College football’s early signing day Wednesday at Southern University is going to lack the drama playing out on many other campuses.
While other college football fans are on the edge of their seats every time the fax machine makes noise, coach Dawson Odums and his assistants are playing the long game with letters of intent from recruits.
“We’ve got to fill some shoes, so we’re looking for every position,” Odums said. “Hopefully we can get some guys letters in December and some in February. We’ll be recruiting throughout the spring trying to find what we’re looking for.
“I don’t know how many we’re going to sign tomorrow but maybe about 15 by February,” he added. “It doesn’t matter if we sign zero or seven tomorrow. It’s no big deal for us.”
At the moment, coaches are off the recruiting trail until the dead period ends Jan. 10. The traditional signing period begins Feb. 6.
Odums suggested their work won’t necessarily be done even in February. He’ll be looking to fill his 63-scholarship limit through the start of preseason camp, perhaps adding players who transfer out of other programs during the spring and summer.
On top of that, Odums' team only has so many limited openings. Southern loses just eight seniors from its 2018 roster, including two of its top six receivers in Trey Smith and Randall Manard.
“We’re still pretty deep,” Odums said. “We need to replace the ones we’re losing. We’re going to recruit every position, all the way down to long snapper. It’s Louisiana. You don’t have to look very far to find talent. It’s a great foundation for recruiting.”
Odums has rebuilt Southern after three years of APR restrictions thinned out the depth. The Jaguars emerged from past doldrums by breaking a three-game Bayou Classic losing streak and reaching the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game for the first time since 2014.
That Jaguars won the Western Division but finished 7-4 after a 37-28 loss to Alcorn State in the title game.
Odums said the success is borne from recruiting — not just for talent, but for the right players for Southern's system and its locker room.
“We don’t just take a guy,” he said. “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.”
Odums said he will promote from within to cover the loss of defensive coordinator Trei Oliver, who left Southern after three seasons to become head coach at his alma mater, North Carolina Central.
“We know who the guys are,” Odums said. “It’s a dead period, so we can’t do anything until after the convention. We’re just waiting on tomorrow, see who we get on the fax and put a plan in place in January to go get who we didn’t get.”