Southern struggled with its pass defense early last season, but that hasn’t been the case through three games in 2016.

The Jaguars are currently leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference and are ranked No. 16 among all FCS schools in pass defense efficiency at 100.21.

Last season, the Jaguars finished sixth in the SWAC with a 225.1 pass defense efficiency — and that was after rebounding from a rough start in which they give up 1,888 yards and 18 touchdowns through the air in the first six games.

Maybe that poor start was why, going into the season, senior safety Blake Monroe said the Southern secondary felt “overlooked.” That’s not the case now.

“Our coaching staff is comfortable putting anybody in position to make plays. It’s one of our strong points as a team,” Monroe said.

That much was evident in last week's 64-6 win over Alabama State, when Southern played 15 players in its secondary, according to the postgame participation report.

“I feel like anyone in the secondary can play. ... That’s one of our threats,” Monroe said. "Throughout the offseason, we didn’t hear too much about the secondary. This season, we’re trying to make a statement that we’re the best secondary in the SWAC.”

Southern coach Dawson Odums said the score dictated how much playing time many of the backups got Saturday, but that doesn’t change his expectations once the backups get in the game.

“People around here understand that it doesn’t matter who we play,” Odums said. “But the guys that go out there are the ones that we’re expecting to do a certain job, and we’re going to hold them accountable for that.”

VEAL LEAVES THE PROGRAM

Freshman quarterback Bladrick Veal, a Southern Lab graduate, is no longer on the football team, Odums said.

“He’s no longer with the program,” Odums said. “He made a personal decision with his family, so he’s no longer with us.”

The 6-foot-5 Veal, a former three-star recruit, guided the Kittens to the Class 1A state championship last fall.

Ole Miss, Nebraska and Houston were among the schools to offer Veal a scholarship. But they could not offer him a chance to do what he really wanted to do: play basketball and football.

A school spokesman said Wednesday Veal will remain at Southern University, but there has been no indication that he will attempt to play basketball.

JOSEPH WILL NOT RETURN

Running backs and senior associate head coach Elvis Joseph will not return to the team this season, Odums said Wednesday.

An offseason surgery has not healed in a way that allowed Joseph to return. Graduate assistant Brian McCain has coached the running backs in his absence.

Joseph is a Southern alumnus who played three seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

ANDERSON, LEDBETTER OUT AGAIN

Neither Bryan Anderson nor Rhaheim Ledbetter will suit up for Saturday’s game against Alabama A&M.

Anderson did not suit up in last week’s game, though Odums declined to offer a reason why, twice saying that the reason Anderson did not suit up was because true freshman Tre’Veon Epps started the game.

Anderson recorded seven tackles in the first two games before sitting out last week.

Ledbetter, a Florida transfer, has not played since 2014. He was not eligible to compete last season, but Odums has not ruled him out to return this year. 

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.