Southern football notebook: Conditioning test proves too challenging for 30 players

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON --  The Southern Jaguars defense hits the blocking sled as they kick off preseason camp with their first practice of the year on Thursday in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The Southern Jaguars defense hits the blocking sled as they kick off preseason camp with their first practice of the year on Thursday in Baton Rouge.

Before hitting the practice field Thursday afternoon for their first workout of fall camp, Southern’s football players reported in the morning to go through preseason conditioning tests.

Coach Dawson Odums said 65 of the 95 players in camp passed.

Of the 30 who did not, Odums said 23 were not on campus to participate in Southern’s summer strength and conditioning program.

“That really goes to show you why it’s important to have those guys here in the summer,” Odums said. “It’s so important to have those guys here over the summer.”

The conditioning tests included a series of 12 100-yard sprints for all players, with a 22-second break in between.

Players were required to complete the sprints in different times depending on the position they play.

Odums said the players who failed would do extra conditioning work during and after practice.

He said they would be tested again early next week.

All players joined Southern for practice Thursday whether they passed or not.

“They’re not far off,” Odums said of the players who fell short.

“I think they’re in good enough condition to practice.”

Feel the heat

Odums kept with a personal tradition of wearing his sweatshirt to the practice field during fall camp.

The odd attire is a way for Odums to share with his players in the mental challenge of blocking out the heat. He also said he does it in hopes of shedding a few pounds.

“Those type of things send a great example to the players,” Southern quarterback Dray Joseph said. “You see his sweat begin to seep through that sweatshirt, (and) you start to realize that it’s not just hot for us.”

In addition to the gray Southern sweatshirt, Odums sported a straw hat much like the one often worn by Alabama coach Nick Saban.

But most of the conversation was about the sweatshirt.

“You’re only going to sweat if you get hot,” Odums said.

“I’m a cool kind of guy, so I think I’ll keep my temperature down.”

Back to work

Southern returns to the practice field, again in helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads, for a 4:30 p.m. workout Friday.

The Jaguars have their first practice in shoulder pads Saturday and are slated to go in full pads Monday. The first of five two-a-day sessions is Tuesday, with one practice in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Fall camp concludes Aug. 17.

Well-read

Many of the Southern players likely will spend their spare time during fall camp in front of a TV screen holding video game controllers.

Joseph is not one of them.

The senior brought with him “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” which he purchased at a local bookstore before camp.

“As a quarterback, I like to challenge myself mentally,” he said.

This is the second year in a row he has brought reading material with him to fall camp. Last year, Joseph said he read “Strength to Love” by Martin Luther King.

Fields a concern

Odums said the fact that Southern’s practice fields remain in poor condition could force the Jaguars to hold some practices inside A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Also, Odums said several players are wearing tape and braces on their ankles to avoid injury.

Odums recalled that Southern lost running backs Sylvester Nzekwe and Jerry Joseph to injury last year during camp. Nzweke suffered an ankle injury, and Joseph hurt a knee.

“We lost two running backs right here on our practice field,” Odums said. “When you get hurt because your playing surface is not adequate, I really think that raises some questions.”

Odums said he would like to see Southern make upgrades to the practice fields or replace them with an artificial surface.