2012 Southern Miss Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Southern Miss Golden Eagle Offense


Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Preview 2012 - Offense

- 2012 Southern Miss Preview | 2012 Southern Miss Offense
- 2012 Southern Miss Defense | 2012 Southern Miss Depth Chart
 
What you need to know: New coaching staff. New quarterback. New era for the Southern Miss offense. While first-year offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle won’t drag the Golden Eagles back to the stone age, he will usher in a little more of a hard-nosed, risk-averse attack than the one that was so successful under former head coach Larry Fedora. If USM was ever going to tap the brakes a little, now would be a good time to do it. The program is about to begin life after QB Austin Davis, the four-year starter in Hattiesburg. Worse yet, USM might need the entire summer to determine his successor from a mediocre bunch. The Eagles could just be content to lean a little heavier on one of the best set of backs in Conference USA, a talented trio consisting of Desmond Johnson, Kendrick Hardy and Jeremy Hester. They’re versatile, dangerous in the passing game and fortunate to be running behind a veteran, Jason Weaver-led offensive line.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Quentin Pierce
3-7, 45 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamal Woodyard
110 carries, 732 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Tracy Lampley
47 catches, 574 yds, 4 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior WR Tracey Lampley
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Chris Campbell
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Jeremy Hester
Best pro prospect: Senior LT Jason Weaver
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Weaver, 2) Lampley, 3) Senior RB Desmond Johnson
Strength of the offense: Running back, the offensive line
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, depth and consistency at receiver, right tackle, turnovers

Quarterbacks

In the span of an offseason, the Golden Eagles have gone from rock solid behind center to uncertain. The graduation of record-setting QB Austin Davis leaves the program in rebuilding mode at the most important position on the field. The slight favorite to succeed No. 12 is 6-4, 208-pound junior Chris Campbell , who has yet to throw a pass. The lesser of three evils during the spring, his edge is largely based on years in the system and overall poise at the controls. He could best be described as a game manager, meaning he’s still quite vulnerable to the challenges of more physically gifted players.

No. 2 coming out of spring was 6-2, 191-pound redshirt freshman Ricky Lloyd . He’s the more gifted athlete of the two, in terms of quickness and arm strength, but has a long way to go with his accuracy and overall consistency. He’ll need to make up some ground in the summer.

Last season’s backup, sophomore Arsenio Favor , can’t be forgotten. However, a knee injury in the spring has stalled his pursuit of the top spot. He’s hoping to be back in time for summer drills, so he can showcase a coveted blend of speed, agility and arm strength in a 6-3, 239-pound package.

Watch Out For .... the arrival of blue-chip dual-threat Anthony Alford , a local four-star gem who could have played for any number of SEC schools. Considering the current state of the competition, the Golden Eagles could be grooming another four-year starter behind center.
Strength: Athletes. The Southern Miss system covets nimble quarterbacks who can make things happen with their legs as well as their arm. This group can fill that job requirement. Favor and Alford are downright dangerous on designed scrambles, or when the pocket suddenly collapses around them.
Weakness: Experienced passers. The most seasoned of the passers, Favor, has thrown three career passes, and is recovering from a knee injury. The Golden Eagles are going to be noticeably green behind center, lacking the consistency in the passing game that had become rote with Davis at the controls.
Outlook: The coaching staff was unable to truly embrace a starter over the spring because no one rose up and took control of the opening. Campbell is in the lead, but almost by default. The hope around Hattiesburg is that Alford is the real deal right out of the gate, learning on the fly as he gradually becomes the young face of the offense. No matter who gets the ball, the drop-off at quarterback will be precipitous.
Rating: 5

Running Backs

As much as any team in Conference USA, Southern Miss is loaded in the backfield. Keeping everyone happy will be head coach Ellis Johnson’s biggest challenge. Exiting spring, there’s a dead heat atop the depth chart. Senior Desmond Johnson is eager to make a mark in his final year on campus. The most complete back in the stable, he has struggled to play a full season in either of the last two years. He was supposed to be the guy in 2011, but appeared in only seven games, rushing 75 times for 424 yards and two scores. A 5-11, 200-pound slasher, he has the burst and quickness to ignite the offense as a runner or a receiver.

Johnson’s stiffest competition is coming from a surprising source, 5-6, 180-pound Jeremy Hester . He’s short, but not small, picking up blitzing, and lowering his head in the hole in order to gain more yards. Despite earning just 59 carries for 291 yards and two scores, the junior has impressed the staff with his burst and consistency.

Maybe most impressive about Hester is that he’s surpassed junior Kendrick Hardy , a far more powerful and physically impressive player. Shoulder problems limited the 6-0, 219-pounder to just five games, in which he produced 426 yards and two scores on 72 carries. This is the same player who darn near rushed for 1,000 yards in 2010 as a backup. However, the staff is demanding he drop some excess weight in the next two months before being considered for a promotion.

Leading rushing Jamal Woodyard , who went for 732 yards and three scores on 110 carries, as a freshman is expected to miss the entire 2012 season to recover from a knee injury suffered in the bowl game.

Watch Out For … Hardy’s waistline. The junior has a tremendous upside in Hattiesburg—and possibly beyond—but he’ll need to get in much better shape before summer camp. A chiseled Hardy has 1,000-yard potential. A chunky Hardy will spend the entire season behind Hester on the depth chart.
Strength: Depth. Four different Golden Eagles players rushed for 100 yards in a game last season. Now, Woodyard won’t be available, but the team will still boast an embarrassment of riches in the backfield. In fact, the staff believes that all three of its top backs would go for 1,000 yards if given at least 200 carries.
Weakness: Durability. If anything is going to derail this group it’ll be injuries. Neither Hardy nor Johnson was able to be in pads for more than half of last season, and Hester is only 180 pounds. This group is at its best when there are fresh legs available to wear out opposing defenses in the second half of close games.
Outlook: It’s all about the health of the backs in Hattiesburg. If Johnson and Hardy can spend the season off the injury report, the Golden Eagles will feature three complimentary backs who’ll form the bedrock of a transitioning offense. Hester will continue to be a pleasant surprise around campus, stealing carries from teammates who arrived with far more attention and accolades.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Receivers

For the second straight year, Southern Miss will be looking to build depth at wide receiver and tight end now that top two receivers Kelvin Bolden and Ryan Ballentine have exhausted their eligibility. The new quarterback will spend a lot of time looking for “Y” receiver Tracy Lampley , the Eagles’ starter in the slot. The very definition of an all-purpose playmaker, he caught 47 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, adding 91 carries for 463 yards and three more scores. He’s also an all-conference punt returner. At 5-9 and 168 pounds, he has a knack for getting lost behind his blockers before exploding into space.

The veteran on the outside will be “X” receiver Quentin Pierce , a three-time letterwinner with considerable game experience. The shifty 5-11, 193-pounder started six games in 2011, but only made 17 catches for 166 yards and one touchdown, a level of production he’ll need to dwarf this fall.

The Eagles are going to be deepest at the other outside spot, or “Z”. Junior Francisco Llanos is the projected starter, a former walk-on making the most of his opportunity. A year ago, he didn’t start a single game, catching 10 passes for 173 yards and two scores. However, he’s been steadier and more consistent than last year’s starter, 6-4, 208-pound Dominique Sullivan . The junior was fourth on the team with 32 catches for 461 yards and two scores, but needs to make fewer mistakes going forward.

Southern Miss will employ a tight end this fall, most likely 6-5, 246-pound senior Ryan Hanks . The three-time letterwinner has limited experience in the passing game, catching just seven career passes for 45 yards and three touchdowns.

Watch Out For … Sullivan to get the message. Llanos at the top of the depth chart served as a blow to Sullivan’s ego. He started nine games in 2011, and has as much upside as any receiver this side of Lampley. He still has the month of August to try and recapture his old job.
Strength: Playmakers. As a rule this season, the Southern Miss wide receivers will be a fleet-footed, undersized collection of playmakers who can get behind a secondary and pick up yards after the catch. They’re exciting and versatile, even showing potential for big plays on inside handoffs and end-arounds.
Weakness: Consistency. Lampley can be counted on to make plays. After No. 1, however, things get questionable at receiver in a hurry. This is an up-and-down ensemble of wide receivers and tight ends, all of whom are also facing the added pressure of adjusting to a quarterback situation that’s yet to produce a stone cold starter.
Outlook: There’s a reason why the Golden Eagles will throw to the backs a lot this year—the wide receivers are a flawed bunch. Hey, Lampley is going to get his touches, and be employed in any possible way that’ll get him into space. However, Southern Miss needs to develop and a No. 2 and a No. 3 if the passing game has any chance of clicking.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

The Golden Eagles need to replace just one starter, LT Lamar Holmes, up front from a unit that did a terrific job of blocking a year ago. Sliding over from the right side to replaces Holmes at left tackle will be 6-5, 302-pound senior Jason Weaver who was granted a medical redshirt to return one more year. The Second Team All-Conference USA selection recaptured the 2010 season he lost a serious knee injury. However, he returned last fall to showcase his raw power and dominance, particularly as a run blocker.

Next to Weaver at left guard will be 6-2, 292-pound senior Joe Duhon , one of the team’s steadiest blockers. He’s a heady player up front, with the quick feet and initial burst off the snap to get to the second level on running downs in a hurry.

Back at the pivot for a second straight year is 6-3, 292-pound senior Austin Quattrochi, who performed well in his starting debut in 2011. He was clean with his snaps throughout the season, and brings a healthy dose of leadership to the middle of the line.

The right side will be slightly less predictable than the left one. At guard, the frontrunner is massive 6-4, 329-pound senior Darius Barnes, a former defensive lineman who has flashed versatility and the ability to move a pile from this side of the ball. However, 6-4, 307-pound junior Ed Preston has starting experience on the resume as well, and has impressed the coaches with his work ethic. Barnes will take a lead into the summer, but Preston won’t acquiesce without a fight.

The most vulnerable position on the offense, save for quarterback, will be right tackle, which is currently the domain of 6-6, 314-pound junior Vincent Brown . An unfinished product, with a lot of room to grow, he played only one year of high school ball in Miami before transferring to junior college in Brooklyn.

Watch Out For .... Brown’s progress between today and the opener. The staff knows that he’s raw, but it also recognizes that he has the base skill set to become a very good pass protector. He has the right frame, arm length and footwork, but just needs to work on his overall technique as a blocker.
Strength: Veteran leadership. The Eagles are flush with upperclassmen who’ve played a ton of football in Hattiesburg. Nothing is going to surprise or rattle this group, which was the unsung hero of last season league championship run.
Weakness: Uncertainty at right tackle. While the Eagles have solidified the guard spot with the combination of Preston and Barnes, tackle is going to be a little unsettled for a while. The program likes Brown, and is excited about his next two seasons, but he could be a target of opposing pass rushers in September.
Outlook: Very quietly, Southern Miss has cobbled together an underrated, blue-collar front wall, a credit to Larry Fedora’s old staff. From the ensemble that led the conference in rushing and sacks allowed returns five upperclassmen with starting experience. This line will be an asset and a source of great leadership as the attack attempts to break in a new man under center.
Rating: 6.5

- 2012 Southern Miss Preview | 2012 Southern Miss Offense
- 2012 Southern Miss Defense | 2012 Southern Miss Depth Chart