BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Southwestern Athletic Conference’s football coaches haven’t forgotten about Anthony Mosley.
They voted the Southern offensive lineman a first-team preseason All-SWAC player for the second consecutive year Friday even though he sat out last season as an academic casualty.
“I’m glad to have him back,” Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said. “I think (the coaches) knew when they heard the name. It was unfortunate for him, but he’s still got this year and next year, and I just told him to make the best of it.”
Odums said two other key players who were academically ineligible last season — linebacker Daniel Brown and receiver Nico Talbert — are also back for Southern, which was picked second in the SWAC West, receiving a mere two points fewer than Grambling.
Mosley was a key player when the Jaguars won the SWAC championship two years ago, but he was relegated to the scout team last season as they won another West Division title before losing to Alcorn State in the SWAC title game.
“It kind of shocked me,” Mosley said of his selection. “I still feel like the underdog. But preseason is nothing; it’s all about the after-the-season awards. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to be the All-American that I want to be. I’m feeling better than great right now. I’ve had a whole season to work on little things so I can be the best player I can be.”
Mosley not only missed last season, but he also missed spring practice — as did the entire Southern team as it served the final term of a three-year-old set of sanctions for subpar Academic Progress Rates.
“It was a little bit of adversity, but we’re used to all kinds of adversity,” linebacker Demetrius Carter said. “We used it as an opportunity to really attack our strength and conditioning. Adversity like this just makes us stronger. This is our identity. We’re used to overcoming adversity.”
The Jaguars have seen numerous players sidelined by APR issues during the past two years, but that hasn’t prevented them from being one of the elite teams in the SWAC. The league’s coaches and sports information directors predicted they would be in the thick of the West race again.
“I’m surprised they didn’t pick us last because we didn’t have spring ball and we don’t know what kind of team we’re going to have,” Mosley said. “But that’s fine with us. Everybody’s still got to play us.”
Odums said he will receive a progress report on the players’ conditioning this week in preparation for the start of preseason practice Aug. 3.
“I like what I see from the guys,” he said. “I think we’re ahead of the curve, and we’re just excited to be able to do football again.”
Carter said the players made the most of the time they had in the offseason, but the one thing they couldn’t replicate was the 15 full-squad practices that never happened.
“We spent more time watching film and becoming better students of the game,” he said. “We spent some time running drills on our own. But that’s no different than what we do at home. There’s a lot of built-up tension, a lot of built-up aggression. I think I can speak for my teammates when I say we all want to get out there and put on those pads and go hit.”
Odums said the coaches have to allow for the lack of spring practice when they conduct preseason practice.
“They missed so much that we’ve got to do some things to get that physical toughness and that mental toughness back in our program, but they’re ready to play football,” Odums said. “We’re going to have to channel their energy in a positive way so we don’t get somebody hurt because they’re out of control. They??ll be happy to be in pads; they’ll be happy to be in camp. They’ll be excited for the opportunity.”
Nobody more so than Mosley.
“Hitting that field is going to be a great feeling,” he said. “We haven’t hit each other or anyone else is like six or seven months, so there’s going to be a whole lot of stress relief going on.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.