Now that the season has ended, Southern football coach Dawson Odums and his staff can focus on building next year’s team.
The Jaguars are expecting somewhere from seven to 10 prospects to visit campus as they ramp up their recruiting efforts this week.
Though Southern came up short in its quest to win a second consecutive SWAC championship last Saturday, it raised its profile among recruits the last two weekends.
It qualified for the SWAC title game by beating Grambling in the Bayou Classic, which was televised by NBC on Nov. 29. Its 38-24 loss to Alcorn State in the title game was televised by ESPNU.
“The visibility of playing on a big stage gives you a chance to market your brand,” Odums said. “We played on TV back-to-back weeks, so it gave people a chance to see if this is where they want to play. It definitely gives you some visibility to some places that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach.”
Odums said Southern’s recruiting priorities are the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary, the areas hardest hit by graduation.
The Jaguars are losing the right side of their offensive line in guard Zach Brown and tackle Dewayne Houston. The defensive line loses end Arthur Miley, one of the team leaders, and the secondary loses three leaders in cornerbacks Kevin King and D’Andre Woodland and safety Dionte McDuffy.
Odums said 40-50 recruits were on hand to watch the Bayou Classic.
He estimated that the Jaguars will have 14-20 scholarships available, depending on offseason attrition.
Odums said he doesn’t put much stock in verbal commitments, saying he’ll believe someone is part of the signing class when they turn in their paperwork on national signing day on Feb. 4.
“You never know,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear. We’ll put a good class together like we’ve done previously. I see us continuing that.”
Odums said he hopes for “a good mixture” of high-school players and transfers, which Southern had in the 2014 class.
Several newcomers — high-school recruits and transfers — were key contributors as the Jaguars finished 9-4 and won seven consecutive games heading into the SWAC title game.
Quarterback Austin Howard was named SWAC Freshman of the Year and was joined by other true freshmen who had an immediate impact. Starting cornerback Danny Johnson led the team with three interceptions and also had an impact as a return specialist and starting safety Bryan Anderson was the fifth-leading tackler on the team.
Linebacker Kentavious Preston, end Aaron Tiller and safety LeMar Martin played in all 13 games and contributed.
Three running backs had an impact after transferring. Tyre Bracken, a late arrival in August, was the second-leading rusher behind 1,000-yard rusher Lenard Tillery. Malcolm Crockett was No. 3 and Jamarcus Jarvis was next among the running backs.
Rhaheim Ledbetter played in every game and was a starter for much of the season at safety, Martin Henry did the same at linebacker and tight end Montrell Jones was the fifth-leading receiver.
Reggie Travis was the second-leading receiver, but had just one season of eligibility. He, Sam Altman and William Nolan-Waddel are among the 14 seniors, but Randall Menard will return after missing the entire season with a toe injury.
Odums said he’s confident Southern will fill its needs with newcomers, but he also has a few aces up his sleeve.
The Jaguars likely will welcome back a handful of key players who were academically ineligible, further boosting the infusion of talent.
Guard Anthony Mosley, a first-team preseason all-SWAC selection, is eager to play his senior season after taking command of the scout team, something that contributed significantly to the team’s preparation.
Odums also expects to get back linebacker Daniel Brown, wide receiver Nico Talbert and defensive lineman Gerald Brent. Safety Renaldo Thomas and linebacker Detrane Lindsey also could return.
Howard is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, which goes to the top true or redshirt freshman in the FCS. … Defensive back Jamaal Martin was named Southern’s Chief Student Marshall as the undergraduate with the highest GPA in the university. … Southern was ranked third in the final BOXTOROW poll. Alcorn State was No. 1 and Bethune-Cookman was No. 2. The poll is administered by FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW and is voted on by media members around the country who cover HBCU football.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.