Training camp preview: Southern football

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern quarterback Dray Joseph Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern quarterback Dray Joseph

FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH

1. Backing up Dray Joseph

Southern has the reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference passing champion in Dray Joseph to guide the offense, but one of the big questions entering camp is who will back him up. No other quarterback on the roster has thrown a pass in a college game. JuniorWynton Perro has moved from the secondary to join a battle that will soon include Francis Kennah from Robbinsdale, Minn., and Southern Lab product Deonte Shorts, a pair of freshmen who join the fray this week. Coach Dawson Odums said Cedric McCloud, who signed in February out of Arizona Western Community College, will not be part of the team. In case Joseph is lost to injury, the Jaguars need a reliable No. 2 to come forth.

2. Discovering a ground game

Southern finished last in the SWAC last year at 79.5 rushing yards per game and hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, the last time the Jaguars won the conference title. The departure of 2012 senior Sylvester Nzekwe, who came on strong late last season, leaves Southern with little experience returning in the backfield. Joseph can’t do it all. Odums hopes McKinley High graduateLeonard Tillery, who took a redshirt last year, is in line for a breakout season after rushing for 111 yards on 18 carries in the spring game. The Jaguars also can turn to bruising senior Darrius Coleman, who like Tillery had a productive spring.

3. Kicking and punting

Matthew Hill returns after going 6-for-10 on field goals and 24-for-25 on extra points, but he again will have to win a preseason battle with Greg Pittman for the starting job. Pittman went 1-for-3 on field goals and 1-for-3 on extra points as a freshman. Punter Chase Tuten has given up football and transferred to another school, leaving the Jaguars without the only player who attempted a punt for them last year. FreshmanPaul Randle Soden will have a chance to win Tuten’s old job during camp.

4. DC by committee

Meet the new defensive coordinator — a whole room of them. Odums will call the defensive plays, but he said the job of coordinator will be shared by the defensive coaches. Linebackers coach Lorick Atkinson, secondary coach Marty Biagi and defensive line coach Myron Jackson will work with Odums, who was defensive coordinator entering last season, to get better results from a unit that ranked eighth in the SWAC in yards allowed.

5. Senior leadership

That their top players are seniors may be the best thing the Jaguars have going for them. Southern not only has Joseph back at quarterback, but it also has three seniors — receiver Lee Doss, linebacker Anthony Balancier and defensive back Virgil Williams — that represented the school on the preseason All-SWAC first team. That kind of experience, and the return of 15 starters, is an even bigger plus considering the Jaguars have a first-year coach at the helm.

Newcomers to watch

WR Chuck Baker: The one-time LSU commitment was listed as the nation’s No. 205 prospect by ESPN. As a receiver, he plays a position where Southern needs help.

S Dionte McDuffy: The former Evangel star transferred from South Alabama in January and earned high praise from Odums & Co. during spring practice. He enters fall camp listed as the starter at free safety.

G Corey White: A four-star recruit out of Capitol, White went through spring practice with Southern after transferring from LSU. The third-year sophomore — all 6-foot-5, 330 pounds of him — will step in immediately at right guard.

Key dates

July 31: Players report
Aug. 1: First practice
Aug. 5: First practice in full padse_SFlbAug. 6: Two-a-day practices begin
Aug. 17: Fan Day
Aug. 19: Classes start
Aug. 30: Season opener at Houston

Schedule

Aug. 30: at Houston, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7: at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14: Prairie View, 6 p.m.

Sept. 21: at Mississippi Valley State, 1 p.m.

Sept. 28: Jackson State, 6 p.m.

Oct. 12: Alabama A&M, 6 p.m.

Oct. 19: at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 26: Alcorn State, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 2: at Texas Southern, 6 p.m.

Nov. 9: at Alabama State, 1 p.m.

Nov. 16: Clark Atlanta, 6 p.m.

Nov. 30: Grambling, 1:30 p.m.

All times p.m.; all games on WYNK-HD2 97.7 FM in Baton Rouge; SWAC games in bold