Spring football wrapup: Another QB in the mix?

For Southern’s latest round of hopeful draftees, pro day has come and gone.

For the returning players, spring practice has come and gone.

The Jaguars were supposed to practice three more times after the March 17 spring game — but when last week’s thunderstorms swept through the city, Stump Mitchell figured he had a better chance of water skiing on the SU practice fields than playing football. So he called off the rest of spring drills.

“We wound up doing 12 days instead of 15. … We focused on grades these last three practices,” Mitchell said. “We got enough out of spring ball. We saw what we needed to see — some improvements and some guys that did pretty good.”

Thursday afternoon was supposed to be the last day of spring drills at SU. Instead, many current players made the short trip to the Louisiana Leadership Institute, where they watched former teammates work out for NFL scouts at Southern’s pro day.

ANOTHER QB IN THE MIX?
Mitchell confirmed last week that punter Chase Tuten of Ocala, Fla., joined the Jaguars’ class of incoming freshmen.

Here’s what Mitchell didn’t mention until now: Tuten will try out at quarterback, too.

Tuten — the son of former NFL punter Rick Tuten, who played for four teams from 1989-99 — averaged 38.8 yards per punt as a senior at North Marion High. But he also played quarterback, throwing for 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“Oh, we have to look at him as a quarterback,” Mitchell said. “His father played in the league as a punter. He can punt, no question about that. But he also can play quarterback, and he has some good size to him. And he’s a smart young man. So there’s no reason why he shouldn’t play quarterback.”

The Jaguars have only two quarterbacks — junior Dray Joseph and sophomore J.P. Douglas — with college experience.

MOVING DOWN THE O-LINE
Dwyane Houston, who missed spring football while competing with the SU track and field team (he finished second in the shot put at last year’s SWAC outdoor meet), will probably move from right tackle to guard when preseason camp begins, Mitchell said.

It’s all part of a reshuffling along the offensive line.

Left tackle Chris Browne (ankle) sat out spring practice, as well, but will return to his usual position in the fall. But others, including Houston, will move. Aaron Hall moved from guard to center, where he’s penciled in as the starter, and former tight end Eric Janeau moved to left tackle this spring.

He figures to stay there, probably as a backup to Browne, a fifth-year senior.

“I really like his feet,” Mitchell said of Janeau. “I think he’s going to be able to do something. … I would say he’s a better pass-blocker at this particular point in time. He’s got to get stronger.”

Houston, who played only one year of football at Northside High in Lafayette, redshirted in 2010, then played extensively at right tackle last season.

Mitchell also said that Reginald Redding, a 6-foot-5 Indianapolis native (and Houston’s teammate on the track and field team), will probably join the football team this fall.

Clinton Boyd should also be available at tackle.

REINFORCEMENTS AT LB …
Outside linebacker Detrane Lindsey, academically ineligible last season, returned to the team this spring, and though he suffered a wrist injury earlier this month, Lindsey (6-foot, 210 pounds) should recover in time to participate in summer workouts and training camp. He’ll be a third-year sophomore this season.

Another classmate might join him.

Mitchell said linebacker Javon Allen — who, like Lindsey, redshirted in 2010 but was ineligible last year, should return to the team when preseason camp begins (he did not practice this spring).

Allen (5-11, 205) could add depth to a position that needs it.

“I’m looking forward to him getting back,” Mitchell said. “He’s a smart guy.”

… AND REINFORCEMENTS AT DT
Injuries to Lindsey, defensive end Dion Palmer (knee), middle linebacker Daniel Brown (shoulder), defensive end Kadeem Lewis (ankle), defensive tackle Traé Tiller (knee) and safety Levi Jackson (thumb) left the defense fairly thin on defense.

No worries, Mitchell said.

“I think we’re going to be OK,” he said. “I think we’re really looking for more from those defensive tackles coming in than anybody else, for the most part — other than the kickers.”

Southern’s signing class included four defensive tackles: Willie Paisley of Miramar, Fla.; Gabe Echols of Decatur, Ga.; Eric Eason of Memphis, Tenn.; and Gerard Levier of Port Barre.

The team has only a handful of veterans at the position, including seniors Casey Narcisse and Brandon Turner and junior Tiller. Delwin Williams, a senior who spent three years at defensive end, moved to tackle during spring drills.

Now, spring drills are over. Now, it’s on to final exams and summer workouts.

Followed, of course, by training camp.

Good, bad and odd moments from (yet another) strange weekend at Lee-Hines Field

How’s that for a turnaround?

In snapping a seven-game losing streak Sunday afternoon at Lee-Hines Field, the Southern baseball team pounded out 16 hits; scored seven runs; got super defense from its middle infielders and left fielder Taylor Roy; and Brian Foster threw a one-hit gem.

In other words, the Jaguars looked nothing like the team that failed to get clutch hits, much less take advantage of a pitcher’s good outing.

But they still didn’t look their best.

SU defeated Prairie View 7-1 on Sunday, salvaging one win in the three-game weekend series. A quick rundown of the good, bad and odd moments of a strange weekend:

THE GOOD
——The weekend starters were once again rock-solid. In 21 innings, Jesse Holiday, Jose De Leon and Brian Foster gave up three earned runs on 17 hits, with 13 strikeouts and five walks. They combined for a 1.29 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Their win-loss records aren’t as strong as they should be, but for the season, the three weekend starters have a 2.73 ERA. Keep doing that, and you’ll win a lot of games.

——Two-out hits. Sunday afternoon, Roy walked to lead off the first inning, and after he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, B.J. Rowry struck out. It looked like the same old tune for Southern, which did a fine job of squandering opportunities lately. But cleanup hitter Derrick Hopkins ripped a two-out, two-run homer over the right-field fence, and the Jaguars were off and running. Four of their seven runs Sunday came with two outs. That’s good news.

THE BAD
——The offense still isn’t where it needs to be. Anyone can look at Saturday’s box scores (two runs, 11 hits in 18 innings) and see that. But take a deeper look. In a six-game stretch before Sunday’s game, the Jaguars hit .192 and stranded 46 runners. Though they were obviously much better Sunday, they still stranded runners in eight of nine innings, and 12 overall.

——Southern was 11-for-66 in Saturday’s two losses, and in the second game of the doubleheader, the Jaguars had a man on second base in three of their final five innings. Each time, they failed to bring the runners home. Does anyone else remember when this was unthinkable from a Roger Cador team?

THE ODD
——Heading into a March 7 game against Northwestern State, SU had won five straight games and six of its last seven. The Jaguars promptly dropped seven in a row. If that’s not hot and cold, what is?

——Also, Wilmy Marrero steal home Sunday. That’s not odd, but it is, of course, very rare. Here’s the oddity: It wasn’t even the first time Marrero stole home against Prairie View. He pulled that little caper against the Panthers last April at Lee-Hines Field.

Hey, how often do you really see that?

And come to think of it, isn’t that part of what makes baseball so much fun?

Worth repeating: William Broussard

William Broussard isn’t officially the new athletic director at Southern University. Not yet. The SU System Board of Supervisors must still vote to approve Broussard at their meeting March 30 in Shreveport.

But if you haven’t yet heard (or read), Broussard was unanimously approved by the Board’s athletic committee Thursday, and all signs point to him getting the green light. You haven’t seen this many smiles from Board members since the Jaguars last won a Bayou Classic (in 2007!).

Obviously, when the time comes, Broussard has a whole lot of work to do.

What follows is the transcript of his 10-minute question-and-answer session with reporters after Thursday’s athletic committee meeting.

Aaaaand here we go:

Opening statement:
“I’m incredibly encouraged by the board’s support today. … To be approved by the committee unanimously is a tremendous vote of support. I’m really appreciative of them, and really excited about the opportunity to come down to Baton Rouge and Southern University, and to get to work.”

“I’m just going to wait until the end of the month, and hopefully everything becomes official then. But I’m excited. I’m thrilled about the opportunity. And I’m really encouraged about the potential of this university — and in particular, this athletic department — to become successful across the board. And I’m excited about lending my efforts to that project.”

This might be up to (Chancellor James) Llorens, but are you able to start right away, as the approval (of the full Board) is pending?
“I’ll let Dr. Llorens commit to that. But we’ve had some discussion about some possibilities therein, but I’d prefer to let Dr. Llorens comment on that particular issue.”

Llorens: “He obviously can’t officially start as athletic director until the final Board action on the 30th. Dr. Broussard and I have had some discussions about possibly utilizing him in an interim capacity between now and then, just to get into the athletic department and start looking at some of the operations and being familiarized with some of those things before then. It will probably be in terms of being a short-term consultancy.”

Broussard, on his background:
“I began my career in athletics at the University of Arizona, where I worked in internal affairs and academics, primarily. As part of my graduate assistantship, I ran the writing center for the English department in athletics. Then I worked as an intern and graduate assistant in academics.

“I moved on to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where I entered as an assistant athletic director (and) eventually became associate athletic director. I oversaw external relations, fund-raising, marketing (and) corporate sponsorship units there. I left that position last year to become the director of athletics at Centenary College in Shreveport, which was in the process of transitioning from Division I to Division III.

“That was some really good experience there — overseeing an entire staff, cultivating some relationships with the NCAA, which has been a worthwhile experience for me. I’ll have to continue that cultivation here, working with the re-certification process, should I be approved at the end of the month.

“That covers the last 10 years.”

For a program that’s been without an A.D. for about a year, what do you see as the biggest challenge?
“It’s similar to a new athletic director coming in, even if they’ve been without an athletic director for a month. I’m a new person, and so I need to cultivate relationships, learn about the student-athletes who are here (and) the coaches who are here, and their concerns. Spend some time reviewing policies and procedures, and ensuring that those are properly lined up, so the program will perform adequately and excellently.

“From there, really be accessible — whether that means to the media, to the alumni base (or) our donor base. They need to get to know me as well, if they’re going to trust me and be confident in me. They’re going to need to get to know me as well. So it’s going to be important to (spend) a lot of time relationship-building, making myself accessible.

“There’s probably going to be a lot of time on the road and a lot of time going to visit people. But that’s one of the best parts of the job.”

How did this whole courtship begin?
“Interestingly enough, around a year ago. A very good friend of mine, for a very long time, a state senator, had a chance meeting with Chancellor Llorens. He was talking about some of his ideas and some of his energy, what he had planned for Southern University.

“He came to Natchitoches, and we had a talk. He said, ‘Would you ever think about being at Southern University?’ I said, ‘Absolutely; I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity.’ But at the time, I was interviewing and within weeks of accepting the position at Centenary College, so obviously, that discussion got sort of tabled.”

“Here, recently, it just felt like the right time to initiate that conversation. And here we are. It has gone more smoothly than I could’ve possibly hoped. I couldn’t have designed it any better than this. Frankly, had you asked me a month ago, would I be here today, I don’t think I would’ve been as generous to myself as Chancellor Llorens and the Board have been to me, in terms of moving this process forward.”

Fund-raising will be a big issue. Can you elaborate on that?
“Institutional advancement is the name of the game. Institutions … are ramping up their efforts. It seems sort of counterintuitive to look at a country — and, in many aspects, a world — that’s in the middle of an economic decline, the number of capital campaigns you see being started up at colleges. But it’s become so crucial to identify alumni friends, donors, supporters, small businesses, corporations, who are invested in the mission of higher education in this country, and know how crucial it is that we provide those resources for young people to attain a college degree.

“I got involved with institutional advancement. I had a great opportunity to get into at Northwestern State University, and I’m happy to continue those efforts here, and to share the mission and goals of Southern University with the donor base, with corporations and small businesses who are going to be eager to support the mission here and be capable of doing what they’re doing.

“What I will bring that may differ from someone else is an approach that is more comprehensive. I don’t leave any stones unturned, and I’ll dig as deep into the donor base as I need to, and then come around for seconds, when it comes to trying to line up support. It takes that kind of vigor. It takes that kind of intensity. It takes you being that thorough, to identify those resources, and I’m more than happy and committed to doing that.”

Do you see a built-in (fund-raising) advantage because of Southern being in a market that’s a little larger? In other words, no offense, but Baton Rouge is not Itta Bena, Miss.
“That is absolutely true. Of course, no offense to our friends at Mississippi Valley. But no, being in a state capital, being in a large metro area — what I would imagine is the second-largest metro area in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — and the size of our alumni base, as well, provides a lot of opportunities. My sense of things coming in — and I’m new — but my sense is that there is still a lot of ground, a lot of area to plum for those resources. And frankly, (there’s) a great deal of support already in place. So those relationships need to me maintained and cultivated, as well, so that our current base of support remains intact.

“It’s an approach that’s multi-level. You have to maintain the relationships with your current donors, but you have to identify new ones, as well.”

I’m sure you don’t need someone to tell you that APR is an issue at Southern. Can you lay out your vision on how to get that ship righted?
“I think the short-sightedness that some people have when looking at APR (is), they tie an APR to an athletic program. An APR is an institutional product, and so the way that student-athletes perform, that an institution retains them, and how successfully they matriculate toward graduation, the entire institution has to be involved. They have to be invested in that success, and thusly, they have to be accountable when they’re not successful.

“Every aspect, from the initial recruiting process, who are coaches going after in recruiting, to what is the environment on campus and what our retention rate is here, what can be done to improve retention and student performance, what kinds of resources are being made available, in terms of tutors, in terms of software to track how active they are, and how inactive in participating and coming to study hall. And then finally, to the athletic director. The athletic director has to evaluate all of those procedures.

“It’s not enough to want. It’s not enough to care about it. It’s not enough to know it’s a problem. You have to have skilled people in all of those positions invested in the effort. One of the first things I’ll have to do is review where the problems are, if they’re particular sports. And then begin assessing where are the gaps and filling in those gaps.

“Many institutions in the NCAA have been penalized under APR. Many of them have emerged from it successfully. It is not rocket science. It is not even physical science. It’s not even difficult. The NCAA provides plenty of resources, and an action plan that you can follow to meet those goals. It just takes someone being there to make sure that they’re followed.”

Committee unanimously approves William Broussard for A.D. job

At long last, Southern University seems to have found its next athletic director in young William Broussard.

Thursday afternoon, the Southern Board of Supervisors athletic committee unanimously approved Chancellor James Llorens’ recommendation of Broussard, nearly ending a search that began 11 months, one week and six days ago, when the school fired Greg LaFleur.

For Broussard, one final hurdle remains.

The 33-year-old football player-turned-administrator, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona and became known as a strong fund-raiser at Northwestern State, must be approved by the full board of supervisors March 30 in Shreveport.

That approval appears very likely.

Between now and then, Llorens said, Broussard will likely begin working at Southern, though technically as a consultant.

Thursday afternoon, after the Board’s athletic committee approved Broussard, members gave him a standing ovation.

Warren Forstall — who opposed the candidacy of Paula Jackson, an SU graduate who was shot down by the Board last month — told Llorens that he’s all in favor of Broussard.

“This time, I’m going to support you 100 percent. … It’s a bold move, and I thank you,” said Forstall, who later praised Broussard for being articulate and thoughtful, adding that “it would be my pleasure” to help finalize Broussard’s contract.

Llorens said he and Broussard have discussed possible contract terms but not finalized them.

The chancellor also said he expects the contract to last at least three years, adding that it will probably include bonuses for reaching certain academic and fund-raising goals.

LaFleur made $110,000 annually.

Broussard is indeed young, but he wowed the athletic committee with his three-pronged plan for leading an athletic department that has achieved some recent success recently, but has also staggered through a litany of problems with its budget and its Academic Progress Rate.

Broussard, who was present, said he plans to focus on three major areas:

  • compliance;
  • academic performance; and
  • fund-raising.

“He is a young-but-accomplished professional who has established a solid reputation in a short period of time. … All the recommendations have been very strong,” Llorens said.

Northwestern State Athletic Director Greg Burke noted that when he hired Broussard as associate athletic director for external affairs, Broussard had never raised a dollar for any university.

Burke wasn’t concerned. Remembering Broussard as an academic All-American at Northwestern State, Burke believed Broussard was more than able to handle the job.

“I knew he could articulate a message,” Burke said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s that 50-year-old guy with the $1,000 suit, or if it’s some guy out in an oilfield. (Broussard) can relate to him.”

According to the university, Broussard broke records for fund-raising during his three years at Northwestern State.

While there, Broussard also worked as an assistant journalism professor.

He spent nine months as athletic director at Centenary College, resigning last month after a clash with school president B. David Rowe.

Good, bad and odd moments from a strange weekend at Lee-Hines Field

What was that?

As we’ve all come to know, the annual Southern-Grambling series at Lee-Hines Field is typically one of the highlights of the year — not just baseball season, but the entire sports season on The Bluff.

The young men are decked out in replica Negro League uniforms. The weather usually cooperates. And to the delight of the home fans, Southern not only wins this series, but often crushes its archrival — even when Grambling has enjoyed a relatively successful season.

This, on the other hand, was a weekend unlike any other.

Sunday afternoon, the Tigers came to life in the late innings of a 7-1 victory, completing a three-game sweep of Southern in its own home park.

The mere sight of a Grambling celebration was enough to make some SU fans hold their noses as they wandered out of Lee-Hines Field.

The Jaguars looked sloppy, undisciplined, and at times, uninterested.

Yikes.

A look back at the good, bad and odd moments from a decidedly odd weekend:

THE GOOD
Look long enough at the three-game series, and you’ll find some slices of good news.

No, seriously.

——First of all, Southern got decent starting pitching in two of its three games. Jose De Leon allowed two runs in 6.1 innings Saturday, and Brian Foster gave up three earned runs in 6.1 innings Sunday.

On a normal weekend, that probably would’ve been enough to keep SU in the game, if not win it outright.

But the Jaguars were a little short in the category of run support.

Also, it’s worth nothing that freshman reliever John Thigpen had another solid outing. He took the loss in Saturday’s 13-inning game, but probably stayed on the mound for too many innings (six in all; he was relatively sharp ion his first five).

——Most importantly, it’s mid-March. Not late May. Getting swept at home is surely not a good sign. Still, the Jaguars opened Western Division play with a sweep at Texas Southern, and as the mad genius, Roger Cador, aptly put it Sunday: There’s a lot of baseball to go.

If the Jaguars are still this sloppy in two months, then yes, it’s a big problem. But for now, it’s only one weekend.

THE BAD
Where do we start?

——The Jaguars had way too many sloppy at-bats. During Saturday’s doubleheader, they didn’t do a great job of working the count, and Sunday, their plate discipline was suspect (swinging at pitches outside the strike zone; taking too many pitches in the strike zone; sloppiness with two strikes, etc.). As a team, they batted .206 on the weekend.

——Base running was … interesting. Four runners were caught stealing. It was much more than that, however. Derrick Hopkins was called out after umpires ruled he left second base early on a sacrifice fly (in fairness, Grambling might have gotten lucky on its appeal; Hopkins appeared to be on the bag when outfielder Brian Knuckles caught the ball). Also, in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, Caleb Hatcher was forced out at third base after retreating to second on a ground ball.

THE ODD
Let’s be succinct with this one.

Grambling swept Southern in Baton Rouge. SWAC baseball records are more than a little spotty, but to the best of anyone’s memory, it’s been at least 20 years since that happened.

So … yes, that qualifies as odd.

Very, very odd.

Basketball season is over: SU women lose to Alcorn at SWAC tournament

GARLAND, Texas — Basketball season has ended for Southern University.

Wednesday morning at the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, the second-seeded SU women’s basketball team gave away an eight-point lead and went 3-for-24 from the field in the second half in a 54-44 loss to seventh-seeded Alcorn State.

The Lady Braves (13-19) advanced to Friday’s semifinal round, where they’ll face the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between Grambling and Alabama A&M.

The Jaguars (13-13) are done. In losing for the fourth time in their last six games, they committed 22 turnovers in all and scored only nine points in the first 19 minutes of the second half.

Lechell Rush had 11 points and seven rebounds for Southern. Jamie Floyd added three points and 10 rebounds, and Adrian Sanders had nine points on 3-of-15 shooting.

Alcorn tied the score at 35 with less than 11 minutes remaining and made only one field goal the rest of the way — but the Lady Braves pulled away by going 17-for-20 at the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.

Southern’s season had begun with more than enough promise.

The Jaguars — coming off back-to-back regular-season championships, but armed this season with six freshmen — struggled in nonconference play, but barreled through two-thirds of the SWAC schedule, going 10-3 and taking over first place ahead of Mississippi Valley State.

But ultimately, the Jaguars came undone. Nagging injuries, the lack of a true point guard and sloppy play led to a late-season tumble.

In their final six games, they shot 33 percent from the floor and averaged 19.8 turnovers.

Notes from a nutty spring

It has been, if nothing else, a spring semester to remember for the Southern University football program, peppered with all sorts of story lines.

The Stump Mitchell Watch is over; one way or another, he is out of the running for an assistant’s job with the St. Louis Rams, with whom he interviewed last month.

For the record, Mitchell said again this week he’s happy to be here. He added that “one or two” new assistants are on their way to Southern.

For now, however, the business of football practice has grabbed center stage again.

And the players are happy about that.

Wide receiver Mike Berry said he’d gotten tired of people calling him, asking if he knew anything more about Mitchell, as if Berry were the coach’s agent or something.

Cornerback Virgil Williams, for his part, said all the will-he-or-won’t-he talk didn’t affect him, much less most of the other guys.

“We really didn’t too much let it get to us, because he told us that he wasn’t going anywhere,” Williams said. “It was more about the team than just him. So we pretty much left it at that.”

Which QB has the lead?
For now, it appears the hot-and-cold quarterback tandem is still exactly that.

J.P. Douglas, who’ll be a sophomore, is listed as No. 1 on the depth chart — but Dray Joseph, who will be a junior, seemed to flourish in his first five practices this spring.

“That’s how we’re practicing,” Mitchell said, referring to Douglas as the No. 1 quarterback. “But I think clearly, in my opinion, Dray is playing the best football he’s played in two years.”

Lest anyone forget, Joseph started seven games last season, including the first six. Douglas came off the bench in five of the first six games, then got his first start in the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game Oct. 15. He ended up with four starts.

Together, the quarterbacks combined to complete 52 percent of their throws for 2,826 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

CB Pettaway out … for now
LaMarkius Pettaway, who emerged as the team’s No. 2 cornerback as a freshman last season, is missing from about half of Southern’s practices this spring because “his GPA was not the way it should’ve been,” Mitchell said.

The team is practicing Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays this spring. Because the university did away with Friday classes this semester in a cost-cutting measure, the coaching staff has allowed Pettaway to practice on Fridays and Saturdays, when they don’t have classes.

Allan Spry, a center who redshirted last season, is in a similar situation, Mitchell said.

“But on Mondays and Wednesdays, because of what they didn’t do during the fall, academically, we’re not going to have them out here,” Mitchell said.

Both players can still be eligible for the fall semester if their grades pick up.

In nine games last season, Pettaway had 30 tackles, one interception, eight pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

Lagniappe
Southern will hold its first scrimmage at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. It is open to the public. … Mitchell said Eric Janeau’s move from TE to RT is probably permanent. … SU will hold a coaching clinic and crawfish boil May 16 for high school coaches. High school coaches from Louisiana will speak, and the event will include “breakout sessions” with the SU staff. For information, call quarterbacks coach Chad Germany at (225) 384-9347. … The team will take most of next week off for midterm exams.