South Alabama Football Notes: Preparations continue for ODU this Thanksgiving week

The last week of the college football regular season is always a little casual due to the Thanksgiving holiday that falls on Thursday.

South Alabama continued training for Saturday’s home final against Old Dominion on Wednesday morning, then settles again early Thursday. Players will then be dismissed for the rest of the day so they can enjoy the afternoon and evening with friends and family before reconvening for the final settlement on Friday.

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“We’re having a big Thanksgiving meal downtown Friday for everyone, including seniors and their families,” said coach Kane Wommack. “(Thursday) we’re going to have a big grab and go breakfast for them, and then we’re going to get some practice so they can take off. Those who are from the area can go home, and those who can’t cook their own meals or go to the bus houses for Thanksgiving.

South Alabama (9-2, 6-1 Sun Belt) hosts Old Dominion (3-8, 2-5) Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hancock Whitney Stadium. More than 18 Jaguars players will be honored at a pre-game Senior Day ceremony.

• Observant South Alabama football observers might notice that when Diego Guajardo lines up for an extra point or field goal, he does it eight yards beyond the line of scrimmage, rather than seven yards, which is standard at all levels of football.

Wommack said it’s very intentional, both in terms of preferring Guajardo and keeping opponents from blocking his kicks. It’s something he first learned during his tenure as an assistant professor at Indiana.

“(Guajardo) doesn’t care, and from an angular standpoint, the trajectory of the ball, it’s a lot harder to get a block from eight yards than it is from seven,” Wommack said. “It’s based on a study we did a few years ago. We did it a couple times at Indiana, and then we brought some of that stuff back here as well. Some are seven and a half years old, others eight. A yardstick typically won’t make a difference in whether you miss or make it.

This season, Guajardo is 15-of-16 on shooting from the field and 41-of-42 on extra points, and has yet to concede a blocked shot.

• Quarterback Carter Bradley injured his left shoulder (which he wasn’t throwing) on ​​a second-quarter touchdown pass last week at Southern Miss, but he wasn’t the only Jaguar to be hit on the play.

Wide receiver Jalen Wayne tripped while catching Bradley’s 5-yard pass and slid into a concrete sidewall at MM Roberts Stadium. His helmet hit the wall first, but his right knee may have taken the brunt of it.

“I was trying to get in with two feet and I fell,” Wayne said. “I thought they had padding on the wall so I’d be fine to slide in it. Then as soon as I hit it I found it was concrete and I slammed my knee. I hit my head too, but I had a helmet on, so it didn’t hurt too much. But my knee still hurts.”

Wayne — who leads the Jaguars this season in receptions (53), yards (732) and touchdown catches (8) — was on all fours for a while before running off the field. After a brief visit to the injury tent, he remained in the game.

Bradley briefly left the lineup later in the quarter but returned in the second half to finish the game without further incident. He threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns and should be in the lineup Saturday against the Old Dominion.

• South Alabama’s safety-positioned group was a bit of a mess early in the Southern Miss game, starting with the first-half rover Jalen Jordan being sent off with a sustained suspension of aiming from the previous week.

Then, just a few plays into the game, Rickey Hyatt – Jordan’s replacement – was himself ejected for targeting. CJ Thompson filled in for Hyatt and was injured after making a tackle.

That left the Jaguars with freshman Tremel States-Jones on the field at nickel safety with the game on the line for the first time this season. The normal nickel safety Yam Banks switched to free safety and Jaden Voisin free safety switched to rover.

Voisin went on to have the best game of his career, finishing with 17 tackles and one interception. He was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

“He played really well,” South Alabama safeties coach/defensive coordinator Corey Batoon said of Voisin. “I think you saw the anticipation and understanding he has of the system and the ability to get into position at the point of attack.

“The (interception) was a really great play. He saw the shooters on the offensive line and he got busy running, he saw the quarterback throw the ball and he was able to get into that pitching lane and have a good play. I’m really excited to see his continued development, his acceptance of what we’re trying to do schematically and culturally. I’m really happy with his game.”

South Alabama played all year without three-year starting free safety Keith Gallmon, who suffered a season-ending pectoral muscle tear during preseason camp. Sophomore safety Marvin Martin was seriously injured after colliding with a teammate in practice in late October and is continuing to rehab after a spinal injury.

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