NCAA penalties have taken their toll on the Southern Jaguars.
After winning the SWAC West in 2013 and 2014, the school has not been allowed to hold spring practice in each of the last three offseasons.
Southern’s APR has been abysmal, and the NCAA has levied Level Three Penalties against the school as a result. The Jaguars have not won their division since.
2016 Southern Football Season In Review
Southern could score on anyone last season. The Jaguars put up at least 21 points in every game and were ranked 10th in the nation in total offense under head coach Dawson Odums.
Austin Howard was one of the conference’s best quarterbacks last season. He threw for over 2,600 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he had some issues with accuracy against tougher opponents. Southern still won most of those games, but it cost the Jags against their most bitter opponent at the end of the year.
Lenard Tillery had his best season yet and finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in SWAC history. Tillery averaged 151.4 yards per game on the ground and found the end zone 13 times in 2016. He was signed by the Los Angeles Rams as a priority free agent after the NFL Draft and will be plying his trade on Sundays.
Another player on this offense made history last season. Willie Quinn finished the season with 960 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and graduated as Southern’s all-time leading receiver. Quinn was a dynamo returner on punts and kickoffs, too, registering 10 return scores in his four seasons at Southern.
The offense needed to be good last season because the defense had some issues. Southern allowed 6.1 yards per play and ranked 80th in the nation in total defense.
Aaron Tiller was the star of the defense, racking up 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks and was honored with a First-Team All-SWAC selection.
2017 Southern Football Season Preview
Expect Southern’s offensive numbers to drop significantly in 2017. Howard returns to run the offense, but he is going to see a lot of new faces with him in the huddle.
The Jaguars lost both Quinn and Tillery, and the running back and wide receiver positions will have a lot of question marks as a result. Herbert Edwards will likely be the starter in the backfield, but he only carried the ball 27 times last season. He only has 54 career rushes in his three seasons at Southern, and it’s tough to know what to expect out of him.
It’s unknown how much production will come from the wide receivers, but at least tight end Dillon Beard is back to give Howard his second-favorite target from 2016. Beard earned all-conference honors after racking up 488 yards and six touchdowns and is difficult to bring down at 256 pounds.
Offensive line is another big concern. The Jaguars had three all-SWAC selections up front last year and none of the three will be on this year’s roster. Seventy percent of the depth chart is comprised of underclassmen, and it’s difficult to know what to expect from them.
It will be up to the defense to carry more of the weight. Southern’s three best players return from last season, and the Jaguars should be one of the more improved units in the country. Tiller will lead the team while defensive back Danny Johnson will be the star of the secondary.
2017 Southern Football Schedule
September 3: Southern vs. South Carolina State
September 9: Southern at Southern Miss
September 16: Southern at UTSA
September 23: Southern at Alcorn State
September 30: Southern vs. Fort Valley State
October 7: Southern vs. Alabama A&M
October 21: Southern at Jackson State
October 28: Southern vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (in Little Rock)
November 4: Southern vs. Prairie View A&M
November 11: Southern at Texas Southern
November 25: Southern vs. Grambling (in New Orleans)
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Southern plays two FBS teams before starting FCS play, and that will give us a good idea of where this team is in 2017. The Jaguars played two FBS teams last year as well and were blown out in both, but they rallied to be the second-best team in the SWAC.
As is the case with Grambling, there’s only one game to highlight with Southern. The Bayou Classic is the most important matchup of the season for both teams and the only game that really matters.
Unfortunately for Southern, the Jaguars are likely to regress while the Tigers are likely to improve. In the only game that will be nationally televised for either team this season, fade the Jaguars in any FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that week.