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CFN Preview 2013 - Southern Miss Eagles
Southern Miss RB Kendrick Hardy
Southern Miss RB Kendrick Hardy
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 4, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Southern Miss Golden Eagles


Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Preview 2013
 

- 2013 Southern Miss Preview | 2013 Southern Miss Offense
- 2013 Southern Miss Defense | 2013 Southern Miss Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Todd Monken
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best USM Players
1. CB Deron Wilson, Sr.
2. RB Kendrick Hardy, Sr.
3. DT Khyri Thornton, Sr.
4. LB Alan Howze, Sr.
5. DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jr.
6. WR Dominique Sullivan, Sr.
7. LB Dylan Reda, Sr.
8. S Jacorius Cotton, Sr.
9. OG Ed Preston, Sr.
10. WR Chris Briggs, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Texas State
9/7 at Nebraska
9/14 at Arkansas
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 at Boise State
10/5 FIU
10/12 OPEN DATE
10/19 at East Carolina
10/26 North Texas
11/2 at Marshall
11/9 at Louisiana Tech
11/16 Florida Atlantic
11/23 Middle Tennessee
11/30 at UAB
Southern Miss is starting over: The sequel.

The Golden Eagles are on their third head coach in the last three seasons; Larry Fedora left in 2011 for a good reason, accepting a promotion to North Carolina. Ellis Johnson, on the other hand, received the rare first-year hook after failing to win a game in his debut. Todd Monken has been hired to help pick up the pieces, while leading the program back to a point where it competes for championships.

The administration actually passed on Monken after Fedora left, setting the program back a year. Now, it feels fortunate to have gotten a second chance at one of the emerging young offensive minds in college football. Monken has bounced around the NFL and the college ranks since graduating from Knox (Ill.) College in 1988, but didn’t get much attention until leading the Oklahoma State attack for Mike Gundy in 2011 and 2012. Southern Miss, for one, took notice.

USM was basically burned to the ground last year, leaving Monken and his assistants with a clean slate and a lot of psyches in need of repair. The staff is hoping to gradually discover the swagger and the confidence that permeated throughout the locker room of a team that went 12-2 and won Conference USA only two years earlier.

The first order of business on offense will be to install a system that moves fast, spreads the field and creates wide lanes for the running backs. Priority No. 2 will be to mine a quarterback out of a quarry of mediocre candidates. Walk-on Cole Weeks led the race at the end of spring, but Ricky Lloyd was injured and Cal transfer Allan Bridgford has yet to arrive on campus. Monken wisely hired David Duggan to commandeer a defense that rudderless in 2012. Duggan was the co-coordinator of the 2011 championship D that set an NCAA record for single-season interception returns for touchdowns.

Southern Miss reached a new low in its history last year, finishing the campaign without a victory and below .500 for the first time in 19 years. However, in Monken, the school believes it’s hired the coach it needs to right the ship. If so, maybe the futility and frustration of 2012 will wind up being worth it after all.

What to watch for on offense: The assimilation of QB Allan Bridgford. The former four-star recruit from Cal is looking to resurrect a once-promising career. New head coach Todd Monken has been very successful with quarterbacks in the past, which undoubtedly played into the transfer’s decision. Bridgford clearly has more natural ability than the holdovers in Hattiesburg. His objective, though, will be to learn the offensive system as quickly as possible since his competition already had a chance to operate it for 15 practices in the spring.

What to watch for on defense: The names of the linebackers will be called plenty in 2013. Alan Howze and Dylan Reda were green and unproven at this time last year. But after a full season as starters, the seniors are prepared to become two of the leaders in 2013. The pair combined for 121 tackles, displaying good range and quickness to the ball. Now a little bigger and a lot wiser about the defensive scheme, they should be good for at least 150 stops and some postseason honors.

The team will be far better if… it resumes creating more takeaways. It’s hardly a revelation that the team that consistently wins turnover margin is the one more likely to be victorious. For Southern Miss, the model couldn’t be more starkly obvious or revealing over the past couple of years. In 2011, the Golden Eagles generated 28 turnovers, and won 12 games. A year ago, they managed just 12 takeaways, and lost 12 games. The symmetry and correlations were no coincidence.

The Schedule: After last season’s disaster, it’s time to show that things have changed. That’s going to be tough early on with road games at Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State after starting out against Texas State. It won’t help to go on the road three times in four weeks in the middle of the season with dates at East Carolina, Marshall and Louisiana Tech around a home game against North Texas. Fortunately, there are three games against the former Sun Belt members that should help the record. Finishing up against Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee will help before closing out at UAB.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Kendrick Hardy. Does Southern Miss have a bona fide best offensive player at this point? Nope. But Hardy has the highest ceiling, based on past performance. He’s still fighting for a starting job, which he’ll get as long as he remains focused. The senior has had a rocky career in Hattiesburg, marred by injuries and a lack of support from the previous coaching staff. Hardy, though, is also the powerful back who rushed for 205 yards against Houston in 2010 and another 172 yards versus Rice a year later. Given a chance, he could be one of Conference USA’s more productive runners.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Deron Wilson. Wilson is one of the top cover corners in Conference USA, a senior with pro aspirations. The upside wasn’t always obvious a year ago, though, partly his fault and partly the result of breakdowns surrounding him. Wilson is an active and fluid playmaker, with the knowledge and instincts to make good decisions in coverage. His numbers went south in 2012 to 61 tackles, one interception and nine passes defended, but he’s poised for a rebound now that scouts are watching him closely.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive linemen. It’s going to take some—maybe a lot—of time before the offense starts clicking up to Monken’s liking. However, the transition to a new system and new personnel certainly will be smoother if the O-line exceeds modest expectations. The group lost four seniors to graduation, leaving behind starting G Ed Preston and a bunch of untested former reserves. While it’s asking a lot, Southern Miss will be a markedly better team in 2013 if the line plays above its pay level.

The season will be a success if ... the Golden Eagles are mathematically alive for the postseason when November begins. Asking too much of a team that went 0-12 last year? Not really. Southern Miss returns plenty of veterans, and the new watered-down Conference USA makes a rebound realistic for a program that began 2012 on an 11-year streak of bowl games. The non-conference slate provides little breathing room, but Florida International, North Texas and Florida Atlantic are now in-league meetings. It won’t surprise if USM wins four games in 2013, setting the stage for further improvement in 2014.

Key game: Aug. 31 vs. Texas State. The Eagles kick off the Monken era with a visit from the Bobcats that absolutely, positively has to wind up in the win column. Southern Miss is riding a nasty 12-game losing streak; the faster they snap it, the quicker they can go about the business of healing from 2012. It’s also important to pounce early on a winnable game, because Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State are next on the schedule.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per play: Southern Miss 4.9 – Opponents 5.1
- Third-quarter scoring: Southern Miss 34 – Opponents 132
- Third-down %: Southern Miss 36% - Opponents 50%

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