BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Wearing a purple necktie to go with his dapper gray suit, Prairie View’s Heishma Northern, flanked by two players, strolled into a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday morning, making his big debut as a head football coach.
Northern, the former Glen Oaks standout and Southern safety, took a seat and took in the scene at the annual Southwestern Athletic Conference media day.
This, he thought to himself, is really something else.
Directly across the room, there sat the one and only Doug Williams, back for his second stint at Grambling. Northern used to work for Williams - first at Morehouse, then at Grambling.
Next to Williams was the man in shades, Melvin Spears, who’s now at Alcorn State. Spears and Northern worked together at Grambling, and Spears was head coach there from 2004-06, after Williams left.
In the far corner was Houma native Karl Morgan, the second-year coach at Mississippi Valley State.
Morgan was an assistant coach at SU in the early ‘90s. He coached Northern as a player.
Yes, the ties that bind are abundant these days in the SWAC.
“It’s sort of funny when you think about it,” Northern said. “There’s some different dynamics ... but I think we all get along pretty well. All those things make bonds. Yeah, it can be testy at times. But I don’t think it’s going to ever be personal.”
Williams, reflecting on the ties that bind, used words like “rewarding” and “fulfilling” as he looked at Spears and Northern.
He said it felt good to know that two of his former assistants are worthy of head-coaching jobs, adding that he’s happy for them.
Of course, friendships take a back seat to winning.
“There won’t be any putting the dogs in the truck early,” Northern said. “We’re going to keep on hunting.”
Joseph begins as No. 1 QB
Sophomore Dray Joseph will enter preseason camp as Southern’s No. 1 quarterback, ahead of junior Jeremiah McGinty and incoming freshman J.P. Douglas, coach Stump Mitchell said Tuesday.
Joseph (1,117 yards, five TDs, four INTs) and McGinty (1,271 yards, nine TDs, six INTs) flip-flopped during much of last season, but Mitchell said Joseph has an edge because McGinty missed spring practice with an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder.
“There’s no question that Jeremiah is the better runner, and he probably could be the better passer. But his focus has to be a little better,” Mitchell said. “It’s no question Jeremiah is the most talented quarterback that we have on staff. But right now, I think we’ll have more success with Dray, until Jeremiah improves in some areas.”
No matter who starts, Mitchell said, the team must be more efficient in its passing attack. SU quarterbacks completed only 47 percent of their passes last season.
Mitchell said he also likes Douglas, a native of Roswell, Ga., who has a strong arm and will enter SU with 15 credit-hours already on his transcript.
Only two Southern players landed on the preseason All-SWAC team, which was announced Tuesday.
Left tackle Chris Browne, a two-year starter from Cleveland, made the first team. Byron Williams - who had 242 kick return yards in 2009, but was academically ineligible last season.
Also, voters picked SU to finish fifth in the Western Division.
Will these snubs motivate the Jaguars? Maybe.
“(The voting) means absolutely nothing,” Mitchell said. “My guys have worked extremely hard. And I think some of the names that you called will still be there. But some of them will be replaced by guys from my team.”
New (old) look for SU
Mitchell confirmed that Southern will sport a new look this season - one that’s actually old-fashioned. The Jaguars are going back to Columbia blue, the original school color.
Equipment manager Derek Price suggested the look and has ordered the uniforms. Mitchell said he doesn’t know exact details, but the home jerseys will be Columbia blue, with royal-blue numerals.
SU wore similar jerseys in the 2008 Bayou Classic. Mitchell and his assistants wore Columbia polos on the sideline last year.
“I’m not exactly sure what coach Price has got up his sleeve. ... But I think the whole athletic department is going back to that,” Mitchell said. “So of course, I wasn’t going to oppose it.”