Miss Golden Eagles
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2008 USM Offense
2008 USM Defense
2008 USM Depth
2007 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2006 CFN Southern
need to know:
Gone are the days when the Eagles would keep it on the ground 40
times a game, content to let the running attack and defense lead
the way. Fedora is an offensive innovator, who wants to attack
with a one-back, no-huddle offense that spreads the field
vertically and horizontally. Although it’s clear where the
offense is headed, Southern Miss won’t forget about the running
game, especially with all-league RB Damion Fletcher on the
roster. Remember, Fedora’s Oklahoma State offense ranked No. 8
nationally on the ground a year ago. Of the three players vying
to win the quarterback job, sophomore Martevious Young and
freshman Austin Davis broke from the pack in what’s become an
increasingly tight competition.
Passing: Martevious Young
1-1, 2 yds
Rushing: Damion Fletcher
295 carries, 1,586 yds, 15 TD
Receiving: Shawn Nelson
44 catches, 632 yds, 3 TD
Star of the
Junior RB Damion Fletcher
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Redshirt freshman QB Austin Davis or sophomore Martevious Young
Unsung star on the rise:
Senior T Ryan McKee
Senior TE Shawn Nelson
three all-star candidates:
1) Nelson 2) Fletcher 3) McKee
Strength of the offense:
The tackles, the running game
Weakness of the offense:
Inexperience at quarterback, the interior of the line
Projected Starter: Larry Fedora’s first
quarterback in Hattiesburg will either be sophomore
Martevious Young or redshirt freshman Austin Davis.
Young played in a pair of games last year and started one, but
broke his leg on the third play of the game versus Rice and now
has to fight to get his job back. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, he has
a live arm and can make plays with his feet when the situation
warrants. To win the job, he must improve his accuracy and get a
better grasp of the new system.
Davis was one the stories of the spring as he closed the gap on
Young, and even passed him by many accounts. A former walk-on
who arrived with a baseball scholarship, he was accurate and
showed the mobility that Fedora likes in his quarterbacks. At
6-2 and 205 pounds, he doesn’t throw darts, but he does put the
ball where the receivers can make plays. An afterthought not
long ago, he has already played his way into a prominent role in
Projected Top Reserves: On the outside looking in
right now is redshirt freshman Randy Hardin. A candidate
to make things interesting in the spring, he’s still nursing a
foot injury that required surgery and doesn’t expect to be at
full strength until the summer. While only 6-0 and 205 pounds,
he’s a classic gunslinger that plays with swagger and could be a
nice in the new offense.
Watch Out For … Davis to be in the huddle when
Louisiana-Lafayette visits for the Aug. 30 opener. Nothing is
set in stone at this stage, but he really distinguished himself
in March and April, building some distance on the competition.
Fedora likens his quarterback to a point guard in a fast-break,
and Davis was dishing like Jeremy Wise.
Strength: Mobility. Last season, Oklahoma State’s
Zac Robinson rushed for 847 yards, so Fedora is no stranger to
quarterbacks that can tuck it and run. Young and Davis have both
flashed the quick feet and vision to make people miss in the
Weakness: Experience. WR Torris Magee has
completed as many career passes as Young and Davis…combined.
Not only will the starter be green, but he’s also digesting a
complex system that requires the quarterback to be as sharp with
his head as he is with his arm.
Outlook: Fedora hasn’t exactly walked into an
ideal situation at quarterback, losing last year’s starter and
inheriting a trio with no experience. Out of the three, he’ll
attempt to develop his new triggerman, a distributor that can
get the ball in the hands of the Eagle playmakers.
Projected Starters: While Southern Miss is going
to throw more than in the past, the running game will not be
ignored. It can’t be as long as 5-10, 175-pound junior
Damion Fletcher is on campus. The program’s best offensive
player two years running, he’s rushed for almost 3,000 yards and
26 touchdowns over that time, adding 47 catches for 369 yards
and all-conference recognition. A classic slasher with
outstanding vision in the hole, he’s always moving forward and
rarely gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage. In the new
offense, his soft hands as a pass catcher will make him doubly
Projected Top Reserves: Now that Tory Harrison and
Antwain Easterling have been booted from the program, there’s an
unanticipated void behind Fletcher that junior Bubba Kirksey
is hoping to fill. A 5-10, 180-pound transfer from Pearl
River (Miss.) Community College, he quickly moved up to No. 2
despite not even having a scholarship. He showed a nice burst
throughout the spring, which was not lost on an impressed
The only other back with any experience is 5-10, 191-pound
sophomore V.J. Floyd, who carried 24 times for 93 yards,
most coming in the opening day rout of UT-Martin. Having
slipped behind Kirksey, similar production is expected this
Watch Out For… true freshman Desmond Johnson.
Rich Rodriguez wanted Johnson at Michigan, but Larry Fedora kept
him from leaving Mississippi. A 6-0, 185-pound speedster, he’s
entering an ideal situation to avoid a redshirt year while doing
an apprenticeship under Fletcher.
Strength: Fletcher. He doesn’t look the part of a
workhorse, but he keeps grinding out prodigious numbers for the
Southern Miss program. Last year the line was in transition and
the passing game was little help, yet Fletcher still ran for
1,586 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Weakness: Depth. A strength just a year ago, USM
now has grave concerns about its backfield depth, especially
since Fletcher hasn’t been the most durable back around.
Kirksey played well in March and April, but that was March and
April and he’s a walk-on filling the No. 2 hole.
Outlook: Now that Kevin Smith and Matt Forte are
in the NFL, Fletcher is set to become Conference USA’s leading
man at running back. He has to stay healthy, however, for all
12 games because the options behind him are limited.
Projected Starters: With five of last year’s top
six receivers back in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss believes it can
open up the playbook without facing a shortage of reliable
hands. Leading the way on the outside will be sophomore
Torris Magee, who had a team-high 44 receptions for 632
yards and three touchdowns in his debut. A physical receiver at
6-2 and 204 pounds, he’s athletic, polished, and can go up and
get the ball over opposing defensive backs.
On the opposite side will be junior Gerald Baptiste, an
11-game starter who caught the first 28 passes of his career for
283 yards and a touchdown. A former walk-on with elusive speed,
he’s only 6-0 and 171 pounds, a problem when defensive backs jam
him at the line of scrimmage.
Taking over at flanker for the Eagles will be sophomore
Johdrick Morris, a 6-3, 195-pounder that lettered in his
first season, catching 10 passes for 98 yards. With a nice
blend of size and speed, the staff is hopeful he can turn those
attributes into a spike in production.
For the fourth consecutive season, Southern Miss will feature
one of the nation’s top tight ends, senior Shawn Nelson.
A model of consistency with big play potential, he’s caught at
least 33 passes and three touchdown receptions each year,
earning a spot on the All-Conference USA First Team in 2006 and
2007. At an athletic 6-5 and 240 pounds, Nelson is the
prototype for NFL tight ends and a Mackey Award candidate.
Projected Top Reserves: After starting six games
and catching 17 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, senior
Ed Morgan will provide veteran depth behind Baptiste.
Somewhat limited at 5-9 and 160 pounds, he lacks the yards after
the catch that Southern Miss needs from its smaller receivers.
Junior Freddie Parham, on the other hand, has some of the
flash and wiggle needed to take short slants and go a long way.
The 6-0, 175-pound transfer from East Central (Miss.) Community
College has the 4.3 speed and elevation to make Baptiste very
uncomfortable atop the depth chart.
Another JUCO transfer, 6-3, 250-pound Jonathan Massey,
will be the backup to Nelson. Originally with Vanderbilt, he
displayed good hands and a willingness to make the tough grabs,
pulling down a pair of touchdown receptions in the spring game.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman DeAndre Brown.
Quite possibly the most heralded recruit to ever sign with
Southern Miss, he didn’t turn down offers from the likes of
Florida and LSU to watch from the sidelines. If academic hurdles
can be cleared, the 6-6, 225-pound wunderkind could become an
instant star in this offense.
Strength: The tight ends. Massey played so well
in the spring, it might force the Eagles to occasionally employ
two-tight end sets or split them as wide receivers. Nelson is
already a known entity and one of the best in the country at his
Weakness: Consistency at receiver. Magee has a
bright future, but the balance of the Southern Miss receivers
are pedestrian at this stage and still prone to making too many
mental and physical mistakes.
Outlook: While the receivers aren’t quite where
they need to be, the unit will get there now that Fedora is
installing a more passer friendly offense. In this attack,
Magee will once again shine, while Nelson will set personal
highs in catches and touchdowns. Brown is special and in the
right town to blossom into a Freshman All-American.
Projected Starters: For the second straight year,
Southern Miss will be leaning on its big tackles, senior Ryan
McKee and junior Calvin Wilson, while it attempts to
prop up the interior of the line. The program is promoting
McKee as a fringe All-American candidate a year after he was
named Second Team All-Conference USA. At 6-6 and 275 pounds,
he’s an outstanding pass protector who yielded no sacks in 2007,
a trait that’ll become increasingly valuable in the no-huddle
While McKee brings finesse to the position, Wilson is all about
the raw power. At 6-6 and 352 pounds, he’s the biggest player in
the power, a mauler that started the final nine games and had 10
pancake blocks. Surprisingly nimble for his size, he’d still
benefit from dropping a few excess pounds that are serving no
Coming out of spring, sophomore Cameron Zipp held an edge
over classmate Alex Michael at center. The 6-1,
289-pounder saw spot duty in three games as a freshman, making
53 snaps in games that had already been decided. A heady
player, Zipp will have to grow up in a hurry in order to become
one of the line leaders and an effective traffic cop.
While the guards won’t be completely green, they do have a lot
to prove. On the left side, 6-2, 287-pound senior Wesley
Housley played in all 13 games a year ago, starting four and
performing well in pass protection. A veteran with three
letters, Housley won’t shy away from the challenge of being an
every down blocker.
Over on the right side, junior Ryan Hebert brings a more
physical presence to the Eagle line. At 6-5 and 305 pounds, he’s
a drive blocker with excellent upper body strength. Hebert
overcame a preseason knee injury to play in 11 games, but his
next start will be the first of his career.
Projected Top Reserves: The Golden Eagles are
banking on a bunch of former junior college players to bolster
the second unit. Two in particular, junior G R.J. Brown
and junior T Brennan Houston, have worked their way up to
the second team. The 6-3, 300-pound Brown performed well in his
first spring, showing an ability to play center as well as
While Houston did not play in his first year out of Cerritos
(Calif.) Community College, he’ll be an integral part of the
rotation in his second season. A former tight end with good
quickness, he’s bulked up to 6-4 and 301 pounds in anticipation
of an expanded role.
Watch Out For… McKee to start receiving
recognition beyond Hattiesburg and Conference USA. If he
continues to work and adds more bulk, an NFL future awaits,
something that hasn’t been lost on the scouts that’ll be
descending the USM campus throughout the fall.
Strength: The tackles. In McKee and Wilson, the
Golden Eagles boast a pair of all-conference caliber bookends
that don’t allow sacks and are huge reasons why the offense
averaged over 200 yards a game on the ground.
Weakness: The pivot. Maybe Zipp will develop into
the second coming of Robby D’Angelo, but for now he’s a major
question at an important spot on the line. If he’s slow to
adapt, everyone else on the offense will be impacted.
Outlook: The Eagle line is facing some unique
hurdles, namely turnover at guard and center and the new
terminology that comes with a rookie staff. It’ll survive as
long as McKee and Wilson are keeping opposing defenders from
getting near the quarterback. Whether the unit thrives,
however, depends largely on the play of Zipp, the unheralded
starter at center.