ITTA BENA, MS (WAFB) - After Southern's loss in the season opener, here are three things to watch for when the Jaguars open conference play against Mississippi Valley State Thursday night.
1. How QB Austin Howard bounces back:
Speaking with Howard on Tuesday, you could hear it in his voice that he was still upset about Saturday's 62-15 loss at Louisiana Tech. The sophomore West St. John product didn't want to hear the excuses. Even though Louisiana Tech outnumbered the Jaguars in scholarships and size, he said he believed they stood as good of a shot as winning as anyone. But now can he shake that off and focus on the task at hand?
Southern has a national audience to make their resurgence in front of on ESPNU, and if Howard looks as good as he did in fall camp, the blue and gold should be out to a winning start in conference play.
2. Defensive back:
On one side of the field is a lock-down corner in sophomore Danny Johnson. He's already lived up to his first team All-SWAC selection pulling down a pair of interceptions in Ruston. However, the rest of the Jaguar cornerbacks were picked on repeatedly for touchdowns.
With starter Jamar Mitchell still out with a hamstring injury and backup Ki-Jana Curtis leaving the game against Louisiana Tech and questionable this week, that means true freshman Demerio Houston will likely start.
Head coach Dawson Odums praised Houston for learning from some of his mistakes against the Bulldogs, but will also add depth to the position by moving senior wide receiver Justin Morgan to defense as well. Recruited as a DB, Morgan played the position briefly during freshman year and said his athletic ability gives him the edge in coverage. We'll see just how rusty or not he is there very quickly.
3. Willie Quinn:
This is a no-brainer, but it can't go without saying. Wide receiver and return specialist Willie Quinn is the most dynamic player on the field at all times, as evident in the Jaguars' season opener where he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the first quarter.
That was against a Bulldogs team that paid special attention to Quinn, which goes to show that no matter how much you prepare for him, he's so unpredictable and fast that it's nearly impossible to keep him quiet all game long.
Look for Quinn to not only make plays in the return game, but to also have more opportunities within the offense. Southern is so deep at wide receiver that the attention paid to him should open up possibilities for others to make big plays as well.