Southern figures to be the center of attention during Southwestern Athletic Conference media day Friday in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Jaguars are the reigning conference champions, and coach Dawson Odums is one of just six incumbent coaches among the 10 in attendance. He’s operating under a new four-year contract the university gave him in anticipation of long-term success being built after Southern’s first conference title in 10 years.
The spotlight that will shine Friday is merely preparation for what the Jaguars will face on the field in the fall.
“I think that’s a good thing. Every team would want to have that problem,” Odums said. “We’ll be ready to handle it. We’ll get our mindset to a point where being targeted doesn’t faze us.”
The Jaguars report to campus July 31 and begin preseason preparations the following day. The season begins Aug. 31 at Louisiana-Lafayette, and Southern begins defense of its SWAC title when it visits Prairie View on Sept. 20.
The SWAC will announce its preseason all-conference teams as well as the teams’ predicted order of finish. The defending champions don’t have any all-SWAC first-teamers returning. Their only first-team picks last season were seniors: quarterback Dray Joseph and wide receiver Lee Doss.
“We understand the holes that we’ve got to fill, but I think we have a philosophy in place,” Odums said. “Around here, it’s all about the right chemistry from a character standpoint because you have to understand the Southern way. We have a new way of doing things, and it starts with discipline — nobody’s above that. I just believe that whoever you put into a disciplined program will fall right into place.”
The Jaguars were picked to finish second in the SWAC before getting off to a slow start last season. They began with back-to-back lopsided losses at Houston and Northwestern State before turning things around.
Southern won nine of its final 11 games and ended the season on a five-game winning streak.
“Now comes a new expectation,” Odums said. “I really believe we were a year ahead of the curve. I think we accomplished some great things as a team last year, but we have a pretty good team coming back, too.
“Will the pieces fall together like they did this year? Time will tell, but we’ll definitely have the right mindset to be contenders.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.