August 14, 2012
As Southern enters the 2012 football season, count this in its favor.
The Jaguars know exactly what they’re playing for.
In two seasons under coach Stump Mitchell, they’ve struggled on the field and improved off of it, leading to a fall training camp where they believe the foundation has been laid for a successful future.
But if that doesn’t happen this year, it’ll be another setback for a program that can’t afford a detour on its road to restoration.
A season akin to the past two — 2-9 and 4-7 — likely means a coaching change and another fresh start.
That could be a good thing, but it could also prove costly. With a new coach comes turmoil, such as players transferring, recruiting disruptions and new offensive or defensive schemes.
All that adds up to more delays.
That’s painfully obvious to the Jaguars, and to his credit, Mitchell isn’t shying away from it.
Many coaches dance around the topic of being on the hot seat — after all, no one likes working while everyone knows their job is on the chopping block — but not Mitchell.
This summer, his responses to any questions about job security have been up front and confident.
“No pressure at all,” he said this week. “I understand business. I think if I was heading things up — you’ve got to see improvement. That’s the bottom line. How much improvement do they want to see? I don’t know. But I know what I want to see. I want to see us go out and kick butt.”
That’s the attitude he’s passing on to his players. The stakes are high, and the only way out is to win.
Following Friday’s practice, Mitchell emphasized that point. When telling the team that competition was open at every position and no jobs were safe, he included his own.
It was a heavy moment, but an open and honest one the Jaguars needed to hear.
This season is about many things for many people — a group of seniors looking to go out on top, a team out to prove it’s better than preseason predictions, coaches hoping for stability, fans praying for wins — but in the bigger picture of rejuvenating Southern football, anyone who feels that Mitchell is the best man for Southern needs a turnaround right now.
You can count his players among that number.
As defensive tackle and team captain Casey Narcisse said at Southwestern Conference Media Day, he wants to keep Mitchell around, and it’s on him to make sure it happens.
The Jaguars understand that — especially after Mitchell’s comment Friday — and a uniting goal like that can have a powerful effect.
Sure, everyone wants to win, but that desire can be distilled down to personal glory.
This cuts a little deeper.
For any players who enjoy playing under Mitchell, for those who came to Southern because of him, and for those who feel the program is ready to spring forward, there is no other option.
Win, and win now.