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2013 Southern Miss Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 4, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Southern Miss Golden Eagle Offense


Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Southern Miss Preview | 2013 Southern Miss Offense
- 2013 Southern Miss Defense | 2013 Southern Miss Depth Chart
 
What you need to know: Southern Miss is starting from scratch … again. The Golden Eagles are learning a new system for a second straight year. With head coach Todd Monken and coordinator Marcus Arroyo on campus, USM promises to be inventive and aggressive in its offensive approach. Monken, in particular, is an innovator who likes to attack, a philosophy on display most recently at Oklahoma State. Of course, he’ll face a totally different challenge in Hattiesburg than he did in Stillwater. The Eagles sported one of the country’s worst offenses of 2012, averaging just 19.6 points per game, and not a single All-Conference USA player returns. Faint hope comes from the signing of Cal transfer QB Allan Bridgford, the presence of veteran skill players, such as RB Kendrick Hardy and WR Dominique Sullivan, and … Monken. The administration has put its faith in a young and energetic head man who’ll have a world of teaching and preaching that needs to be done throughout the balance of 2013.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ricky Lloyd
22-44, 277 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
Rushing: Jalen Richard
87 carries, 426 yds, 4 TDs
Receiving: Justin Sims
20 catches, 294 yds, 0 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior RB Kendrick Hardy
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Allan Bridgford
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Chris Briggs
Best pro prospect: Hardy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hardy, 2) Senior WR Dominique Sullivan, 3) Senior OG Ed Preston
Strength of the offense: Running back, big wide receivers
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, O-line, turnovers, third-down conversions

Quarterbacks

Todd Monken’s offense is designed with the quarterback in mind, which is a good thing considering how poorly the position played in Hattiesburg last season. The Golden Eagles produced just nine touchdown passes, while ranking 117th nationally in passing efficiency. The leader of a tight race entering summer is 6-0, 199-pound junior Cole Weeks, who looked the best among the quarterbacks in the spring. The walk-on has virtually no experience, going 8-of-19 for 106 yards and a pick, but made good decisions, digested the offense and played the game with the speed that the staff prefers.

At least for now, waging a battle for the backup job are 6-4, 213-pound redshirt freshman Kyle Sloter and 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Ricky Lloyd. Sloter is a two-star recruit from the 2012 class, who has hit the weights and added considerable weight over the offseason. Lloyd was injured in the spring and unable to compete for the job. He’d started two games last year before getting hurt, going 22-of-43 for 277 yards, one touchdown and three picks, adding 55 yards on the ground. The California native has a high ceiling, with the quickness and zip that Monken likes in his passers.

Watch Out For .... the competition to get even tighter in the summer. Former four-star Cal recruit Allan Bridgford has decided that Hattiesburg will be the place where he attempts to resurrect his career. He never cut as a Bear, going just 44-of-100 for 461 yards, one touchdown and three picks. However, he arrives with far better credentials than his new set of teammates.
Strength: Competition. The old adage suggests that a competitive environment makes everyone involved a little hungrier and better. If that’s the case, the Southern Miss quarterbacks ought to be crisper in August than they were in April, especially when Bridgford enters the mix.
Weakness: Proven players. The Golden Eagles are essentially destitute right now, lacking a quarterback with any kind of a proven track record at this level. Lloyd and Bridgford have played some for Southern Miss and Cal, respectively, but not enough to feel comfortable about the current situation. Plus, all of the participants are also digesting a new offense, which presents an additional hurdle.
Outlook: Monken will get there with his quarterbacks, but it’s going to take a while. The group is raw, inexperienced and still learning the nuances of the offense. Weeks has an early lead, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can hold it once Lloyd and Bridgford start pushing him for reps. The good news is that the position can’t possibly be as bad as it was in 2012.
Rating: 5

Running Backs

One of the strengths that the Golden Eagles will lean on in 2013 will be their deep backfield. The favorite to be the feature back is 6-0, 223-pound senior Kendrick Hardy. Shoulder problems and a falling out with the previous staff stunted his development, but he’s approaching this year as a chance for a rebirth. Hardy is a bruising between-the-tackles operator who brings 241 career carries for 1,480 yards and nine touchdowns into his finale. Included in his numbers are five 100-yard efforts.

Tied atop the depth chart with Hardy at the conclusion of spring was 5-8, 186-pound sophomore Tyre Bracken. The returning letterman rushed for 60 yards on 13 carries, while catching four balls for 80 yards and two scores in his debut. He’s a slasher with the soft hands to be a factor in the passing game.

Southern Miss is deep as well as talented in the running game. Like Bracken, 5-8, 205-pound sophomore Jalen Richard ditched a redshirt in 2012. In fact, he finished second on the team with 426 yards and four scores on 87 carries. Richard has the quickness and low center of gravity to become the most complete back on the roster. The Eagles will also utilize the quick cuts and experience of senior Jeremy Hester. At 5-6 and 177 pounds, he’s short, but not small, picking up blitzing, and lowering his head in the hole in order to gain more yards. Coming off the bench last year, he ran for 196 yards and a touchdown on 46 carries.

Watch Out For … new head coach Todd Monken to mix and match his personnel based on the situation. Assuming he’s conditioned properly, Hardy will probably get the most carries, but that won’t that the rest of the backs are idle. Monken plans to craftily use all of his tools wisely, plugging them in based on down and distance.
Strength: Options. The Golden Eagles are not only deep in the backfield, but they house a diverse set of weapons, each offering a different challenge to opposing defenses. Hardy is the power runner, and he’s surrounded by a trio of slashers who are also skilled pass catchers.
Weakness: A proven go-to guy. It might be Hardy, but he’s struggled with injuries and his weight. It could be Richard, yet he’s only in his second year, and wasn’t even listed on the post-spring depth chart. One of the backs needs to emerge into the kind of player that commands 15-20 touches every weekend.
Outlook: Regardless of the system that’s employed, Southern Miss has to do all it can to maximize the talent from this group. Hardy has shown flashes of being an All-Conference USA player, a level of play he hopes to ascend to in 2013. Richard, Bracken and Hester all offer something a little different, while bringing undeniable depth to the backfield.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Receivers

Patience and a whole lot of learning is required, but the receivers should benefit from the new staff and the new offensive system. Senior Dominique Sullivan, the starter at “X”, is one of those Golden Eagles capable of breaking out now that he has a fresh start. In 2012, he started 10 games, yet only caught 19 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns. However, he has the experience and the 6-3, 201-pound frame to become a much bigger factor in 2013.

On the inside, 5-8, 169-pound senior Francisco Llanos will bring a steady presence to “H” receiver. The three-time letterwinner, and former walk-on, has thrived off of toughness, reliable hands and blue-collar work ethic. He started his first three games in 2012, finishing the campaign with 20 receptions for 226 yards.

At “Z”, big things are expected from junior Chris Briggs, a 10-game backup who hauled in 11 balls for 144 yards a season ago. At 6-5 and 214 pounds, with long arms and soft hands, he has the natural gifts to really blossom in his first year as a regular. If the sparing is any indication, Briggs will be especially tough to cover on fade routes in the end zone.

The new staff has yet to decide on a starter at “Y” out of 6-0, 188-pound sophomore Cooper Harrington and 6-4, 216-pound junior Markese Triplett. Harrington has yet to contribute in his first two seasons, but that won’t be the case this year. He has the hands and the route-running ability to gradually become a part of the rotation. Triplett was a former three-star recruit of Louisville who played for Southern Miss in 2012. However, his debut season in black and gold was limited to four games, all starts, by an ankle injury. He wound up catching just five balls for 75 yards and a touchdown, never quite being able to showcase all of his skills as a playmaking receiver.

The Eagles’ most experienced player off the bench will be Llanos’ backup, 5-7, 165-pound senior Justin Sims. As a six-game starter in 2012, he was second on the team with 20 receptions for 294 yards. While not very big, he’s cat-quick, with the ability to pick up yards after the catch.

Watch Out For … Briggs to become a nuisance for opponents to handle. Sure, it was against the Southern Miss, but he was sharp in the spring, using his body and his long gait to beat defensive backs. Someone is going to capitalize from the new system, and Briggs has the potential to be one of those guys.
Strength: Mismatches. Sullivan, Triplett and Briggs go 6-3, 6-4 and 6-5, respectively, which is going to cause problems for opposing defensive backs, big and small. On jump balls, in particular, Southern Miss hopes to leverage its size advantage by putting the ball high in the air and allowing the targets to climb up and grab it.
Weakness: Consistency. Last year’s breakdowns in the passing game sort of threw all of the wide receivers out of whack. Sullivan veered off course, and the young kids failed to develop as quickly as the school would have liked. Having basically lost a season to the ineptitude surrounding them, the wideouts are practically starting over and ditching bad habits in 2013.
Outlook: The Eagles have upside potential in the receiving corps. It didn’t show last year, but then again, how could it? The skill position players had virtually no support from the quarterbacks or the offensive playbook. Llanos, Harrington and Sims are steady in the slot, but Sullivan, Briggs and Triplett have a chance to bring real excitement to the offense on physical ability alone.
Unit Rating: 5

Offensive Line

The Golden Eagles O-line is experienced no longer. The unit, littered with seniors in 2012, will practically being starting over this fall for assistant Pete Perot. The most experienced member of the line is 6-3, 309-pound senior RG Ed Preston, a returning regular. He’s strong at the point of attack and an asset when the team runs the ball. Preston would seem to have a job secured if not for the development of 6-3, 273-pound Michael Brinson. He’s a good all-around athlete who actually played some running back in high school.

Next door at right tackle, another tight competition is taking place. Senior Vincent Brown, who started four games last year, is attempting to beat out 6-4, 278-pound junior Cedric Chisolm, a transfer from Louisburg (N.C.) College. Brown has the clear edge in experience, but struggled at times in pass protection in 2012.

Over at left tackle, Rashad Hill is taking the necessary steps to become a three-year starter. He’s a really agile athlete for the position, with the long, 6-6, 285-pound frame that can handle more weight. With proper development and coaching, Hill has the foundation to develop into an All-Conference USA blocker. In his rear-view mirror is 6-4, 305-pound sophomore Aaron Reed, a newcomer from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College.

The frontrunner at left guard is 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Garrett Clark, a returning letterwinner. The intellectual three-star recruit from Georgia had offers to play in the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten before deciding to become a Golden Eagle.

Playing the pivot will be 6-3, 265-pound sophomore Jordan Greene. Undersized, yet quick and agile, he faces a very tall order as the quarterback of the line this year. The New Orleans native got his feet wet as a reserve off the bench in 2012.

Watch Out For .... the impact of Fredrick Moore, a coveted three-star recruit from Jones County (Miss.) Community College. The Golden Eagles are searching for more bodies up front, and Moore has the 6-5, 320-pound frame to quickly scale the depth chart into the two-deep this summer.
Strength: Agility. The front wall isn’t very big, but it is comprised of nimble blockers who will get to the second level and gradually improve in pass protection. Hill is the poster child of the group, lean, active and likely to improve as the reps increase.
Weakness: Proven blockers. Southern Miss welcomes back just one full-timer, Preston, and he hasn’t even locked down a starting job yet. The Golden Eagles are extremely raw, unproven and undersized, the recipe for problems that hamstring the rest of the offense.
Outlook: Perot and the rest of the staff obviously have a tough task, reshaping an offensive line dominated by mediocrity and youth. At best, the Golden Eagles can shoot to improve as the season unfolds, because in the early going, they’re going to lose more battles at the point of attack than they win.
Rating: 5

- 2013 Southern Miss Preview | 2013 Southern Miss Offense
- 2013 Southern Miss Defense | 2013 Southern Miss Depth Chart