The Southern scout team isn’t as talented as it was last season, and that should be a big boost for the Jaguars.
Three key players — linebacker Daniel Brown, offensive lineman Anthony Mosley and wide receiver Nico Talbert — were relegated to the scout team while they were academically ineligible last season.
But each is back in good academic standing for this season, and they were always in good athletic standing.
Mosley is a preseason All-Southwestern Athletic Conference player for the second consecutive season, Brown led the team in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (5.5) when he last played two years ago, and Talbert was a potential starter before being sidelined last year.
“I think a lot of people that are outside of the program don’t really know what kind of players those guys are,” coach Dawson Odums said. “Not only are they good football players, they’re leaders in our locker room.
“It’s kind of hard to be a leader when you know your season is over and you’re not going to be playing in that year. I think having those three guys back is going to pay dividends not only to our performance on the field but also to our leadership in the locker room, because they’re all playmakers, and they’re vocal guys.”
Odums has credited Brown and Talbert, who are seniors, and Mosley, a junior, for the hard work they put in on the scout team last season, doing what they could to help the team, even though weren’t able to participate in games.
The first two days of this preseason camp, it has been easy to spot the three, who have had a spring in their step and have contributed significantly to the on-field chatter.
“I think they’re so excited to finally be playing,” Odums said. “When you see those guys playing out there, you can see the leadership. It’s just great to have three more guys that know what to do on the field.”
The trio still led by example on the scout team by the way they went about their business, mimicking players on upcoming opponents.
“The players saw me still working hard, practicing hard, still going full throttle every day,” Brown said. “So they still got confidence, because even though I wasn’t able to play, they knew that when I was able to play I was going to bring my full effort.”
Brown and end Arthur Miley, who was a senior, was expected to be the defensive leaders last season. In Brown’s absence, linebacker Demetrius Carter emerged as the team’s leading tackler and will line up next to Brown this season.
“He adds another dimension to the defense that was not there before in terms of toughness and leadership,” Carter said of Brown. “He’s a senior, so he’s been on the defense for four years. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Odums suggested Jaguars opponents would be well advised to grab some tape from two seasons ago to bone up on the three returning players, especially Brown.
“We know when it’s time for us to buckle up the chinstraps, we’re going to get his best. And his best is good enough,” Odums said. “It’s exciting to have an edge rusher like that. If teams have not seen him on film, they’ll get to see him this year. He’s pretty good.”
Mosley, who’s the starting right guard, said he was still able to improve individually while he sat out.
“I gained good weight, which I needed,” Mosley said. “I got a chance to look at things outside the box, and it made me a better player.
“When we were winning, I felt it. And when we lost, it hurt me too. At the same time, I saw the mistakes, and the next practice, I’d go back and work on it. I saw the concepts and I saw the strategy, and that made me into a better player.”
Talbert plays one of the deepest positions on the team, but his return is still significant because the Jaguars often use three or four receivers at a time.
“The hardest part for me last year was seeing my teammates out there and not being out there with them,” Talbert said. “It really hurt to not be out there and play with my teammates and not be able to help them.
“There’s competition every day. We all push each other. I think I’m getting right back on point.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.