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Southern’s defense lacked speed last season. The Jaguars think they’ve found more.

A difficult passing game for Southern last season overshadowed what proved to be a strong defensive performance.

Eric Dooley hopes to improve on this and get even better as a result in 2023.

The Jaguars have been betting on defensive size and speed in their recruiting efforts, and while size is partially on hold, speed seems to have arrived after the first week of spring training.

“Defensively, I thought we came out quickly in the early days and I expected that because we have experience on the return,” Dooley said. “We lost some key pieces but enough came back to let these guys know how to move.

“That’s extremely important,” Dooley said, referring to the speed of the team, “and we’ve gotten some linebackers who are very, very good. I’ve seen them fly around and that’s what I’m looking for – speed on the field. The assistant coaches did a good job of getting these guys. They will not only help us in defense but also in special teams.”

The Jaguars have improved their depth significantly over the past season, earning Southern the No. 2 in SWAC total defense (301.3 yards per game), first in run defense (112.1 ypg), and third in Pass Defense (189.2 ypg) occupied. The addition of stalwarts like tackle Jason Dumas, end Trey Laing and linebacker Jalan Campbell increased the level of play.

Dumas and running mate Camron Peterson are gone, leaving a hole in the middle that Dooley is hoping to fill with incoming tackles from Deris Jackson (6-4, 320) and Jelani Davis (6-1, 295). They will not arrive until June.

But Dooley also relied on fast linebackers, bringing in three – Josh Tate, Willie Matthews and Mike Jones – to go with Campbell and Derrick Williams. Transfer safeties Leroy Bowers and Joshua Alexander bring pace to the secondary school.

“We have some fast linebackers,” defensive coordinator Henry Miller said. “All three that we signed can walk and we missed that. If we (are going to) upgrade, it has to happen quickly. We have good players but we need more to change them. I wasn’t comfortable with my second-team boys, so I wanted the new ones to fit the Derrick Williams mold.”