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2009 CFN Southern Miss Preview
Southern Miss DT Anthony Gray
The team kicked it in over the second half of last season, and now it'll be one of the favorites to with the Conference USA title. Can Anthony Gray and the defensive front get back to being nasty? Check out the 2009 CFN Southern Miss preview.
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2009 CFN Southern Miss Preview
2009 USM Offense
2009 USM Defense
2009 USM Depth
2008 USM Preview
2007 USM Preview
Head coach: Larry Fedora
2nd year: 7-6
Off. 17, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Best USM Players
1. RB Damion Fletcher, Sr.
2. WR DeAndre
3. QB Austin Davis, Soph.
4. NT Anthony Gray,
5. FS Eddie Hicks, Sr.
6. LB Korey Williams, Soph.
7. OT Calvin Wilson, Sr.
8. OG Ryan Hebert, Sr.
Andre Watson, Sr.
10. LB Martez Smith, Jr.
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2009 Record: 0-0
9/26 at Kansas
10/10 at Louisville
10/31 at Houston
11/7 OPEN DATE
11/28 at East Carolina
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2008 Record: 7-6
UL Lafayette W 51-21
Sept. 6 at Auburn L 27-13
Sept. 13 at Arkansas St W
Sept. 20 Marshall L 34-27
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 UTEP L 40-37 2OT
Oct. 11 Boise State L 24-7
Oct. 18 at Rice L 45-40
Oct. 25 at Memphis L 36-30
Nov. 1 UAB W 70-14
Nov. 8 at UCF W 17-6
Nov. 15 East Carolina W
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 29 at SMU W 28-12
New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 21 Troy 30-27 OT
Sound the attack. That’s been the catch phrase and the
command around Hattiesburg since Larry Fedora arrived from Oklahoma
State a year ago.
The Golden Eagles are attacking on every front,
from offense and defense to recruiting and ticket sales. And it has
begun to work. After a rough opening and some pining for former coach
Jeff Bower, the program started to click last November, capping a
season-ending five-game winning streak with a comeback win in the New
Orleans. It was exactly the injection of momentum that Fedora needed
heading into the offseason.
Although there’s plenty of growing
to be done on offense and defense, Southern Miss looks to be heading in
the right direction on both sides of the ball. The no-huddle spread
flashed signs of life and a degree of balance in the final month that’ll
vex even the best Conference USA defenses. With Austin Davis at
quarterback, Damion Fletcher running the ball, and DeAndre Brown,
assuming he’s healthy, streaking down the sidelines, there are striking
similarities to Fedora’s old team in Stillwater. The defense, too,
turned the corner under coordinator Todd Bradford, yielding an average
of only 12 points over the final five games.
Southern Miss is
attacking the complacency that had started to seep in toward the end of
Bower’s tenure. With the wind at its back and plenty of key players
returning for another season, the program is eyeing its first outright
league championship since 2003.
What to watch for on offense:
The health of DeAndre Brown, who’s trying to return form a badly broken
leg. Southern Miss can survive without him, but how does it thrive sans
a 6-6, 228-pound human mismatch, who caught 67 passes and scored a dozen
touchdowns as a true freshman? He is a difference-maker, the type of
wide receiver who forces opposing defensive coordinators to gameplan
just to slow him down. If they fail, he’s liable to take a game over and
open up the field for the backs and other receivers. It has been a long
and painful recovery since last December’s injury, but he’s still hoping
to be at full speed in time for the opener.
What to watch for on defense:
Life after Gerald McRath. You don’t get better after losing your best
player, a next level linebacker, right? Southern Miss is going to test
that theory this fall. Sure, things would be a lot rosier had McRath
stuck around for his senior year, but don’t be shocked if the Eagles are
stingier this season than they were in 2008. Last season was a
transition in every sense of the word. The coaches were different, the
system was new, and the two-deep looked like a whiffle ball. This
season, McRath aside, there’s a sense of stability permeating throughout
the D. The line should be better. The secondary will be among the best
in Conference USA. And if Korey Williams can begin to fill some of the
void at middle linebacker, there’s hope that this crew will flourish.
The team will be
far better if… the defense plays all year like it did over the final
five games of 2008. During that stretch, the Golden Eagles yielded an
average of just 12 points a game, created more turnovers, and didn’t
allow more than 100 yards rushing to any one opponent. At least for one
month, they were the Nasty Bunch again. If Southern Miss can build on
that momentum, it’ll have a feisty defense to go along with one of
Conference USA’s most potent offenses.
Three of the last four games are on the road, including
showdowns against Houston and East Carolina. However, the first three
games are at home before going away from home to deal with Kansas and
Louisville wrapped around the UAB game. Outside of a November game
against Tulsa, it would be nice if there were bigger games at home.
Going 2-2 in non-conference play is a must even though there are games
against Virginia, at Kansas and at Louisville to go along with the
scrimmage against Alcorn State.
Best offensive player: Senior RB Damion Fletcher. Fletcher’s not the
biggest back around. He’s not the fastest, either. He is, however, one
of the best backs in the country that you’ve probably never seen play.
An extremely efficiency runner, he beats linebackers to the hole and has
great vision. A 1,000-yard rusher in each of his three seasons, he’s
also a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
Best defensive player:
Junior NT Anthony Gray. It’s not common for a nose tackle to lead a team
in sacks, but then again, Gray is not your common defensive linemen. At
6-0 and 301 pounds, you can’t get a clean shot on this guy. He plays
fast, intense, and low to the ground, often requiring more than one
blocker to keep him out of the backfield. In a springboard sophomore
year, he had 29 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks, earning
Key player to a
successful season: Sophomore WR DeAndre Brown. Simply
put, he’s an SEC-caliber receiver going up against some really bad
Conference USA defenses. He was unstoppable as a true freshman, pulling
down a team-high 67 catches for 1,117 yards and 12 scores. The problem
is that he’s trying to make it back from a devastating broken leg that
cast a pall over the comeback bowl win. Southern Miss needs Brown to get
back to where he was last fall, or else there’s no one on the roster who
can even approach his big-play ability.
The season will be a
success if ... the Eagles win eight games and improve
their bowl positioning. Hey, there was nothing wrong with a New Orleans
Bowl invite, especially after starting the year 2-6, but Southern Miss
knows it can be better in Larry Fedora’s second season. While the team
is good enough to win Conference USA, it’s still early in this process
to label a championship as the make-or-break point for the school. If
the Eagles keep fine-tuning the offense and win more games than last
year, they’re headed in the right direction.
Nov. 28 at East Carolina. With all due respect to the rest of the East
Division, this should be the game that decides one-half of the
Conference USA title game. The Eagles suffocated the Pirates a year ago,
21-3, but trips to Greenville are never easy. Whoever runs the ball
better probably wins because both schools have outstanding defensive
backfields and rarely allow big plays through the air.
2008 Fun Stats:
- Punt return
average: Opponents 15 yards - Southern Miss 7.4 yards
Southern Miss 99 for 972 yards - Opponents 79 for 708 yards
down conversions: Southern Miss 18-of-26 (69%) - Opponents 5-of-13 (38%)