Defense shines in Southern scrimmage

The opening play of Saturday’s scrimmage was a telling sign of what was to come in the first of two intrasquad scrimmages for the Southern football team this preseason.

Quarterback Wynton Perro and tailback Darius Coleman muffed the exchange on the opening drive resulting in a turnover, one of five on the day for the Southern offense.

“I think on offense we did an average job as a whole,” co-offensive coordinator Chadwick Germany said. “Tempo and execution are two things we want to get better at by the time we have our next scrimmage. We want to play fast.”

One of the reasons the offense may have struggled in Saturday’s scrimmage could be credited to the absence of senior All-Southwestern Athletic Conference receiver Lee Doss, who played a part in Saturday’s scrimmage, just from the sideline.

“Coach sat me out because even though he knows I’m not on the field, he knows I’ll get my mental work in and I’ll help out the other guys,” Doss said. “Instead of me being negative for sitting out, I looked at it as a positive and tried to help the other guys to make the whole team better.”

Southern coach Dawson Odums preached positivity to the offense following the scrimmage.

“We won’t hold this against them,” Odums said. “We’ll make our positive criticisms, and then we’ll come back out here next week and see if we can get better.”

The entire camp, Odums has made it clear to his team to learn and move on from mistakes while maintaining a positive attitude.

“Our guys have to push through,” Odums said. “This is a camp where we stay positive. We’d just like to see better execution and more positive plays.”

The scrimmage provided plenty of positive plays from a defense that forced eight three-and-outs.

“I thought the defense did some great things,” Odums said. “We flew around to the football. We made some hits.”

Junior linebacker Antonio Garrett collected eight tackles and half a sack in the scrimmage.

“We’re an attacking style defense,” Odums said. “We scaled back the defense last year, but we finally got the whole package in. It’s good to have these guys back for year two. You can see the difference. They’re comfortable with what they’re doing.”

Odums’ defense is anchored by a strong veteran presence that he’s looking to rely on this season.

“Our defensive line is a veteran group, and they’ve played a lot of snaps,” Odums said. “It’s exciting to have that depth up front.”

A member of that group, sophomore Justin Woods, led the way with 1.5 sacks in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Sophomore transfer safety Dionte McDuffy displayed his grasp of Odums’ system during the scrimmage with two interceptions, including one in the red zone which prevented the offense from scoring.

“On red zone stands, I think if you’re going to be a good defense you have to be real good on third down and in the red zone,” Odums said. “If you’re good in those areas, you have a chance to be great on defense.”

McDuffy met junior wide receiver Sam Altman across the middle just as the pass arrived on one play, applying a blow to Altman’s sternum. However, he was penalized on the play, a call Odums was none too pleased with.

“It’s not the defense’s fault that the quarterback puts receivers in defenseless positions,” Odums said. “I think that targeting penalty will be under fire all year long. Coaches, fans, I think everyone’s going to question that rule.”

Odums continued by commenting on areas that he’d like to see McDuffy improve in before the season starts.

“His thing is that he’s got to get in better shape,” Odums said. “He didn’t come into camp in the greatest shape. But I think every day he’s gotten better. He’s a great football player. He’s probably one of the better safeties on our team and in the league. He’s just got to get into shape so his talent can show.”

On offense, senior quarterback Dray Joseph went 18-for-26 for 169 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. The touchdown went to Willie Quinn, whos is listed at 5-foot-6 but played much bigger in Saturday’s scrimmage.

With junior Bradley Brown and Doss sitting out, Quinn, who was academically ineligible last season, hauled in nine passes for 109 yards, including a 43-yard pass down the sideline from Joseph and a simple out route on which Quinn made three defenders miss to score a 13-yard touchdown.

“He’s a playmaker,” Odums said. “You get the ball in his hands, and he makes plays. His size does not matter. He’s a football player. I’m just happy he’s on our team.”

The offense will have another opportunity next Saturday in the team’s last scrimmage to prove their progression before the first game of the season against Houston on Aug. 30.

“I think the offense will be ready by the time we kick it off in the fall,” Germany said.