West St. John trio decides to play football for Southern

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Lee Doss (2) rubs Southern University Jaguars interim head coach Dawson Odums' head after they won the Bayou Classic. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Lee Doss (2) rubs Southern University Jaguars interim head coach Dawson Odums' head after they won the Bayou Classic.

Southern football coach Dawson Odums’ first recruiting class could be rounding into shape.

Three players from West St. John High School lead the list of prospects who made commitments to Odums and his staff after visiting the campus last weekend.

West St. John stars Kylum Favorite, Javen Toney and Justin Bethancourt are all on board, Rams coach Robert Valdez said.

“They said they had a great time,” Valdez said. “And they said the food was very good.”

Other commitments for Southern include Higgins defensive lineman Gerald Brent, De La Salle defensive back Denshawn Jenkins, St. Augustine offensive lineman Damian Daniels, Mandeville cornerback Jamar Mitchell and Salmen wide receiver Chuck Baker. National signing day is Feb. 6.

Baker, a former LSU commitment, is listed as a three-star prospect by Rivals, Scout and 247Sports.

Favorite, Toney and Bethancourt would follow Southern quarterback Dray Joseph from West St. John. Joseph, who signed in 2010, led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in passing as a junior last fall, his first season as the full-time starter.

Valdez, a center at Southern from 1993-97, said the three West St. John pledges for 2013 liked Southern for several reasons. One is that they like the idea of playing college football close to home. Another is that they want to be part of a new era at Southern as Odums enters his first full season at the helm.

Valdez said they also feel like they can step in as freshmen and have an immediate impact.

“I’m excited for them,” he said. “There’s a chance to get in there and compete right away.”

Favorite and Bethancourt were first-team Class 1A all-state selections last fall, Favorite at running back and Bethancourt at defensive back. Favorite ran for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns, helping lead West St. John to the state semifinals. Bethancourt had 40 tackles, six interceptions and four tackles for loss.

Favorite also earned first-team all-state honors as a junior, when he rushed for 1,938 yards and 23 scores.

Salmen coach Jerry Leonard said he expects Baker to make other visits before signing day. Baker committed to LSU in February, but the player and school have since parted ways.

Leonard said Baker, with his 2.0 grade-point average, projects as a full academic qualifier. The receiver scored a 21 on the ACT, Leonard said.

Mitchell is the brother of Arkansas linebacker Jerry Mitchell, who also played at Mandeville. The younger Mitchell started at cornerback for the Skippers on 5A semifinal teams the past two years.

St. Augustine coach Cyril Crutchfield said the strength of Daniels, who is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, is his ability to run-block.

“He has good size, good feet and a good first step,” Crutchfield said.

Daniels previously committed to Alcorn State. He also held a scholarship offer from Kent State, Crutchfield said.

Jenkins was named Defensive MVP of District 10-3A as a senior for his work in the De La Salle secondary. He also saw action at quarterback and receiver. At Southern, he projects as a safety.

“He’s a hard-working kid, a guy that will run through a wall for you,” De La Salle coach Ryan Manale said.

Manale said Jenkins needs an improved ACT score to academically qualify. Jenkins recently retook the test and is awaiting his score, Manale said.

Brent, 6-3 and 245, was a four-year starter for Higgins. Coach Wayne Meyers said Brent, who has gotten his academics in order by raising his grade-point average and ACT score, will visit Southern this weekend.