Miss Golden Eagles
Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2009 USM Offense
2009 USM Defense
2009 USM Depth
2008 USM Preview
2007 USM Preview
What you need to know: Last year
was supposed to be a painful transition from Jeff Bower’s power
ground game to Larry Fedora’s no-huddle spread. Yet, Southern
Miss still managed to average 433 yards and 30 points a game,
setting the stage for what might be a launching pad season in
2009. Like a poor man’s Oklahoma State, Fedora’s former
employer, the Golden Eagles have star potential at quarterback,
running back, and wide receiver. However, after QB Austin Davis,
who was a revelation in his debut, question marks exist that
could keep the lid on this unit. Will 1,000-yard RB Damion
Fletcher get the okay to return after being suspended before the
spring? Has prolific WR DeAndre Brown fully healed from the
broken leg he suffered in last year’s bowl game? Will the line
do a better job in pass protection? If the program can
successfully address those concerns, 40 points a game could be
the new standard in Hattiesburg.
Passing: Austin Davis
261-454, 3,128 yds, 23 TDs, 8 INT
Rushing: Damion Fletcher
219 carries, 1,313 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: DeAndre Brwon
67 catches, 1.117 yds, 12 TD
Star of the offense:
Senior RB Damion Fletcher
Player that has to step up and become a
star: Senior LT Kyle
Unsung star on the rise:
Junior TE Jonathan Massey
Best pro prospect:
Sophomore WR DeAndre Brown
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fletcher,
3) Sophomore QB Austin Davis
Strength of the offense:
Balance, red-zone offense, ball protection, run blocking
Weakness of the offense: Wide receiver depth, pass
Davis wound up being the answer to the riddle that
existed at this position before the start of last season. In
his first season, he was a revelation running the Eagles’
new offense, going 261-of-454 for 3,128 yards, 23
touchdowns, and eight picks, while adding 508 yards and nine
scores on the ground. As good as he was statistically, it
couldn’t compare to his value as a team leader, hard worker,
and positive presence in the huddle. At 6-2 and 206 pounds,
he doesn’t have scary arm strength, but he’ll get the ball
where it needs to be and proved durable despite absorbing so
Projected Top Reserves: After losing the battle with
Davis, 6-1, 188-pound junior
had to know he’d be spending the balance of his career,
barring injury, as a backup. A nice athlete, he has a long
way to go as a passer. He does have some game experience,
even starting one in 2007, and has had a full season to
digest the nuances of the system.
Rounding out the
depth is 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman
who’ll be looking to put some pressure on Young for the No.
2 job. A similar player to Davis, he’s a little undersized
and doesn’t have a cannon, but he moves very well around the
pocket and will do whatever is needed to make a play and
move the chains.
For… Davis to make another giant step in his
progression as a quarterback. Hey, he arrived in Hattiesburg
with a baseball
offer, needing to walk on to the football team. He was
hardly a finished product a year ago, but many of those
rookie wrinkles have been ironed out over the offseason.
Mobility. Larry Fedora, who prefers mobile quarterbacks, has
to be thrilled over what he inherited at the position.
Davis, Young, and Jefcoat are all quality athletes with the
quick feet and field vision to pull the ball down and take
off for the chains.
Arm strength. It’s a good thing that most of the routes in
this offense are of the short and intermediate varieties
because none of the quarterbacks are flame-throwers. Davis
is clearly the best of the trio, but after him, the RPMs
really drop off the radar.
Fedora didn’t hand-pick Davis, but he must pinch himself
that No. 12 landed in Hattiesburg. In just one season, he
looks an ideal fit for an offense that demands its
quarterbacks be athletic, accurate, and poised. Sure, Davis
has work to do, especially in the area of accuracy, but
considering what he did on the fly in his debut, he’s about
to become the face of this program.
It looks as if 5-10, 177-pound senior
will be reinstated after a rocky offseason and a suspension
for gun-related charges. The offense needs him. One of the
nation’s most productive backs over the last three seasons,
he’s gobbled up 4,287 yards and 36 touchdowns on the ground
to go along with 80 receptions for 615 yards and a score. A
prototypical slasher, he has tremendous vision in the hole
and almost never gets taken down behind the line of
scrimmage. While not a gamebreaker, he’s a professional,
intelligent runner, who gets the most out of every carry.
When the Golden Eagles shift into short-yardage
formation and employ a fullback, 6-0, 220-pound junior
Josh Hurd will
be summoned from the bench. Strictly a lead blocker, he’s
yet to touch the ball in his career.
Reserves: In the event that Fletcher isn’t available
or needs a breather, Southern Miss is in good shape with its
depth. Senior Tory
Harrison is a quality back, who’d start for some
programs in Conference USA. A letterman in each of the last
three years, he’s played a lot of football in Hattiesburg,
carrying 53 times for 254 yards and seven touchdowns a year
ago. A 6-1, 188-pounder with good acceleration, he’d have no
problems assuming a bigger role if needed.
No. 3 on the depth chart is 5-10, 186-pound junior V.J.
Floyd, who earned 59 carries for 246 yards and two
touchdowns in his busiest season to date. Quicker than he is
fast, he’ll dart through small cracks in the defense and
make people miss when he gets into open space.
Fletcher and Harrison graduate, it’ll be worth remembering a
5-11, 188-pound redshirt freshman by the name of
He had the luxury of using last season to get bigger,
stronger, and better acclimated to his surroundings. A
patient and elusive runner, he got some SEC before choosing
Watch Out For…
the status of Fletcher. While all signs point to a return
for the perennial all-star, until Larry Fedora gives the
green light, nothing is official. As good as the passing
attack was a year ago, he makes this offense purr, keeping
the chains moving and defenses off balance.
Depth. Yeah, it all starts with No. 25, but after him, the
Golden Eagles boast two backs who’d have no issues handling
15-20 carries a game. And once he gets his opportunity,
Johnson might have the wiggle and burst to be another option
on the ground.
Weakness: Power runners. It’s totally splitting
hairs, but Southern Miss doesn’t have a real pile driver out
of the backfield, who can barrel through the line of
scrimmage and power into the end zone. At just 188 pounds,
Harrison is the heaviest of the primary runners.
When Fletcher is in the backfield, the Eagles have the top
back in the league and one of the most underrated runners in
America. Extremely efficient in his running style, he’ll
frustrate defenses by consistently picking up six yards when
it looks like he’s only gained three.
Hattiesburg will hold its collective breath until the fate
of 6-6, 228-pound sophomore
DeAndre Brown is
known. The author of one of the best offensive seasons in
school history finished his debut on a stretcher, courtesy
of a gruesome broken leg suffered in the bowl game. Prior to
that point he’d toyed with overmatched defensive backs,
finishing with 67 catches for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns
… just months out of high school. A long, lean thoroughbred,
he’s able to glide past defenders or soar well above them on
jump balls. He’s trying to make it back for the opener with
Alcorn State but isn't expected to be 100% until after the
season starts. Stay tuned.
As former walk-ons go,
6-0, 182 senior Gerald Baptiste
has been a real gem for the Eagles, starting in each of the
last two seasons. A year ago, he put up career numbers,
finishing third on the team with 35 catches for 460 yards
and two scores. He’s added some weight in the offseason in
an effort to hold up against some of the league’s more
physical defensive backs.
returns for a second season as a starter, looking to build
on his debut out of East Central (Miss.) Community College.
A flashy 6-0, 172-pounder, with ample speed to go the
distance, he opened with 19 receptions for 173 yards, modest
numbers for his physical ability. If the Eagles can get him
isolated a little more often, he’s capable of blowing past
last year’s output.
will spend the season under the microscope as he tries to
replace perennial all-star and current Buffalo Bill Shawn
Nelson at tight end. He’s taken a circuitous route to
Hattiesburg since being one of the top-rated tight ends in
the country, making stops at Vanderbilt and Copiah-Lincoln
Community College along the way. In the mold of many of
today’s H-back, he’s a 6-3, 251-pounder with considerable
upside as a pass-catcher.
Top Reserves: Junior
will be looking to build on his bowl performance, a
four-catch, 61-yard effort after Brown went down. Prior to
that point, he was non-existent on offense. At 6-3 and 195
pounds, he has a nice combination of size and speed, which
the coaching staff hopes can be parlayed into a production
The Eagles will put a lot of faith in a pair
of redshirt freshmen, 5-11, 163-pound
and 6-3, 172-pound
Jordan McNair. Pierce is a shifty receiver, with good
wiggle, growing markedly from his first season on campus.
AAlthough McNair needs more polish as a pass-catcher, he
has the length and game-breaking speed to be a playmaker
early in his career. Even if he doesn’t get many balls
thrown his way in 2009, he can be a factor on inside
handoffs and end-arounds.
Watch Out For… JUCO All-American
Justin Jordan. A
product of Blinn (Tex.) Community College, he was hotly pursued
by the likes of Cal, Arizona, and Utah, which loved his speed,
leaping ability, and overall explosiveness. On a team seeking
more playmakers at the position, he’s liable to fit right in.
Athleticism. Over the last couple of years, the program has done
a nice job of attracting quality athletes, who just happen to
catch passes. From Brown at wide receiver and Massey at tight
end, the Eagles have a bunch of field stretchers, who’ll pick up
yards after the catch.
Depth. In the spring, the Golden Eagles had problems filling out
a two-deep, a concern that could trickle into the summer. The
departures of Nelson, Torris Magee, and Ed Morgan mean the
offense is going to rely on too many unproven players in the
evaluation is in limbo until Brown’s prognosis is known. If he’s
physically and mentally where he was before the injury, this is
a solid unit that’ll burn most Conference USA defenses. If not,
it’s a marginal group without a go-to guy.
Although much of last year’s two-deep returns intact, there’s a
big hole at tackle that used to be filled by all-star Ryan
McKee. In his place steps senior
Kyle Burkhart, who
got his first taste of FBS action last fall after transferring
from Dodge City (Kans.) Community College. Although the 6-5,
275-pounder still needs to add some weight, he has a great motor
and the athleticism to earn the nod at left tackle.
Adding weight will not be a problem for senior
Burkhart’s bookend at right tackle. He actually moves
surprisingly well at 6-6 and 353 pounds, but would be far more
nimble at, say 330 pounds. A former member of Mississippi State,
he can be a real mauler in the running game, and has a shot at
the next level if he can maintain his conditioning.
in the middle of the line for a second straight year is 6-1,
297-pound junior Cameron
Zipp, who now has 13 career starts at center under his belt.
A heady player and a quick study, his primary objective this
offseason is to work on getting the ball to the quarterback
without any incidents.
The budding anchor on the right side of the line is senior G
Ryan Hebert, an
honorable mention All-Conference USA selection in his first year
as a starter. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, he has the long arms of a
tackle and the upper body strength to drive his man off the
ball. With a full season of experience now behind him, he should
be even more effective in his final year.
program likes the upside of 6-2, 287-pound senior
Micah Brown, he’ll
need to remain healthy in order to realize that potential. A
nasty blocker, who gets out to the second level in a hurry, he’s
gained enough experience over the past few seasons to handle
this promotion with few reservations.
Projected Top Reserves: Versatile senior
R.J. Brown has one
more year of eligibility left to provide depth at both guard and
center. A 2008 transfer from Jones County (Miss.) Community
College, he quickly earned a spot in the rotation a year ago.
The coaching staff is keeping its fingers crossed that
Newsom can offer some competition and instant stability at
left tackle. A first-year player out of Itawamba (Miss.)
Community College, he’s 6-8 and 276-pound, with the lean frame
to add more weight over the next two seasons.
Watch Out For…
a flatter learning curve. Last year’s struggles, especially in
pass protection, can be traced to the transition from a power
running offense to the no-huddle spread. In Year 2, everyone
hopes, blocking assignments should come a little more naturally
than they did in 2008.
blocking. Hey, old habits are awfully tough to break. In this
case, it’s not such a bad thing for an offense that has hardly
abandoned the run. The Golden Eagles finished 24th nationally on
the ground at a clip of almost 200 yards a game, largely due to
the work of the blockers up front.
protection. Boy, did these guys struggle to protect the
quarterback last fall, finishing 11th in Conference USA in sacks
allowed. Although part of the blame goes on the shoulders of the
rookie quarterback, no one doubts the line must do a better job
in pass blocking.
Outlook: N: No,
this unit is not going to dominate, but it should be much
improved over last year when so much of the terminology and the
schemes were foreign. There are enough veterans, provided some
of the transfers deliver, to provide better support than a year