Southern Miss Preview 2006 - Offense
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Preview 2006 - USM Offense
What you need to know ...
USM was all pass and no run last season, and while the
team appears to want more of a balance, it hasn't
happened despite several efforts over the last few years.
However, the personnel is in place to produce much more on the
ground with mobile quarterback Jeremy Young taking over for the
solid Dustin Almond. Helping the cause will be the veteran rushing punch of Larry
Thomas and Cody Hull running behind a talented offensive line
with four starters returning. The receiving corps has the
potential to be among the best in Conference USA with six good
targets along with tight end, and last year's leading receiver,
Shawn Nelson. The problems will kick in if there are any
injuries up front and/or if Young struggles with his accuracy.
Passing: Jeremy Young
5-9, 62 yds
Rushing: Larry Thomas
167 carries, 647 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Shawn Nelson
35 catches, 540 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Senior OG George Batiste
Offensive line depth
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Joe Singleton
Best pro prospect: Batiste
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Batiste, 2) TE Shawn
Nelson, 3) OG Travis Cooley
Strength of the offense: Starting five on the offensive
line, receiving corps
Weakness of the offense:
QuarterbacksReplacing three-year starter Dustin Almond might not be
all that tough. He threw for a ton of yards and was a steady
touchdown producer, but he also had his share of off games that
proved critical in USM not winning the Conference USA East
title. Jeremy Young has to prove he can be a consistent passer.
He's a smart player with great running skills, so if he can
limit the mistakes, the Eagle offense should be fine. Michigan
State transfer Stephen Reaves is a veteran backup, while
redshirt freshman Mike Burks will be groomed for the future
starting out this year as the number three man.
The key to the unit: Efficiency. USM threw for 246
yards per game last season with Dustin Almond at the helm, but
only had an efficiency rating of 127.63 (seventh in the league).
Any improvement would be a big help.
Quarterback Rating: 6
- Jeremy Young, Jr. - 5-9, 62 yds
The 6-3, 210-pound junior is a big, strong, athletic passer who
has been around the system long enough to know what he's doing.
He wasn't able to see too much time last season with Dustin
Almond needed from start to finish, but he has a little bit of
live game experience over the last two seasons. While he might
not be the passer Almond was, he'll bring a rushing element
missing from the attack.
- Stephen Reaves, Jr.
The Michigan State transfer sat out last season, which wasn't a
bad thing considering he had to undergo knee surgery. He saw a
little bit of time as a Spartan throwing for 331 yards, two
touchdowns, and five interceptions in spot duty over five games.
With a live arm and good passing skills, he's the better of the
two starting quarterback options. However, he's not nearly the
runner Jeremy Young is.
Southern Miss has the experience, power, and speed in its
backfield, now it needs production after finishing 97th in the
nation and 11th in Conference USA. There's way too much
experience and talent to only average 3.3 yards per carry again
with Cody Hull and Larry Thomas a veteran pair who'll combine
forces to carry the load. The fullbacks have the potential to be
excellent with Bobby Weakley looking much-improved this spring
and Cole Mason a future top all-around playmaker.
The key to the unit: More big plays. Larry Thomas is
too fast to only have a long carry of 21 yards. The longest run
on the team last season was Cody Hull's 39-yard dash.
Running Back Rating: 6
- Cody Hull, Jr. - 130 carries, 542 yds, 4.2 ypc, 3 TD,
10 catches, 66 yds, 6.6 ypc
Hull will combine with Larry Thomas to carry the workload. He's
not as good as Thomas, but he's a good all-around back who does
a little of everything well with a decent combination of
quickness and power. The plan was to rotate him into the mix
from game one, but he didn't make much of an impact until the
final three games of the season finishing up with a 161-yard day
against Arkansas State.
- Fullback Bobby Weakley, Sr. - 12 carries, 48 yds, 4 ypc,
1 TD, 4 catches, 31 yds
The 241-pound senior had a tremendous spring and should be a
more effective blocker for the running game. He's not going to
catch many passes and he won't offer any wiggle when the ball is
in his hands, but he's becoming a more effective power runner.
- Larry Thomas, Jr. - 167 carries, 647 yds, 3.9 ypc, 4
TD, 17 catches, 118 yds, 6.9 ypc
He has the speed and he has the size, but the 6-0, 197-pound
junior hasn't been able to put it all together for a full
season. He was good in spots rushing for over 100 yards against
McNeese State, UAB and Marshall for the bulk of his yards. He
didn't hit nearly as many home runs as he should've and wasn't
much around the goal line.
- Conrad Chanova, Jr.
It might be hard for Chanova to break through the 1-2 rushing
punch of Cody Hull and Larry Thomas, but he has too much speed
to keep off the field. He's a sprinter on the USM track team,
but he doesn't run like a track guy; he's tough and isn't afraid
to power it.
- Fullback Cole Mason, Soph. - 41 carries, 136 yds,
3.3 ypc, 4 TD
The team's top power runner should have an even bigger role
around the goal line after scoring four touchdowns in the final
five games. While he isn't as big as starter Bobby Weakley, he
has more upside. All he needs is more time before he becomes a
key cog in the attack.
Depth, speed, size, experience and
versatility; this receiving corps has it all. Antwon Courington
is gone, but everyone else returns including top receiver, tight
end Shawn Nelson, and six wideouts who could see starting time
at some point. Anthony Perine and Josh Barnes are the best of
the bunch, but sophomore Joe Singleton and junior Chris Johnson
would make their way into the starting lineup in a big hurry.
The key to the unit: Stick with the hot hands. There
are enough targets to keep spreading the ball around, but it
can't be at the expense of any one receiver.
Receiver Rating: 7.5
- Anthony Perine, Sr. - 31 catches, 441 yds, 14.2 ypc, 2 TD
Perine had problems this spring with an ankle problem, but he
still should be the team's top target again. He's one of the
faster players in the receiving corps with the talent to make
more big plays. He made both his touchdown grabs in the season
opener against Alabama and was shut out the rest of the way.
- Tavarres Williams, Jr. - 15 catches, 157 yds, 10.5 ypc
Never quite right last year thanks to a knee problem, the junior
should be one of the team's most dangerous targets if he can
stay healthy. He was consistent early on before suffering the
injured MCL, and then he came back to catch seven passes over
the final four games. Unable to get into the end zone, that
should change early on this year.
- Josh Barnes, Sr. - 32 catches, 421 yds, 13.2 ypc, 5 TD
The team's top wide receiver last season tied for the lead with
five touchdown passes and showed off a little bit of
explosiveness with starter Antwon Courington went down. While
versatile and physical, he doesn't have the best hands around.
If he makes all the plays he's able to, he should be a strong
number one target.
- Tight end Shawn Nelson, Soph. - 35 catches, 540 yds,
15.4 ypc, 5 TD
Nelson led the team in receiving as a freshman and was the New
Orleans Bowl MVP catching six passes for 121 yards and two
touchdowns. In fact, he closed the year out hot with 11 grabs
for 234 yards and three scores in the final two games. He's a
quick 6-5 and 230 pounds with great route running ability and
excellent hands. He needs to improve his blocking skills.
- Damion Carter, Sr. - 14 catches, 252 yds, 18 ypc, 2
The former quarterback has good size at 6-2 and 193 pounds and
is starting to become a solid receiver. He has the athleticism
and he knows what he's supposed to do, but he has to do a better
job of fighting for the ball and being a better downfield
- Chris Johnson, Jr. - 20 catches, 303 yds, 15.1 ypc, 2
Despite having a few problems with a banged up knee, Johnson
still had a nice season highlighted by an eight catch, 113-yard,
two touchdown day against UCF. He's excellent at cranking out
yards after the catch with dangerous quickness in the open
- Joe Singleton, Soph. - 9 catches, 110 yds, 12.2 ypc, 1
One of the team's rising young stars, Singleton started to make
an impact over the second half of the season highlighted by a
four-catch, 40-yard, one touchdown day against Memphis. At 6-3
and 195 pounds, he's a tall, talented option with glue on his
hands. While he'll start out the bear behind Josh Barnes at
flanker, he should find time as a starter.
- Tight end Jonathan Palmer, Sr. - 1 catch, 9 yds
The 248-pound senior saw time in 11 games last year being used
mostly as a blocker. He's a grinder who won't catch many passes,
but he's far better for the running game than starter Shawn
The line allowed a mere 12 sacks last season, but it didn't
get enough of a push for the running game that averaged only 111 yards
per game. Four starters return including three all-star candidates in
tackle Chris Clark and guards Travis Cooley and George Batista, and they
all need to stay healthy. There's almost no developed depth and, at the
moment, a huge drop-off from the first team to the second.
The key to the unit:
Former quarterback Dustin Almond was able to avoid plenty
of sacks, but with a new starter under center, the line will have to be
just a little bit better.
Offensive Line Rating: 7
- OT Chris Clark, Jr.
One of the best all-around blockers in Conference USA, the 6-5,
280-pound junior is back for his second year as a starter. A great
all-around athlete, he's a fantastic pass blocker on the left side and
should grow into one of the team's steadiest players.
- OG Travis Cooley, Sr.
Back after missing the last three games of the year and all of spring
ball with a knee injury, the 6-2, 285-pound senior needs to be back and
healthy for the line to him. One of the team's stronger linemen, he
should be in the hunt for All-Conference honors if he's as consistent as
he was last season.
- C Robby D'Angelo, Sr.
The veteran 277-pound senior scared the team this spring going down with
a knee injury, but he's expected to be back at 100% by fall. He was a
tremendous pass protector with nice athleticism and good technique.
While he's not a dominant run blocker, he's good enough.
- OG George Batiste, Sr.
The First Team All-Conference USA performer is back on the right side
for his fourth season. He's 6-5, 309 pounds, and great in all phases
with the power and toughness to be a pounder for the running game and
the feet and agility to be a consistent pass blocker. He's the one the
team will run behind for the tough yards.
- OT Ryan McKee, Soph.
The only new starter up front, McKee saw a little time in three games
last year and now has to be a key performer on the right side taking
over for Neal Mead. He's not huge at 6-5 and 265 pounds with room to
grow into his frame, but he's great on the move. Expect him to be a rock
for the next three years.
- G Wesley Housley, Soph.
The versatile Housley has seen time at tackle as well as guard. The
283-pound sophomore saw plenty of action this season at left guard
filling in for an injured Travis Cooley, but he'll be coming off the
bench this fall.
- T Ryan Hebert, RFr.
While Ryan McKee is the unquestioned starter on the right side, the 6-6,
305-pound Hebert brings more size and bulk at 6-6 and 305 pounds. He's
be part of the rotation early on.