(Part 1 of a 10-part SWAC football preview series)
Coming off of its first SWAC championship in over a decade, the Southern Jaguars return nine defensive starters but must replace some key components on offense.
Southern (9-4, 7-2) topped Jackson State 34-27 in double overtime for its first conference title since 2003.
With preseason camp approaching, second-year head coach Dawson Odums' most pressing concern is at quarterback following the graduation of 2013 SWAC Player of the Year Dray Joseph and first-team All-SWAC wide receiver Lee Doss.
A pair of redshirt freshmen, Deonte Shorts from Baton Rouge's Southern Lab High School and Francis Kanneh will continue to battle for the starting quarterback position after neither created separation in the spring.
Whoever emerges as the starting QB will have an established receiver to rely on in 5-5, 145-pound junior Willie Quinn (57 receptions, 753 yards, 7 touchdowns). Besides ranking second on the team to Doss in receiving, the speedster returned 18 kickoffs for a 29.5-yard average, highlighted by a 98-yard TD return.
Tailback Lenard Tillery (184 carries, 784 yards, 9 TDs), the team's leading rusher is back. Senior fullback Brian McCain returns at fullback after missing 2013 with an injury.
Junior Anthony Mosley, a second-team All-SWAC pick, and senior Zach Brown are the building blocks on the O-line.
Senior linebacker Daniel Brown (86 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) is back to head a veteran defense which ranked sixth in the SWAC in points allowed (29.2) and seventh in total defense (411.1 yards per game).
Among the other key incumbents are junior defensive back Dionte McDuffy (69 tackles, 1 interception) and senior defensive end Arthur Miley (56 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks).
Southern opens the season Aug. 30 with a short bus ride to Louisiana-Lafayette.