Vets Up Front Hope to Protect Jaguars’ New Quarterback
(This is the fourteenth in a series of stories previewing Sun Belt Conference teams as well as the non-conference opponents of Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns. Today: Southern University. The Cajuns and Jags open the season this Saturday night at 6pm at Cajun Field.)
The Southern Jaguars got a rebirth of sorts last season as they went 9-4 en route to a SWAC title a year ago in Dawson Odums' first full season. The Jaguars are hoping to repeat that type of season, but its going to be tough to replace the guy under center. Joseph Bray is gone after throwing for 3,573 yards and 30 touchdowns a year ago. Replacing him is Deonte Shorts, a redshirt freshman from Southern Lab in Baton Rouge. A young signal caller probably means the Jags will try and run the football more and they've got some experience back there. Lenard Tillery led the club with 784 yards and nine touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Leading WR Leonard Doss (78-1172-11) is gone but there's plenty of experience returning. led by Willie Quinn, who caught 57 balls a year ago. Up front, the Jaguars are a veteran unit, with four of their five starters returning.
Defensively, the best of the bunch is linebacker Daniel Brown, who was second on the team in tackles last year. Javon Allen adds strength at LB as well. There's experience up front in Arthur Miley, who had 56 tackles a year ago. Dionte McDuffy heads a secondary that has some talent but also has some inexperience. Southern's biggest issue a year ago was stopping the run.
Quinn is their best return man, but there are lots of questions in the kicking game especially at PK, where the #1 player is injured. Matthew Hill kicked sparingly. Paul Randle Soden returns as the punter.
Southern plays nine conference games. Their two home non conference opponents are Central Methodist and Northwestern State, and both are at Mumford Stadium.
OUTLOOK: The Jags were a pretty doggone good offensive football team a year ago, but the man who made that all happen is gone. There's enough returning talent offensively to score some points, but the running game will have to carry the team while their young quarterback is growing up. Southern could have another fine season in the SWAC, but the defense, especially against the run, is going to have to be a lot better , especially early in the season while Shorts is still trying to find his way.