Injuries pile up as Jaguars get ready for Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Southern’s secondary just can’t catch a break.
The Jaguars entered this week with a list of injured defensive backs that was already too long. Now it’s longer, and they’ll likely be without two starters Saturday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Interim coach Dawson Odums said Thursday that cornerback Virgil Williams (left shoulder) is doubtful, while free safety Mychal Bell (right knee) is out, leaving SU to shuffle the depth chart ahead of a game where first place in the division is up for grabs.
That would leave strong safety Levi Jackson and cornerback Johnathan Mack as the only regular starters in the lineup, with Johnathon Wilson the likely replacement for Bell. Marquon Webster and D’Andre Woodland would fill in for Williams.
“It’s part of the game,” Odums said. “You never know with this game what curveball you’re going to be thrown. You can’t control it, so we just have to move forward.”
Moving forward without Williams is tough to do.
He leads the team with 41 tackles, is the top cover corner and leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference in punt return yardage. Williams hurt his left shoulder on the last play of Tuesday’s practice, then sat out Wednesday, and it appears the injury will keep him off the field this weekend.
That would mean more playing time for Webster, who has impressed coaches as a freshman and leads the team in pass break-ups, and Woodland, who has interceptions in each of the past two games.
The biggest concern at cornerback would be if Webster, Woodland or Mack was injured, as no one behind them has received regular playing time.
At free safety, the Jaguars are once again devoid of depth. Bell and D’Mekus Cook (shoulder) are out, while Jamaal Martin is still easing his way back from a knee injury.
Wilson started against Texas Southern, was injured but then returned, and he appears to be 100 percent. He may be holding that position for a while, because Bell’s long-term prognosis is not good.
After missing the past two games with a high ankle sprain, he returned to practice Tuesday and appeared to be at full speed on Wednesday. When the team lined up for its final drill of the day — the two minute drill — Bell broke on a pass to Mike Berry, hit the receiver and fell to the ground, clutching his knee.
He stayed down on the field, received attention from team trainers and later fell down when trying to stand on it.
Bell was carried off the field by defensive backs coaches Manny Martin and Lionel Mitchell, and Odums said he was due for evaluation by a doctor to determine how severe the injury was.
Bell ranks eighth on the team with 19 tackles. Cook is 10th with 15 tackles and an interception.
The patchwork unit will go up against a UAPB offense that ranks eighth in the SWAC in passing offense (157.8 yards per game, 6.1 yards per attempt, six touchdowns) and fifth in efficiency (51.9 completion percentage, five interceptions).
Ladarius Eckwood is the Golden Lions’ top receiver, ranking fourth in the league at 56 yards per game. He averages 14 yards per catch.