Odums optimistic about Jaguars this season

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern coach Dawson Odums shouts to his players during a game against Alabama State in November at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern coach Dawson Odums shouts to his players during a game against Alabama State in November at A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Southern won five Southwestern Athletic Conference titles from 1993-2003, but the Jaguars have not played in the conference title game since 2004 and haven’t had a winning season since 2009.

As he heads into his first SWAC Media Day, coach Dawson Odums has reason to believe that this year’s team can make SU a contender again.

Odums went 4-5 after replacing Stump Mitchell three games into the 2012 season.

Now he prepares for his first full year at the helm with a veteran squad that includes 15 returning starters.

Odums will be joined by two of those returning starters, quarterback Dray Joseph and defensive back Virgil Williams, when Media Day is held at the Birmingham Marriott on Monday in Birmingham, Ala.

Each of the 10 schools in the conference will be represented by its head coach and two players.

Joseph made second-team All-SWAC last season after leading the league in passing. He threw 25 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.

Williams, who doubles as a threat in the return game, was also a second-team All-SWAC selection last year. He finished the season with 62 tackles.

“It helps having some seniors returning that have played a lot of football,” Odums said. “We rely on those guys (Joseph and Williams) to do a lot, as far as getting everybody on the right page. I just think they are special, talented individuals, and I’m glad to be coaching them.”

Arkansas-Pine Bluff won the SWAC last year for the first time since 1966 and has 17 starters returning. But the conference has not had a repeat champion since 2002.

Jackson State returns only 10 starters after sharing the Eastern Division title with Alabama State and advancing to face UAPB in the SWAC title game.

Starting at 10 a.m., www.swac.org will carry continuous coverage of Monday’s proceedings.