Dawson Odums has been through his first signing day as Southern’s football coach. He has been through his first spring practice and most of his first offseason.
In fact, Odums coached nine games for the Jaguars last season, leading Southern to a 4-5 mark as the interim replacement for Stump Mitchell.
But Monday in Birmingham, Ala., Odums will experience another first.
Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day arrives as the coaches from the conference’s 10 schools, along with two selected players apiece, converge on the Birmingham Marriott to answer questions about the season ahead.
Odums, who in December had the interim tag removed from his title, will be joined by a pair of seniors: quarterback Dray Joseph and defensive back Virgil Williams.
“I’m usually pretty good with the media, so I’m not expecting to be sidetracked by anything,” Odums said. “I’m sure it will be your basic football questions.”
More than anything, Odums said Media Day will serve as another reminder that the season is near. Southern players report to campus for fall camp July 31, then hold their first practice a day later.
“Once you start to get all the media interest, it definitely starts to get the blood flowing,” he said. “It lets you know you’re getting closer to camp time.”
Southern heads into Odums’ first full season with eight returning starters on offense, seven more on defense and both its kicker and punter.
The Jaguars will join the rest of the conference in chasing defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which likely will be tabbed the team to beat when coaches and media submit preseason predictions. UAPB returns 18 starters.
But unlike last year, when Southern had no players on the preseason All-SWAC first team, the Jaguars could have multiple players receive preseason accolades.
Joseph won the SWAC passing title in his first season as a full-time starter last year, throwing for 2,511 yards with 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Favorite target Lee Doss, another senior, led the conference with 5.9 receptions per game and had 698 receiving yards.
On defense, linebacker Anthony Balancier had 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks, and Williams — who doubles as a return man — had 62 tackles. Both earned second-team All-SWAC last season.
“I think it will be good for Southern if we have some players honored in the preseason,” Odums said. “But at the end of the day, it’s what happens at the end of the season that you’re remembered for.”
Odums said he has the same attitude about preseason rankings.
“You still have to go out and play games,” he said. “It’s all decided on the field.”
Southern is the only team in the conference that enters 2013 with a new coach.