Repeating this week what he’d stated several times already, Stump Mitchell said his first season at Southern University didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I wanted to win every game here last year. I thought we could have done that,” said Mitchell, whose first season as the Jaguars football coach ended with a 2-9 record^=the worst in school history.
“I thought we could’ve been successful. What I didn’t know was the habits of the players. Some habits, they take a long time to break.”
Mitchell enters the second year of his three-year contract with SU, and Tuesday afternoon, even Mitchell conceded he needs a notable turnaround to prove his program is on the right path.
Still, Mitchell said he’s undeterred, and very happy to be at Southern.
“We needed to break some bad habits,” he said. “Most of the guys are beyond that. Most of the guys are beyond making excuses for not getting something done. And they’re starting to get things done.”
So, too, is Mitchell, who’s taking on a heavy workload between now and the beginning of preseason camp.
Replacing two assistants
Mitchell said he hasn’t officially filled out his coaching staff, but said he expects to have a full staff in place “in the next week or two.”
Southern lost two assistants after spring practice. Longtime receivers coach Eric Dooley left to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Gerald Carr, who joined the staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this spring, left after only a few months.
SU has also worked without a strength and conditioning coach since Thomas Hall left for a similar post at Alcorn State.
Replacing kickers, Ackley
If that weren’t enough, Mitchell said graduate assistant Breck Ackley has left “for another school.” Ackley, a former SU kicker and the school’s all-time leading scorer, is pursuing a master’s degree and had to find a school that offered his major.
Last season, Ackley worked almost exclusively with place-kicker William Griswold III and punter Josh Duran, who are now also gone.
Griswold sat out spring practice and returned home to Tampa, Fla., after the spring semester. His father, William Jr., said Griswold doesn’t intend to return to SU.
Griswold, a freshman last year, was 25-for-25 on extra points and 15-for-20 on field-goal attempts.
Duran, a senior last season, led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in yards per punt (41.6).
Old faces return
In more encouraging news, Mitchell said several veterans who sat out last season are now in position to re-join the team this fall. Among them:
•Defensive tackle Dexter James, academically ineligible last season, should return.
James, a fifth-year senior from Brusly, made 42 tackles and 5? sacks from 2007-09, flip-flopping between tackle and end.
“We’ll be asking a lot of him,” Mitchell said.•Running back Byron Williams, who took part in spring practice, will return, albeit in a limited role.
“I don’t think he caught on as fast as we would’ve loved for him to,” Mitchell said. “But I think he was taking 21 hours, and he did a tremendous job to make sure he’s eligible.”
Still, Mitchell said Williams could fill an “immediate need” as a kick returner.
Williams averaged a team-high 24.2 yards per kickoff return in 2009, when he scored SU’s only special-teams touchdown.
•Offensive lineman Clinton Boyd should be ready to play. Boyd, an Atlanta native, signed with SU in 2009 and earned praise from then-coach Pete Richardson in preseason camp, but ultimately redshirted.
Boyd was academically ineligible last season. He will be a third-year sophomore.
•Cornerback Kevin King, a true freshman last season, is on schedule to return. King, a Jacksonville, Fla., native who was rated the nation’s No. 124 cornerback prospect by ESPN in 2010, practiced early in preseason camp last year, but was ruled ineligible.
•Linebacker Lynnon Coleman will probably not return, Mitchell said.
Coleman had 15 tackles and one forced fumble as a true freshman in 2009. He was academically ineligible last fall.
•Also, Mitchell said linebacker Jamie Payton, a Dutchtown High graduate, has transferred from NAIA Lambuth University, where he posted 226 tackles, 12 sacks and four interceptions from 2008-10.
“He’ll play some linebacker for us, and he’s going to make it very competitive for these guys,” Mitchell said.
Payton needed a new home because Lambuth, a private school in Jackson, Tenn., is closing down June 30 after 168 years.
Mitchell said he expects “five or six newcomers, not necessarily freshmen, that I anticipate coming here and having a phenomenal year.” ... Mitchell still wants to raise money for artificial turf in A.W. Mumford Stadium, though a new field would be in place in 2012 at the earliest. “We’re going to have a meeting this week with some influential people in the community,” he said. ... Players will report for preseason camp Aug. 3.