(EDITORâ€™S NOTE: This is the fifth of a nine-part series on Louisianaâ€™s Division I college football teams other than LSU and Tulane, which will be covered in other areas on NewOrleans.Com. Earlier stories chronicled Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, Nicholls State and McNeese State, and future stories will include Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) entries UL Lafayette, UL Monroe and Louisiana Tech and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) entry Grambling State. Today: Southern University.)
BATON ROUGE â€“ â€œNewâ€ doesnâ€™t begin to describe Southern Universityâ€™s Jaguar football team heading into the 2010 season.
Thereâ€™s a new leader for the program, with Pete Richardson â€“ the stateâ€™s longest-tenured head coach â€“ departed and Lyvonia â€œStumpâ€ Mitchell taking over and bringing 21 years of NFL experience to the job including 11 as an assistant coach of the Washington Redskins.
And thereâ€™s no question that Mitchell expects big things from the Jaguars.
â€œWe think at the end of the season weâ€™ll be 12-0,â€ Mitchell told a Baton Rouge writer during fall drills. â€œThe way weâ€™re looking at it is, we already have the ring. Somebody else has to take it from us.â€
To keep opponents from taking that jewelry, symbolic of the Southwestern Athletic Conference title, the Jaguars will have to rebuild an offense that lost most of a strong set of skill players, and revamp a defense that ranked among the worst in the SWAC.
The Jaguars went 6-5 last year and had an uncharacteristic losing record (3-4) in SWAC play, losing their final two games. SU was handled 31-13 by state rival Grambling in the Bayou Classic and inexplicably lost at Texas Southern 30-25 to end the 2009 season on a down note.
â€œWeâ€™re not trying to reinvent the wheel here,â€ Mitchell said, â€œjust tighten up a few areas and get Southern back where it belongs.â€
What the Jaguars are lacking in experience, theyâ€™re looking to make up in tempo. Mitchell has instituted an upbeat pace to practice with the hopes of carrying that over into the season.
â€œItâ€™s definitely up-tempo,â€ said tackle Lee Almanza, one of four starters back in the offensive front. â€œThatâ€™s how weâ€™re going to play in the game. The gameâ€™s not going to slow up just because we want it to.â€
That offense will have to replace the SWACâ€™s leading passer (Bryant Lee) and receiver (Juamorris Stewart) and SUâ€™s leading rusher (Brian Threat) as well as key tight end target Warren Matthews. Lee accounted for 29 touchdowns last season as well as 2,863 offensive yards in earning SWAC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Likely starter Jeremiah McGinty, meanwhile, saw only occasional duty and only threw five passes in 2009.
â€œHeâ€™s about halfway there,â€ Mitchell said of McGinty. â€œBut he can throw the ball and he definitely can run it, so I like what we have in him.â€
Mitchell is equally high on Gary Hollimon, a former quarterback moved to running back and the teamâ€™s top returning rusher with 346 yards and a team-high six scores. â€œI am going to see that Gary Hollimon leads the SWAC in rushing,â€ he said.
Almanza and fellow returnee Ramon Chinyoung, an all-SWAC selection, head up the offensive front that will lead Hollimon and protect McGinty, while Curry Allen heads up a new-look receiver corps as the third-leading pass catcher from last season.
The Jaguar defense returns five of the top six tacklers from last season, but that unit also ranked ninth in the 10-team SWAC in total defense, seventh in rush defense and ninth in pass defense. New defensive coordinator Oâ€™Neill Gilbert expects that to change with a new scheme that emphasizes quarterback pressure.
â€œWe have to get better up front, no question,â€ Gilbert said. â€œWe werenâ€™t very good there, and it showed by the number of tackles that everyone behind them had to make.â€
Senior tackle Jordan Miller, who led the Jags in sacks last year and is the top returning tackler in the front wall, sees the difference.
â€œThis is going to be a no-nonsense type of group,â€ he said of the new Jaguar staff. â€œTheyâ€™re all about discipline.â€
Returning starter Steven Williams and UL Monroe transfer Casey Narcisse will bolster that front line along with the return of senior Dexter James, who missed most of 2009 with a shoulder injury.
Andreâ€™ Coleman, SUâ€™s top tackler last year with 68, returns to head up a linebacker corps that also got starting time from returnees Justin Fletcher, Marcus Clark and Gary Chatman last year. Chatman alternated between linebacker and the secondary, an area that will be led by safety Jason House after his nation-leading 10 interceptions and 230 yards in interception returns.
Josh Duran was solid as a punter (41.3) last year but struggled on placements, so the Jags will be counting on a first-time freshman, William Griswold, to handle kicking chores.
SU AT A GLANCE
Location: Baton Rouge
Colors: Columbia Blue & Gold
Athletic Director: Greg LaFleur
Stadium: Mumford Stadium (25,500, natural turf)
Head Coach: Stump Mitchell (1st year)
Assistants: Ricky Diggs, assistant head coach/offensive coordinator; Oâ€™Neill Gilbert, defensive coordinator/DL; Paul Lounsberry, offensive line; Ted White, quarterbacks; Mike Jones, linebackers; Eric Dooley, wide receivers; Otis Flowers, defensive backs; Elvis Joseph, running backs; Jason Palermo, tight ends
Lettermen Back: 42 (21 offense, 18 defense, 3 special teams)
Starters Back: 16 (6 offense, 8 defense, 2 special teams)
9 Jeremiah McGinty
6 Hasoni Alfred
15 Gary Hollimon
24 Brandon Rice
41 Lee Mitchell
83 Carlton Byrum
13 Curry Allen
2 Corey Cushingberry
3 Charles Hawkins
86 Jeremy Paul
89 Kesean Peterson
84 Javon Jordan
72 Chris Browne
74 Joshua Verrett
76 Taylon Jones
73 Charles Barkins
61 Ramon Chinyoung
60 Aaron Hall
67 Roddrell Stewart
68 Johnathan Preston
78 Lee Almanza
n/a David Henderson
97 Steven Williams
96 Dion Palmer
95 Casey Narcisse
70 Dexter James
90 Jordan Miller
56 Jeremiah Booth
91 Delwin Williams
92 Kedy Enabulele
47 Andreâ€™ Coleman
57 Corey Rayn
53 Marcus Clark
43 Demetrius Bentley
39 Gary Chatman
54 Detrane Lindsey
8 Jason House
23 Marlon Smith
1 Demetric Rogers
n/a Cantrell McKinley
36 Dâ€™Mekus Cook
21 Pierre Warford
28 Ishmale Hart
30 Marcus Doss
1 William Griswold
17 Josh Duran
17 Josh Duran
1 William Griswold
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