Going into his junior season, Southern quarterback Dray Joseph was locked in a battle with J.P. Douglas for the starting job.
In fact, he learned only six days before the opener at New Mexico that he had been named the starter.
What a difference 2,511 yards passing can make.
Joseph is not only the clear-cut starter for Southern’s football team behind center this spring, but he also is the clear-cut leader of an offense that will cater to his skills.
“He’s a real quarterback,” running back Leonard Tillery said. “He’s the leader of this offense.”
Joseph played so well last season, you have to wonder why it took so long to name a starter.
He not only led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in passing yards, but also threw a league-high 25 touchdowns. He was intercepted only seven times.
The breakout performance earned him a spot on the all-conference second team.
As he prepares for an encore, Joseph said he has spent little time thinking about expectations.
“I really don’t put that kind of pressure on myself,” he said. “I have my own expectations, but I don’t worry about what fans and outsiders may think. I just go out there and play the game I love to play.”
Joseph leads an offense that returns All-SWAC receiver Lee Doss on the outside and has starters back at four positions on the offensive line.
Where the Jaguars lack experience is in a running game that averaged only 79.5 yards rushing per game last year.
With that in mind, coach Dawson Odums might ask Joseph to serve more as a dual threat.
The zone-read option, all the rage in college football these days, has been a constant on the Southern practice fields this spring.
“It’s a part of the game we’re trying to implement,” Odums said.
“We want to get him to throw the ball as much as possible, but we know he can make plays with his feet.”
Joseph rushed for only 195 yards on 96 carries as a junior.
“Defenses just aren’t designed for a quarterback that can run the ball,” Joseph said. “That’s why guys like Robert Griffin, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are so successful.”
But the biggest change in Southern’s offense could be the tempo.
The Jaguars plan to run more no-huddle this season.
Southern also has cut down on the offensive terminology to speed up the play-calling and make the offense move faster.
“It’s mostly the same plays we’ve been running,” Joseph said. “It’s just the tempo is different.”
The Jaguars are excited about some changes on offense.
But they may be most excited about one thing that remains the same.
“Best quarterback in the SWAC,” Tillery said of Joseph. “Not just by stats, but in our eyes as well.”
A Nation of Dominance, a Southern athletics support group, will host a fish fry from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday outside of Gate 14 on the east side of A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Fish plates can be purchased for $7 each and include three catfish filets, peas,potato salad, rolls and cake.
Proceeds from the fish fry are for the support of Southern University football.
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