Most of the players who checked in Wednesday at Southern didn’t have much catching up to do.
First-year coach Dawson Odums said more than 70 of the 95 players who reported for fall camp were active members of Southern’s conditioning and weight program this summer. Odums said the number was in the 20s last year.
“I’m excited about it,” Odums said. “I think it creates a lot of excitement for our football program and really gives us a chance to create some continuity with all those guys having been here this summer.”
Odums said he believes the increase in participation will show when Southern conducts conditioning tests Thursday morning. Quarterback Dray Joseph said he thinks it will show on game day as well.
“When you get on the field and it’s fourth-and-1 and you see that player that you worked out with all summer, you understand you have been there before and you’re grinding together,” he said. “So let’s get it done.”
Clayton not in camp
Junior running back Terence Clayton, a speedster who has split time as a sprinter on the Southern track and field team, was not among the players who reported Wednesday.
Odums said Clayton’s absence was related to academic issues.
“He’s got to do some stuff once he gets back into school,” he said. “But as of right now, he is not on the football team.”
Clayton played in 11 games last year, rushing for 107 yards on 25 carries. He was expected to push redshirt freshman Lenard Tillery and senior Darrius Coleman for playing time.
Freshmen off limits
Falling in line with the practice of many college coaches, Odums will not make freshmen available to reporters this season.
Odums said the reason for keeping the freshmen off-limits is that he believes they need a year to find their way.
“Coming out of high school, that’s probably something they didn’t have to go through,” he said. “It’s tough when you’re playing as a freshman, trying to adjust to college football. They’ve got enough to deal with as it is. Coming into your sophomore year, you’re a little more mature.”
DC by committee
Odums said he made the decision not to name a defensive coordinator because he wanted all of the defensive coaches to be involved.
He compared the approach to a offensive staff in which every coach on that side of the ball has a say. Odums will call the defensive plays on game days.
“I think I’ve got some good guys around me,” Odums said. “You spread the responsibilities around, and you come together. Everybody has a role in putting those game plans together. You try to do what’s best.”
Promoted to interim head coach two games into last season, Odums entered 2012 as the defensive coordinator after serving as a defensive assistant under Stump Mitchell the year before.
Soden to get a shot
The player from the 2013 recruiting class with the best shot at making an early impact may not be on offense or defense.
Odums said freshman punter Paul Randle Soden could step right in for the Jaguars if the Bainbridge, Ga., product has an impressive camp.
“I really think it’s going to be interesting to see how he develops,” he said.
The top competition for Soden is senior Matthew Hill, who handled place-kicking duties in 2012 and is a candidate to serve in that capacity again.
Chase Tuten averaged 36.1 yards on 55 punts as a freshman last year, but he gave up football and transferred.