Southern football coach Dawson Odums said he wants his 2019 Jaguars to play simple and play fast. The recruiting class he reeled in Wednesday should help toward that end.
Finally out from under NCAA sanctions imposed because of Academic Progress Rate violations, Odums is adding 15 players to the three Southern signed during the early period in December. Among the total are 10 high school recruits who signed national letters of intent and five transfers already enrolled for the spring semester. Nine of the newcomers are three-star recruits.
“A lot of these guys will fill our depth, and that’s what’s important,” said Odums, entering his eighth season including his interim stint in 2012. “Hope to see this catapult us over the hump. First full class we’ve had in four or five years. We’re getting guys that can run, and we feel that’s going to help us. We’ve gotten faster at every position.”
Deeper, too. Southern lost only eight seniors off last year’s team and returns nine starters on offense and seven on defense, including cornerbacks Demerio Houston and Timothy Thompson. Iowa State transfer O.J. Tucker will help there, as will John Ehret recruit Tyruss Gayden.
The Jaguars picked up speed with a pair of Georgians, defensive end Aaron Miller and linebacker Joshua Tate. Odums thinks they could have the same impact as last year’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Jordan Lewis, who led the SWAC with 11 sacks as a freshman defensive end last year.
“We’re talking 60-70 high school sacks,” Odums said of Miller and Tate. “They can get after the football. Tate will probably be a Will (weak-side) backer and wouldn’t surprise me if Miller ends up a Mike (middle linebacker). Tate has phenomenal speed about like Jordan Lewis.”
The Jaguars also got some beef on both sides of the ball with Purdue transfer defensive end Chazmyn Turner (6-3, 265), defensive tackle Jordan Monroe (6-2, 240) and guard Ketaj Castillo (6-1, 270) of John Ehret. Turner is the lone graduate transfer and will have two seasons of eligibility. He had 62 tackles, 11 for loss, with four sacks in two seasons at Purdue.
Odums said the success Southern had in winning the SWAC West Division paid dividends in Louisiana. T.J. Bedford, a Texas State transfer who prepped at St. Paul’s in Covington, brings good size to the wide receiver position. Two Baton Rouge-area players also will boost the safety position, Madison Prep’s Bertrand Carrell and Central’s Anthony Shaffer.
“Shaffer and Carrell are good football players, and we were lucky to get them,” Odums said. “They had some injuries in high school, not major, but they are well on their way. Both of them have good size and are hard-hitting safeties. They can run and cover. They give us the multiple skills we’re looking for.”
Odums beefed up his offense with a pair of small but explosive backs in St. Martinville’s Travien Benjamin and Indiana transfer Craig Nelson. Benjamin (5-11, 185) was a two-time All State player who rushed for 2,101 yards and 43 TDs last season and 1,702 yards and 22 scores the year before. Nelson is a product of Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School.
“We were looking for that home run hitter,” Odums said of the backs.
Odums said he might not be done. FCS schools are allowed to sign 30 players per season but have an overall scholarship limit of 63, which can be divided among multiple players. There could be a need that arises after spring practice, and coaches are constantly monitoring the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“We have some openings and a little money left if we have any needs after spring, or we want to reward a walk-on,” he said. “Our staff did a pretty good job recruiting. I know winning helps.”