It’s not only the military looking for a few good men.
This is the time of year when college football coaches plan for the future and Southern’s Dawson Odums is one trying to fill the spaces in his Jaguars program during the early signing period which begins Wednesday.
Odums might not be as active a player as many other college coaches. Last year he signed only three high school players and saved the heavy lifting for the February signing period when he brought in 10 to go with five transfers. He will likely again bring in the largest portion of the class on Feb. 5, 2020.
“Each year is different,” Odums said after the Jaguars’ 39-24 loss to Alcorn State in the SWAC Championship game. “Each year has new challenges and 2020 will be unlike any other year. The mission will be the same.
“We’ll re-evaluate the football team when we get to January. We’ll get these guys back and we’ll start putting together an offseason plan. We’ve got a good team coming back and we’ll add some pieces to the puzzle.”
Much of the looking is done and this week begins the waiting. The recruiting dead period for Football Championship Subdivision coaches began Monday and will last through Jan. 16 meaning coaches can’t speak to or evaluate recruits nor can they accept official or unofficial visits to campus.
Odums will have room for a few more new pieces than last year. The 2019 team lost only eight seniors but this year 18 departed. Southern still returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. Newcomers will be looking to fill in backup roles.
All three Southern quarterbacks are set to return, including starter Ladarius Skelton, and all but one of the skill position starters. Where Odums may want to score with recruits is with linemen, especially on offense. Southern loses three starting offensive linemen plus their sixth-man Mason Sims.
On defense, the heart of the SWAC’s top run stoppers will be gone in defensive tackle Dakavion Champion and linebacker Calvin Lunkins. But finally out from under APR sanctions, Odums spent the last two seasons building depth. Now he’s in position to bring in young players and bring them along slowly.
It’s all with the purpose of taking the next step, which means getting past Alcorn State and winning the conference title. Southern last won it in 2013, Odums’ first full season.
“We’ll try to figure out how we can get beyond this point,” he said after a second consecutive title game loss. “We know how to get here.”
Regardless of the lineup needs, Odums reiterates he’s looking for players who fit in as Jaguars.
“We don’t just take a guy,” he said last year on signing day. “We win because we focus on the right fit (in the locker room), the guys that fit your system. You try to take the best player available, but that might be a running back when you need an offensive tackle.
“We try to find the skill set we’re looking for, whether we have to go from Maine to California. Recruiting is about relationships. If you build those, you have a chance to land prospects.”