As we count down to the much anticipated 2012 season opener, TSPN Sports is ranking the 1o most important individuals who will matter most throughout the three month Southwestern Athletic Conference campaign. Over the next 10 days a new person will be revealed.
No. 10 Southern head coach Stump Mitchell
With a career record of 6-16 the first two years of the Mitchell era has not been much to write home about. If the Jaguars are not contenders in the SWAC Western Division, or show signs they could, 2012 might be Mitchell’s last in Baton Rouge.
However, 2011 saw the Jaguars improve on both sides of the ball going from No. 7 in total offense in 2010 to No. 6 in 2011.
SU jumped from No. 4 in passing to number No. 2 led by quarterbacks Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas, combining to throw for 2,826 yards and 23 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the rock Southern jumped three spots from No. 9 overall to No. 6.
Three critical malfunctions prevented Mitchell and Co. from taking the next step last season. First, was their overall inability to win close games as evidenced by their 0-4 record in games decided by six points or less in 2011.
Second, was a horrid rushing attack that ranked dead last in the conference accounting for just a paltry 2.4 yards per carry and 63 yards per game.
Third, was the team’s refusal to stop the run finishing No. 10 and giving up 185 per game on the game. Not being able to stop the rush or establish it spelled instant doom.
These inconsistencies fall at the feet of Mitchell. Although one can fairly assess that players have to execute in need situations, ultimately the blame is often placed on the shoulders of the head coach who is responsible for every conceivable outcome. The inability to sustain drives, and put games away with the running game resulted in losses that should and could have been wins.
In Year 3, there is no room for error when it comes to Mitchell, and he will rely on the likes of receiver Charles Hawkins and defensive lineman Casey Narcisse help to lead the Jaguars back to the top of the standings.
But it will take more than just two players to get SU back where it once was. According to Mitchell, it will take the entire team buying into a system that emphasizes a healthy dose of accountability and discipline even with an overhaul to the coaching staff that looks to drive home that message.
“Nah, that doesn’t bother me,” said Mitchell when asked about his future at Southern. “I had a job before I got here, and I’m going to have a job after this season. Hopefully it’s going to be at Southern.”