“I look at it as an opportunity for Charles Hawkins and Casey Narcisse to see the guys that are predicted to finish high, and for us not to one of those teams.” STUMP MITCHELL, Southern coach
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Media gatherings aren’t exactly a jubilant occasion for athletes and coaches, but this time of year is a rare exception when hordes of reporters is a welcome sign.
Translated into coachspeak, Southwestern Athletic Conference Football Media Day means “Football season is here.”
As Southern coach Stump Mitchell said, “There’s only a matter of time.”
Once Mitchell emerges from the gauntlet of interviews and questions at Monday’s media day in Birmingham, Ala., there will be just 17 more days to tick off the calendar until the Jaguars will begin fall camp on Aug. 3 and open their season on Sept. 1 at New Mexico, kicking off what they hope will be a bounce-back year.
SU struggled to records of 2-9 and 4-7 in Mitchell’s first two campaigns, and a 2012 turnaround is needed if his tenure is to last beyond a three-year contract.
The Jaguars believe improvement is on the way, thanks in part to what they see as better discipline, conditioning and leadership. That’s why Mitchell chose two players who best embody those principles to represent SU at media day.
He’ll be flanked by wide receiver Charles Hawkins and defensive lineman Casey Narcisse, joining the head coach and two selected players from every SWAC team who will field questions from reporters.
Hawkins and Narcisse have been around since the dawn of the Mitchell era, when he came in looking to overhaul the team’s approach to discipline and academics.
While Mitchell said learning those lessons may have been hard at first, Hawkins and Narcisse got the message and are now two of the five team captains that the Jaguars elected this offseason.
If Southern is to enjoy a rebirth this year, it will be because of players like them.
“I think those guys have bought into what my plan was all about,” Mitchell said. “First and foremost, it was about themselves, about those guys realizing they needed to make a change in order to be successful after four years of playing college football.”
They’re hoping to squeeze some success into the tail end of those playing careers, too.
Hawkins was fourth on the team in receiving last year, but after averaging 17.7 yards per catch and putting in full offseason of conditioning, he’s expected to emerge as a top playmaker.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-1, 305-pound Narcisse will serve as the anchor for the defense at nose tackle, looking to improve a run-stopping unit that ranked dead last in the SWAC at 185.5 yards allowed per game.
At media day, both players will hear an earful of predictions about who will win the conference and where the Jaguars will rank.
SU won’t be one of those pegged as a title favorite, and Mitchell is hoping that will light a fire under his players.
“I look at it as an opportunity for Charles Hawkins and Casey Narcisse to see the guys that are predicted to finish high, and for us not to be one of those teams,” Mitchell said.
“But they’re not going to allow anyone to determine the success of this football team based on anyone else’s predictions.”
The predictions begin Monday, and the chance to prove them wrong is right around the corner.