Another important step in the start of the Dawson Odums era at Southern arrives Tuesday when the football team begins spring practice.
The Jaguars will be on the field for 15 practices in the next four weeks. The spring game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 23.
“Coming out of spring ball, I think we’ll have a better gauge of what kind of football team we’re going to have,” Odums said. “I think this football team is only going to be as good as it believes it can be.”
Odums was awarded the full-time job in December after spending the final nine games of 2012 running the team in an interim capacity. The Jaguars went 4-7 last year and finished 3-6 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, losing three times by a combined five points.
But Odums welcomes back 15 starters — eight on offense, seven on defense — from the team that beat Grambling in last year’s Bayou Classic. Kicker Matthew Hill and punter Chase Tuten are also due back.
Senior quarterback Dray Joseph returns after throwing for 2,511 yards to lead the SWAC in passing.
The list of newcomers includes guard Corey White, who enrolled at Southern last summer after transferring from LSU but has not practiced with the team. He received four-star status coming out of Capitol High, where he played for Southern assistant Chad Germany. White, a sophomore, adds to an offensive line that has starters returning at four of five positions.
“I want to have the best spring I’ve ever had in football,” White said.
Two more transfers also will join Southern for practice and could help the Jaguars address an area of need in the secondary. Dionte McDuffy enters by way of South Alabama after earning all-state honors at Evangel in 2010 and leading the Eagles to their second straight state title. Blake Monroe, a Maryland native, joins the fray after spending one season at Jireh Prep in North Carolina.
Veteran center Aaron Hall will not practice this spring as he continues to recover from the knee injury that cut his 2012 short. Neither will receiver Willie Quinn, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last summer and has yet to be cleared.
Odums said Germany and new offensive line coach Chennis Berry will serve as co-offensive coordinators, but he has not determined who will be the defensive coordinator. Odums said he will not wear a coordinator’s title but will have an active role on the defensive side. Odums was Southern’s defensive coordinator last year before being promoted to interim head coach.
“When we come out of spring ball, I think we’ll be able to solidify what our roles are,” Odums said.
Running back, receiver and defensive back should be positions that feature plenty of competition during the spring.
At receiver, Lee Doss returns for his senior year, but Southern must replace a pair of playmakers in Charles Hawkins and Michael Berry. Cornerback Johnathan Mack and strong safety Levi Jackson were seniors last year, and Odums said redshirt freshman running back Leonard Tillery, a former McKinley standout, could be an emerging star.
“If he stays healthy, I really believe in him because of the characteristics he shows on a day-to-day basis,” Odums said. “I really think he has some special qualities.”
Odums said Wynton Perro moved from safety back to quarterback and will back up Joseph this spring. A pair of quarterbacks from the 2013 class, including Southern Lab’s Deonte Shorts, are set to arrive in the fall.