You are looking live at the Atlanta Football Classic …

The Atlanta Football Classic — possibly the most-anticipated game of Southern’s schedule this season — will appear live on national television.

The game between Southern and Florida A&M will be televised by Versus, according to a release from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

SU and FAMU will play at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Georgia Dome.

It is the first meeting between the longtime rivals since FAMU held off the Jaguars in a 52-49 shootout at A.W. Mumford Stadium in 2008.

The teams have played 58 games since 1941, according to school records. The Rattlers hold a 33-24-1 edge.

The Atlanta Football Classic is one of two Southern games to appear on national television this season.

As usual, the Bayou Classic will appear on NBC.

Earlier this week, NBC announced it would televise the Bayou Classic through 2012.

DT Miller appears headed to Chicago

Former Southern University defensive tackle Jordan Miller has agreed to join the Chicago Bears as a rookie free agent, he tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

“Just signed with DaBears,” Miller’s tweet reads. “Flying out today at 4:00. God Is Faithful!”

A native of Upper Marlboro, Md., and the son of SU graduates, Miller played one year of high school football, then joined the SU program as a walk-on defensive lineman in 2007.

He eventually grew to 318 pounds and became a force in the middle, leading the Jaguars last season with nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

During the season, SU coach Stump Mitchell and defensive coordinator O’Neill Gilbert — both former NFL assistants — said they believed Miller would get a shot at the pros.

Typically, undrafted rookies begin signing free-agent contracts with NFL teams as soon as the draft ends. This year, however, was different because of the NFL lockout, which ended Monday when players and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement.

Apparently, Miller’s wait is over.

More notes, quotes and doodads from Birmingham

By Perryn Keys

The Southwestern Athletic Conference media day has ended. We were transcribing quotes, then eating dinner, then getting down the business of adding various items to this here Jaguar Nation blog.

Then “The Curious Case of Curt Flood” came on HBO, and, well, I couldn’t stop watching. Spectacular. Had no idea what a crazy, meandering life this baseball pioneer lived.

Anyway, if you came to the blog on a day like this, you didn’t come for a slice of Major League baseball history. You came for football. So here you go.

A few more notes, quotes and doodads from media day:

A simpler defense at SU
When you post a 2-9 record, it’s no secret that your defense probably struggled. And yes, Southern’s defense struggled last season, giving up a big plays by the bushel. SU allowed 33.8 points per game and a league-high 25 passing touchdowns.

It seemed to serve as proof to coordinator O’Neill Gilbert that his system was simply too complicated.

Not anymore.

Sophomore linebacker Anthony Balancier said Tuesday the defense will be much simpler this season, allowing players to be more sure of what they’re doing before and after the snap.

“Now, everybody knows all their checks,” Balancier said. “We don’t have to talk. The players can’t say that they don’t hear each other on the field anymore. So now you have everybody in the same mindframe. Everyone knows the formations and the play that gets called in. They should know what they have to do. It’s just that easy.”

It’s quite a contrast from spring 2010, when Stump Mitchell and his coaching staff first arrived. As the story goes (it’s been re-told many times by many players), Gilbert — a former NFL assistant, with stops at Texas A&M, Illinois, Cincinnati and Tulane during his career — handed a phone-book-sized playbook to his troops and demanded they learn it all, telling them “it’s non-negotiable.”

Players said during preseason camp that they’d caught on. Apparently, they didn’t do so, or at least not well enough.

It didn’t help that linebacker Corey Ray and free safety Jason House, who were both responsible for making pre-snap calls and checks, went down with injuries in September.

At any rate, Southern often looked lost on defense. Other times, the Jaguars blitzed heavily but failed to get the quarterback, leaving weaknesses in the secondary.

Balancier said he believes all that will change now.

“It was just a case of decreasing the playbook, that’s all,” Balancier said. “Last year, we (were) just doing too much running around. Now everything’s the same; it’s just simpler.”

More ties that bind
It’s also no secret that the SWAC is something of a tight-knit community of coaches, all of whom seemingly worked together at some point. Example: Doug Williams had Melvin Spears and Heishma Northern on staff at Grambling; Spears and Northern are now head coaches at Alcorn and Prairie View, respectively. Also, Mississippi Valley coach Karl Morgan was on Pete Richardson’s staff in the early ‘90s; he coached Northern, who was an SU safety at the time.

But the ties go much deeper than that.

Consider:

  • Longtime SU receivers coach Eric Dooley is now offensive coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
  • Longtime SU offensive coordinator Mark Orlando is now offensive coordinator at Prairie View, under Northern.
  • Longtime SU defensive coordinator Terrence Graves is now linebackers coach at Mississippi Valley, working for Morgan (the two men once shared an office while on Pete Richardson’s staff).
  • Michael Roach, the former Southern Lab coach — also on Williams’ first staff at Grambling — is now an assistant under Spears at Alcorn.
  • Cliff Yoshida, defensive coordinator on Richardson’s first staff at SU in 1993, enters his fifth season at Grambling.

See? Connections abound.

Looking ahead at Valley
Speaking of Morgan, his first year at Valley was even rougher than Stump Mitchell’s first year at Southern.

The Delta Devils lost at SU and finished 0-10.

If nothing else, it forced Morgan to be a little more patient.

“I’ve got to be,” he said. “I’m also an optimist. I knew coming in we’d have some obstacles to overcome.
“Several times last year we were on the verge of getting beaten pretty badly. But the kids had a sense of pride and wouldn’t quit. It’s something to build on.”

Morgan had a full year to recruit this time around, and he signed some 28 players, selling many of them on a simple idea.

“A chance to play. After going 0-10, obviously we’ve got needs,” he said. “Having a chance to be part of the turnaround, but number one is the opportunity to play.”

(Mostly) best wishes
Northern said he best wishes for one Stump Mitchell — the coach at Northern’s alma mater, the man who got the Southern job ahead of Northern in 2010.

“I remember watching him play (in the NFL), and I would like for him to have some success at Southern. It’s still my school,” Northern said. “I don’t wish bad on him at all. Except that one weekend we play them.”

Greetings from Birmingham

It’s a lovely morning here in Alabama, and football season might not be back yet.

But we are.

Forty-six days still remain until Southern kicks off against Tennessee State on Sept. 3 in Nashville, Tenn., but Tuesday morning marks the unofficial start to another year. The Southwestern Athletic Conference holds its annual media day for football, and we, of course, will be in attendance.

You can follow some of the action at twitter.com/perrynkeys.

As the old Buffalo Bills coach, Marv Levy, used to say before every kickoff: Where else would you rather be?

Basically, today’s big event goes like this: Each team is represented by a coach and two players (and for what it’s worth, they’re all very well-dressed). Each team is seated at a table of its own, and reporters have two hours to hit them all. So, in theory, if a reporter wants to speak to every coach and player in the room, he’ll have an average of four minutes per person.

Not a lot of time,

We have the obvious story lines, including Doug Williams’ return at Grambling, Heishma Northern’s head-coaching debut at Prairie View, and the Melvin Spears takeover at Alcorn.

But at Southern, there’s always something nutty. This year, the Jaguars aren’t allowed to play in the SWAC championship game, so they have to find a reason to stay motivated. The same is true for Rick Comegy and Jackson State.

As for the preseason poll, who knows? We’ll find out the results later today, but if I had to guess — and come to think of it, I suppose I did have to guess — here’s how I believe the preseason poll will look:

WESTERN DIVISION
1. Grambling
2. Prairie View
3. Texas Southern
4. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
5. Southern

EASTERN DIVISION
1. Alcorn State
2. Jackson State
3. Alabama State
4. Alabama A&M
5. Mississippi Valley State

Again, this is NOT THE OFFICIAL preseason poll. It’s just a wild stab.

Also, keep in mind what you already know: These polls aren’t worth a whole lot. In last year’s poll, Prairie View finished first in the first in the West and Alabama A&M first in the East. You may or may not recall that Prairie View actually finished third, behind TSU and Grambling, and that Alabama A&M finished fourth, behind Alabama State, Jackson State and Alcorn.

We’ll be back later today with more nuggets of wisdom. Or, at the least, more information.

—Perryn Keys