Friday is the first official day of preseason football practice for Southern.
But it’s really just a resumption of the work the Jaguars have been doing during the summer.
“We’ll just be adding a helmet,” senior defensive back Jaleel Richardson said as the team reported Thursday afternoon. “It’s same ole, same ole.”
Of course, the coaching staff is being added to the mix, things are a little more structured and the season opener at Louisiana-Lafayette on Aug. 30 is getting closer.
But virtually all of the players have been together for weeks of voluntary workouts. The participants numbered 107, 30 more than last summer.
“It’s pretty crazy to have over 100 guys here,” senior guard Zach Brown said. “My first year here we had maybe 20 and to see us having 100 guys, some who haven’t been playing football and some who have been here four or five years, it’s amazing.
“Every day you’re out there with 50 people at least working out next to you because we had the two workout groups. You knew who wanted to win a SWAC Championship with you by their presence here.”
Southern is working to win a second consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship. Last year’s success contributed to the increased involvement in the workouts.
Richardson joined midway through after completing a summer internship. He said he was struck by the atmosphere as soon as he arrived in early July.
“It was a champion atmosphere,” he said. “We’re ready to get another ring.”
Richardson said he expects a similar feeling when workouts resume Friday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a totally different frame of mind (from a year ago) for everybody because we worked so hard last year not knowing what the outcome would be,” he said. “But now we’ve seen that hard work actually pays off and what the end result is. So if we bust our butt through the summer and through camp, (we know) what the end result will be in December.”
Coach Dawson Odums said last season’s success, as well as the challenge of opening against a Division I opponent for a third consecutive season, motivated the players.
“We understand how difficult that’s going to be,” he said. “You’re coming off a winning season. You’re coming off a championship season. So the morale is already high, the expectations are high and the bar has been raised.
“Overall I like the way the morale is, I like the strength and conditioning. So I think everybody is excited about the first day.”
The summer work gave the players a head-start on something Odums said will be one of the most important aspects of preseason camp — acclimating the returning players and newcomers to one another.
“We expect our guys to really develop from a chemistry standpoint,” he said. “I think that’s going to be most important in this camp. We’ve got a lot of familiar faces coming back but we’ve also added some faces that were not here so to put together that bond for us in the first part of camp is going to be an important goal for us.”
Brown participated in the summer workouts, which ended July 25, after missing spring practice while he recovered from surgery on his right shoulder.
“It’s been a while since I played because I was out for the spring. I’m ready to get back in it,” he said. “Pretty much everybody was here this summer. Everybody has been grinding all spring and summer. We’re ready.”
Two players who were expected to report Thursday did not arrive, but are expected shortly. Senior DL Jaylen Jordan was involved in a minor car accident on his way to Baton Rouge from Houston. Sophomore OL Neako Jones was delayed by a personal matter. … Junior LB Treyveon Evans of Las Vegas will not return to the team because of a personal matter and sophomore WR Jordan Bracy of Mesquite, Texas, has left the team. Junior WR Nyle Johnson of Dunham is not in camp due to an academic issue.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.