There are several important things to be on the lookout for when Southern University faces UL-Lafayette at Cajun Field on Saturday. Here are the top three.
Southern University redshirt freshman Deonte Shorts will make not only his first start at quarterback, but his college football debut after sitting out the 2013 season. Shorts' strength is certainly his athleticism and ability to make plays with his feet. As a true freshman a year ago, Shorts impressed many in fall camp and developed a little faster than most thought, so the knowledge of the offense is there. Jaguar head coach Dawson Odums said his quarterback must display good decision making and that's where Shorts can really show how far he's developed since high school. There's no doubt he'll be tested early and often by a veteran Ragin' Cajuns defense. However, it's about getting him game experience right now.
The Jaguars will also give true freshman quarterback Austin Howard a few reps. Howard, who led the West St. John Rams a year ago, earned the second spot on the depth chart with a strong fall camp. While also considered a quarterback with athleticism and mobility, Howard made some very impressive throws throughout August. When a team has no quarterbacks with game experience, it's a good idea to prepare for anything. Getting Howard experience is crucial for future development.
And then, there's the gun slinger across from the Jaguars. Baton Rouge native Terrance Broadway enters his senior season leading UL-Lafayette with plenty of weapons around him. Picked as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference, Broadway has high expectations from both fans and himself. However, he said none of the accolades have changed his approach. Also considered a dual-threat quarterback, Broadway could provide more than a few highlights Saturday night at Cajun Field.
The Jaguars' Running Back Depth:
Running back is the position that we haven't really heard much on, as far as a true depth chart. And Jaguar Nation, that's a good thing. The team is loaded in the backfield. As 2013's leading rusher by miles and with his knowledge of the offense, former McKinley Panther Lenard Tillery can be expected to be in the game quite a bit. But, with some of the transfers we've talked about all summer, like Malcolm Crockett from Pittsburgh, Jamarcus Jarvis from North Texas and more, whoever gets “hot” can see more carries come their way.
Tyre Bracken, a former Warrick Dunn Award finalist from White Castle, joins the Jags from Southern Miss and can only be described in one word: explosive. We saw more and more of him as camp progressed, most notably taking snaps in Jags' “wildcat” formation, along with wide receiver Justin Morgan. Herb Edwards, John West and even fullback Brian McCain could also contribute.
The Defensive Secondary:
There's no hiding the youth at defensive back, but don't overlook the raw talent and depth. Secondary coach Marty Biagi called it the deepest it's been since he's joined the Jaguars. They were ball hawks throughout the entire fall camp. A pair of seniors, De'Andre Woodland and Kevin King, will start at corner. However, be sure to look at No. 10 when he steps in. Danny Johnson, a true freshman from East Feliciana, is a flat out playmaker. He's been all over receivers breaking up passes and pulling down some spectacular interceptions, not to mention fielding punts as well.
Like many modern defenses, Southern could trot three safeties onto the field in Dionte McDuffy, Renaldo Thomas and Rhaheim Ledbetter. McDuffy is a proven difference maker, more times than not ending up in the right place at the right time to force turnovers. Standing at 6'4”, Thomas, the transfer from Tulane, brings some needed length to the secondary. Closer to the line of scrimmage, Ledbetter's motor to get after the quarterback has to be noticed. He and senior linebacker Daniel Brown should make life tough on opposing offenses throughout the year.
The atmosphere in Lafayette on Saturday will be huge. Both teams come off conference titles and both are as hungry as ever to get back on the field. There should be no shortage of big plays, so IF you can get in the stadium, pick those trips to the concession stand carefully.
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