Southern football coach Dawson Odums sat behind the desk in his office, less than 48 hours removed from the Jaguars winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
But he didn’t have time to reflect on the 34-27 overtime victory against Jackson State that brought Southern its first SWAC title in 10 years.
That had to wait.
“I’m trying to get recruiting organized,” Odums said. “We’re supposed to have some guys coming in this weekend. We’re just trying to keep putting the gas to the floor and keep working. I probably won’t sit down and think about it until over Christmas.”
The returning Jaguars already have been given their workout plans for the offseason while the coaches focus on bringing in replacements for the seniors.
“They know how we’ve got to come back,” Odums said. “If you don’t come back that way you’re going to pay the price. This thing is no different than before. All our coaches are calling the players — make sure you’re lifting, make sure you’re running because when we come back we’re going to be getting right back after it. I think they understand it.”
Odums said “nobody has a job.” Each position on the depth chart will be up for grabs during spring practice.
“Either you keep what you’ve got,” Odums said, “or the next guy can take it through the competition in the spring.”
Southern has to replace 10 starters — quarterback Dray Joseph, wide receiver Lee Doss, center Aaron Hall, defensive linemen Trae’ Tiller and Dion Palmer, linebackers Franchot West and Anthony Balancier and defensive backs Johnathan Mack, Virgil Williams and Omar Cook. Four others seniors were on the two-deep at the end of the season — tight end Rashaun Hall, defensive end Kadeem Lewis and defensive backs Jeremy Coleman and Jonathon Wilson — leaving other openings.
“We understand the holes that we’ve got to fill,” Odums said. “We’ve got to fill them with the right person — it doesn’t necessarily have to be the right talent. Around here it’s all about the right chemistry from a character standpoint because you have to understand the Southern way.
“We have a new way of doing things and it starts with discipline — nobody’s above that.”
No competition will attract more attention than the one to replace Joseph, Southern’s leader in career touchdown passé, a SWAC Co-offensive Player of the Year and the Offensive MVP in the championship game.
Three quarterbacks will return —- Wynton Perro, a redshirt junior from Houston, and two freshmen, Deonte Shorts from Southern Lab and Francis Kanneh from Robbinsdale, Minn.
Perro has the only stats a,mong the three — one run and one pass.
Odums said he thinks Shorts “is going to be a great quarterback.”
“I just think he has the right mindset and the right demeanor — and he has the right talent,” Odums said. “I think we can add some things to what we’re doing because of his talent. I think he’ll be real special before he leaves.”
But like everyone else, Odums said, the quarterbacks will engage in an open competition.
Odums added that a true freshman could be a contender as well, especially if it’s one who’s able to enroll in January.
As the Jaguars finished the season with a five-game winning streak, Odums credited the players for maintaining an even keel. He said he expects the same moving forward, even as they carry a bull’s-eye on them into next season as defending champions.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Odums said. “Every team would want to have that problem. We’ll be ready to handle it. We’ll get our mindset to a point where being targeted doesn’t faze us.
“I think the leadership will carry over and if it does things can be even better. I think some guys are going to step up and become leaders and really want to be hungry to do it again.”
Odums, who just completed his first full season as head coach after taking over on an interim basis two games into the 2012 season, said he believes the Jaguars “were a year ahead of the curve.”
“Now comes a new expectation,” he said. “I think we accomplished some great things as a team this year, but we’re going to have a pretty good team coming back too.
“Will the pieces fall together like they did this year? Time will tell, but we’ll definitely have the right mindset to be contenders.”