2008 CFN Southern Miss Preview
With a new head coach and a changed up offense, Southern Miss will be different, but it'll still play anyone, any time, anywhere. Check out the CFN USM preview highlighting two of the best players you've likely never seen (but the NFL knows all about) in RB Damion Fletcher and LB Gerald McRath.
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2008 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2008 USM Offense
2008 USM Defense
2008 USM Depth
2007 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2006 CFN Southern
Head coach: Larry Fedora
Off. 18, Def. 19, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 22
Best USM Players
1. LB Gerald McRath, Jr.
2. RB Damion Fletcher, Jr.
3. TE Shawn Nelson, Sr.
4. OT Ryan McKee, Sr.
5. WR Torris Magee, Soph.
6. FS Eddie Hicks, Jr.
7. OT Calvin Wilson, Jr.
8. LB Tokumbo Abanikanda, Sr.
9. P/K Britt Barefoot, Sr.
10. CB C.J. Bailey, Soph.
CFN Prediction: 8-4
Sept. 6 at Auburn
Sept. 13 at Arkansas State
Sept. 20 Marshall
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 UTEP
Oct. 11 Boise State
Oct. 18 at Rice
Oct. 25 at Memphis
Nov. 1 UAB
Nov. 8 at UCF
Nov. 15 East Carolina
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 29 at SMU
CFN Prediction: 9-3
2007 Record: 7-6
Sept. 8 at
Tennessee L 39-19
Sept. 15 at E Carolina
Sept. 22 at
Boise State L 38-16
Dec. 22 Cincinnati L 31-21
Few schools in the
nation will be undergoing a bigger philosophical overhaul than Southern
Miss, which has replaced the tortoise, Jeff Bower, with the hare, Larry
For 17 seasons, Bower was a pillar of consistency in Hattiesburg, but
Fedora brings a new energy and a 21st century offensive
attack that’s already caught the eye of top national recruits, such as
WR DeAndre Brown, who spurned most of the SEC to play for the Eagles.
Even more than his physical ability, Brown’s unexpected decision was
tangible proof that Southern Miss is about to enter a new era with
higher expectations and a more fan-friendly attack.
For the first time in years, there’s a feeling of rebirth surrounding
the Southern Miss program. How long that lasts will depend on the play
of the untested quarterbacks, who hold the key to the Golden Eagles’
short-term success. It’s too much to expect any of the passers to be
Zac Robinson, Fedora’s last student at Oklahoma State, right out of the
gate, so USM will likely be targeting something beneath the Liberty Bowl
What to watch for on
With new head coach Larry Fedora comes a fancy no-huddle offense that
aims to spread the field out and attack without provocation. In other
words, the new system will bear little resemblance to the one Jeff Bower
employed for almost two decades. Although Fedora needs more parts to
make the engine purr, he’s getting there, attracting players, like
blue-chip receivers DeAndre Brown and Freddie Parham, who never would
have considered Hattiesburg before he arrived. While nothing has been
made official, second-year freshman Austin Davis showed enough in the
spring to inch ahead of Martevious Young in the battle at quarterback.
Just because Southern Miss will air it out a little more than usual
doesn’t mean that balance goes out the window. Don’t forget that
Fedora’s Oklahoma State offense averaged exactly 243.15 yards a game on
the ground and through the air in 2007.
What to watch for on defense: You can call the Southern Miss D
the Nasty Bunch, but the moniker hasn’t really fit for a few years. New
coordinator Todd Bradford hopes to change that by installing an
aggressive, in-your-face defense aimed at making the quarterback
uncomfortable. While it sounds good in theory, it won’t be easy to
deliver when the front four will be starting four new players. If they
can’t get penetration, expect plenty of blitzes from an undersized and
athletic back seven. Hey, at least the Golden Eagles can count on LB
Gerald McRath, a man among boys and a candidate to leave a year early
for the NFL Draft.
The team will be far better if… the passing game performs up to
Fedora’s expectations. What would you get if you combined a slick,
quick-strike passing attack with the running of Damion Fletcher? The
program’s most potent offense since Brett Favre was a sophomore two
decades ago. The Eagles need more balance and to give opposing defenses
a reason not to stack the run, something that happened infrequently
year is made easier with schedule that should keep his Golden Eagles in
the hunt for the East title until the end. The only issue is an early
November road trip to UCF, but everything else works out nicely with
East Carolina coming to Hattiesburg. The interesting Boise State
showdown is a home game, and Sun Belt breathers against UL Lafayette and
at Arkansas State will pad the record, but it's not all fluffy and happy
with a early trip to Auburn that could put the team and the season on
Best offensive player:
RB Damion Fletcher. Hard-working and ultra-productive, Fletcher has
rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. With
the field spread out and the running lanes wider than ever, another
season beyond the century mark is in his future. After taking a
backseat to 2,000-yard rushers Kevin Smith and Matt Forte, Fletcher is
set to become Conference USA’s premier running back.
2007 Fun Stats:
Best defensive player: LB Gerald McRath. The best linebacker
you’ve never seen play, McRath is eyeing back-to-back Conference USA
Defensive Player of the Year awards. More than just a compiler of
stats, he’s a disruptive, sideline-to-sideline force capable of blowing
up offensive gameplans. McRath's presence will once again be felt on a
defense that would be lost without his sure-tackling playmaking ability.
Key players to a successful season: The defensive line. Four
senior starters exhausted their eligibility, leaving the Golden Eagles
with an untested quartet in their wake. While the back seven has
considerable upside and speed, it’s incumbent upon the rebuilt line to
generate pressure without having to overuse blitz packages. The onus
falls on ends Roshaad Byrd and David Boyce, and tackles Anthony Gray and
Eric Phillips to shed their “weakest link” tag.
The season will be a success if
... the Eagles go bowling and the new offense shows signs of clicking.
There are a few too many holes to be thinking league title, but the
schedule is conducive to seven or eight wins and a second-tier
postseason invite. Beyond the standings, Southern Miss will be headed
in the right direction if Fedora finds a quarterback to build around and
the spread attack improves as the season progresses.
Key game: Nov. 8 at UCF. Until further notice, the path to the
Eastern Division crown goes through Orlando. The Eagles got doubled up
last October, but Knight RB Kevin Smith is now in Detroit, and QB
Stephen Reaves won’t be around to boost UCF’s turnover margin. This
would be the type of win that makes even the most ardent Bower
supporters happy that Fedora is on the sidelines.
- Rushing touchdowns: Southern Miss 30 - Opponents 15
- Penalties: Opponents 90 for 709 yards - Southern Miss 71 for 700 yards
- Red zone scores; Southern Miss 45 of 49 (92%) - Opponents 38 of 51