., traverses a wide gap in geography and culture, and Saturday’s contest between Southern and New Mexico will be an unfamiliar one for on-field reasons, too.
After going 3-33 over the past three years, the Lobos have been completely remade. Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie is preparing for his first game at UNM, as are all his assistants, from the nine position coaches to the strength and conditioning coordinator and director of football operations.
What’s more, Davie hasn’t coached since 2001 — serving as a television analyst since then.
Add all that up, and New Mexico is a black box.
That isn’t as much of an issue for SU’s offense, which will look to force its own agenda, but the Jaguars’ defense isn’t sure what it will see.
“We’re going into unknown territory,” defensive coordinator Dawson Odums said. “Our guys have to be prepared to play, and if they understand the basics and fundamentals of what we’re asking them to do, the defense should be able to get lined up no matter what’s thrown at them.”
Odums said the key is to look at where the assistants came to UNM from, study tendencies and make educated guesses. For example, Lobos offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse spent last season at Sam Houston State, where he presided over an option-style attack that led the Bearkats to a win at New Mexico and to the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
With that in mind, SU has had third-string quarterback Justin Morgan run an option offense with the scout team. Outside of that, they’ll have to wait until kickoff to know what they’re up against.
Odums said it helps that his unit faces multiple looks from Southern’s pro-style offense every day in practice, and they’ve designed the team’s defensive schemes to be easily adaptable to opponents’ formations.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars aren’t as concerned with New Mexico’s defensive strategy, but they have been able to use film sessions to study personnel.
“All summer, I’ve been watching film on them,” left tackle Chris Browne said. “We don’t know exactly what their scheme is going to be, but I studied their personnel and their defensive linemen very well.”
Browne said he was most impressed with UNM nose tackle Reggie Ellis, who began his career at Illinois before transferring.
SU holds morning practice
Facing inclement weather and with classes canceled, Southern moved practice ahead to 7 a.m. Tuesday. Classes are also canceled Wednesday, and the team will wait to see if and when they are able to practice later this week.
Nivens at UAPB
Arkansas-Pine Bluff has yet to hire a full-time offensive line coach to replace Bruce Johnson, who left earlier this month. Former Southern player and assistant Damon Nivens has been working with the UAPB line but is still awaiting an official hire.
If and when he comes aboard, Nivens will officially reunite with offensive coordinator Eric Dooley, the former receivers coach at SU.
Dooley, a longtime assistant to Pete Richardson, was also on Mitchell’s first staff at Southern.