The dog days of camp have set in, and the Jaguars are dropping like flies.
A slew of Southern players were in shorts Wednesday, with others dressed out but limited.
Most should be back at full speed soon, including receiver Michael Berry (hamstring), running back Sylvester Nzekwe (ankle) and linebackers Detrane Lindsey (knee) and Corry Roy (strained pectoral).
Still more were on the sidelines, making drills a hodgepodge of starters and backups that — while not conducive to team preparation — might help solve some of SU’s depth issues.
“You never know. Some of those guys may have to play,” coach Stump Mitchell said. “They’re not going to cancel the game because all of your starters go down. You have to fill somebody, so it gives these guys an opportunity to get some reps.”
One spot of particular importance was right tackle, where expected starter Taylon Jones was absent with a hand injury that Mitchell said has bothered him for more than a year.
“He had surgery on it last year, and he’s still having problems with it,” Mitchell said. “We’re sending him to see another specialist, and hopefully they can find out what’s going on with it.
“Now one of those other guys gets a chance to play offensive line.”
Redshirt freshman Eric Janeau was one of those other guys on Wednesday.
Working as Jones’ replacement gave the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder a chance to establish himself as a much-needed, reliable backup for the thin offensive line.
As an added precaution, Mitchell said he had the linemen fitted for knee braces on Wednesday.
In good news, middle linebacker Javon Allen returned from a stomach virus, and defensive back D’Mekus Cook looked fully recovered from the groin injury that had limited him, even returning an interception for a touchdown during team drills near the end of practice.
As for the others on the sideline, Mitchell was a bit cryptic.
Asked about the rash of injuries, he paused for a moment and slyly said, “A lot’s new. That’s all I’ll say. A lot’s new. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Kicking battle heating up
Just like the quarterback battle, the starting kicker spot may not be settled until just before the season opener.
Where junior Matthew Hill had the upper hand early over freshman Gregory Pittman, Mitchell said the newcomer is starting to make more of a push, which he hopes will spur Hill.
“Today (Pittman) was better kicking field goals than Matt,” Mitchell said. “Now that Matt sees him kicking the way he’s capable of, we’ll see if Matt can be much better than he was last year. I think he can, but he can’t worry about Greg. He just has to control what he does.”
Mitchell praised the special teams unit as a whole for its play Wednesday.
In addition to Pittman’s resurgence, freshman punter Chase Tuten was booming his kicks more consistently than earlier in camp, which Mitchell sees as a sign that they’re recovering from the fatigue of an increased workload during training camp.