2010 Southern Miss Preview – Offense
Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Southern Miss Golden Eagle Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What you need to know: Like so many Conference USA offenses, Southern Miss is in good shape at the skill positions, but has a whole heap of concerns in the trenches. There'll be four new starters surrounding vet Cameron Zipp at the pivot and a ton of question marks that'll be answered by junior college transfers and defensive imports. It may not be pretty in the early. Good news can be found in the returns of QB Austin Davis and WR DeAndre Brown, an exciting battery that's had to overcome injuries to get to this point. Even without all-time leading rusher Damion Fletcher, the Eagles should be able to achieve a degree of balance out of the no-huddle spread. There's an underrated mix of experience and potential, with senior V.J. Floyd looking to hold off the dynamite trio of Kendrick Hardy, Desmond Johnson, and Tracy Lampley.
Star of the offense: Junior WR DeAndre Brown
Passing: Martevious Young
132-230, 1,861 yds, 16 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Martevious Young
72 carries, 294 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: DeAndre Brown
47 catches, 785 yds, 9 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LT Darius Barnes
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Kendrick Hardy
Best pro prospect: Brown
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown, 2) Senior C Cameron Zipp, 3) Junior QB Austin Davis
Strength of the offense: Quarterbacks, depth in the backfield, red zone scoring, protecting the ball, balance
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line
Projected Starter: So who gets the ball from Larry Fedora at the start of the season? While not listed atop the depth chart coming out of spring, the edge still belongs to 6-2, 208-pound junior Austin Davis, who missed the second half of the year with a foot injury. Prior to that, the two-year starter had gone 108-of-156 for 1,165 yards, 10 touchdowns, and two picks, adding two scores on the ground. A multi-dimensional playmaker and a terrific leader, he makes a great fit for the system. Although not imposing coming off the bus, he's an accurate, clutch passer, with a penchant for raising the level of his play late in games. He's one of those quarterbacks who should not be judged on numbers alone.
Projected Top Reserves: Despite the return of Davis, 6-1, 188-pound senior Martevious Young is still pushing hard for the job he had for eight games in 2009. Pressed into action, he did a magnificent job, going 132-of-230 for 1,861 yards, 16 touchdowns, and three interceptions. Not only did he make huge strides as a passer, but also flashed his trademark athleticism, rushing for 294 yards and a score on 78 carries. Although he lacks the accuracy and zip on his passes of Davis, he's going to be a factor when the team reconvenes in August.
While no threat to one of the top two spots, the Eagles are eager to see 6-4, 180-pound redshirt freshman Chris Campbell develop behind the veterans. Tabbed as the future at the position, he's a smart field general and accurate passer, but needs to add more muscle and get a little more pop on his throws.
Watch Out For .... Davis to secure the job and end the competition early in the summer. The staff has made it clear that it's his job to lose, and now that he was cleared by the doctors in June, he'll start recapturing his pre-injury form.
Strength: Two starting quarterbacks. Talk about a luxury for a coaching staff. The Golden Eagles were in great shape at the position before Davis was injured, but now that Young has turned the corner as a true dual-threat, they have as much quarterback depth as anyone in Conference USA.
Weakness: 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 passers throw fastballs. Davis is clearly the best of the trio, but even some of his throws lack zip, and after him, the RPMs really drop off the radar.
Outlook: Now that Davis is returning from injury, he plans to pick up where he left off, playing as well as any quarterback in the East Division. Though sidetracked by the foot injury, he still possesses the athleticism, accuracy, and poise to flourish in Fedora's offense. If there are any hiccups, Young will again be ready to fill the void, like an old pro.
Projected Starters: Even without last year's top two rushers, including all-timer Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss is ecstatic about the talent and depth it has in the backfield. While there's no clear-cut starter and many will play, 5-10, 196-pound senior V.J. Floyd will start the summer at the head of the line. He's paid his dues, earning a letter as a backup and special teamer, carrying 17 times for 59 yards in 2009. In anticipation of an expanded role, he's added some muscle in the offseason, yet maintains the quick feet and agility that his him on the cusp of a career year.
When Southern Miss employs a fullback and shifts into short-yardage formation, 5-9, 227-pound redshirt freshman Bruce Johnson will trot off the sidelines. Built like a fire hydrant, he's a powerful blocker, with the leg drive and determination to effectively open up holes for the backs.
Projected Top Reserves: The departures of Fletcher and Tory Harrison have paved the way for 5-11, 192-pound sophomore Desmond Johnson to grab a bigger piece of the running load. A very nice get for the program, he only played in the opener in 2009, rushing for 72 yards and a score on seven carries in a blowout. While the staff likes his energy and elusiveness, how much he actually contributes will depend on his consistency and work ethic throughout the balance of the year.
Also pushing hard for playing time will be 6-0, 200-pound redshirt freshman Kendrick Hardy, another young Eagle back with a high ceiling. A top-flight recruit for the program, who could have continued his career in the SEC, he possesses the size-speed combination and balance to climb the depth chart quickly now that his redshirt season is completed.
Although he may not be feature back material, 5-9, 170-pound sophomore Tracey Lampley has already proven worthy of reps in this offense. An explosive and multi-dimensional weapon, he scored on a rush, a catch, a kick return, and a punt return in an auspicious debut. An ideal option on third downs, he'll motivate the staff to get inventive with him in 2010.
Watch Out For … the pecking order to be fluid right up until the opener. The Eagles legitimately have four different players who warrant at least 10-15 touches a game, which means the scrutiny and competition will be ferocious in August. It's a luxury, yet also a burden, for the staff, which must keep everyone well-fed.
Strength: The future. Of the top four backs, three are underclassmen, all of whom bring something a little different and exciting to the backfield. Hardy might be the best of the bunch, and after wisely sitting out 2009, returns with four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Weakness: A proven workhorse. With Fletcher goes a sure-thing and one of the best players to ever call Hattiesburg. In his wake is a lot of potential, but little certainty and no back who rushed for more than 122 yards in 2009.
Outlook: While a drop-off from Fletcher and Harrison may be inevitable, it does not mean the cupboard is bare. On the contrary. Southern Miss continues to recruit and develop this position extremely well, which will keep it in good hands for years to come. Seniority may benefit Floyd in the early going, but keeping Hardy and Johnson on the sidelines will require some heavy-duty restraints.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: Although the production of junior DeAndre Brown dipped from his debut season, it was a victory that he even suited up for all but two games. He returned faster than most expected from a horrific broken leg suffered in the 2008 bowl game, making 47 receptions for 785 yards and nine touchdowns. His next-level talent is undeniable, combining a freakish 6-6, 231-pound frame with an enormous gait and the ability to sky well above defensive backs. The Eagles are harboring a superstar at the position, who could use 2010 as an audition for the 2011 NFL Draft. Now almost two years removed from the injury, he's a Biletnikoff Award contender with proper support from the quarterbacks.
At flanker, Southern Miss will go with 5-11, 180-pound sophomore Quentin Pierce , who put down a solid ground floor to his career in 2009. Though his production waned as the season wore on, he ended up with 25 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns, tearing up UAB on Oct. 1. A shifty receiver, with good moves in his space, he's someone the Eagles would like to get more involved with the short and intermediate passing game.
One of the pleasant surprises of the offseason has been 6-1, 170-pound junior Ryan Balentine. After catching just five passes for 59 yards in his first year out of Trinity Valley (Tex.) Community College, he grew markedly as an athlete and a student of the game. A fluid route-runner, with tremendous wheels, he has the size-speed combination to take advantage of all the attention Brown is sure to receive on the other side.
One of the sleepers of the passing game is 6-3, 260-pound senior Jonathan Massey, the top option at tight end. He's taken the long route to Hattiesburg, making stops at Vanderbilt and Copiah-Lincoln Community College along the way. Built more like an H-back than a traditional three-down tight end, he caught seven passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first six games, but should be used plenty more in 2010.
Projected Top Reserves: The veteran among the projected backups is 6-3, 208-pound senior Johdrick Morris, who started five games a year ago has three letters of experience. A nice physical specimen, who knows the system well, he has to do a better job of making his own plays after catching just eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in 2009.
One of the more exciting players off the bench will be 6-1, 184-pound sophomore Mookie Assad. While still real raw at the finer points of the position, he has the straight-line speed and leaping ability that'll keep the staff patient as it attempts to mold him into the eventual heir apparent to Brown.
Watch Out For … more of Massey. With so much attention going to the outside receivers, while not utilize the senior tight end a little bit more? He's a very nice option, with reliable hands, which should encourage the quarterbacks to look his way far more than they did a year ago.
Strength: Brown. A player of his caliber makes it to Hattiesburg once every ... well, never. He's a magnet, both for the ball and defenders, which helps elevate the play of his quarterback and his fellow receivers. A pro-caliber receiver versus Conference USA defensive backs is a match up Southern Miss will exploit every day of the week and twice on Saturdays.
Weakness: After Brown. While it's not as if this is a bad collection of receivers, but the disparity after No. 5 is such that it allows opponents to double and even triple-team at times. Heck, Pierce is the second-leading returning receiver and he had just 25 grabs a year ago, meaning more help is needed for Brown.
Outlook: As long as Brown is healthy, Southern Miss will enjoy a positive situation at receiver. Two years removed from the leg injury and with Davis back, he's set to perform like an All-American. It would help immensely, however, if he can get a bigger assist from the likes of Pierce, Morris, Massey, who must capitalize on man coverage.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: The graduations of four starters will have Southern Miss scrambling for replacements and the right combination throughout the summer. The one fixture will be 6-1, 282-pound senior Cameron Zipp, who'll be back at the pivot for a third consecutive year. An honorable mention All-Conference USA selection, with an outstanding grasp on the system, he plays the game hard and smart, always finishing his blocks until the whistle blows.
Coming out of spring, the leader at the all-important left tackle spot is 6-4, 302-pound sophomore Darius Barnes. A converted defensive lineman, he's spent the entire offseason trying to hone his technique and get a better grasp on the playbook. He plays with maximum effort and just enough of a mean streak, but it'll take more than the intangibles to keep speed rushers off Austin Davis' back.
The favorite to line up next to Barnes at left guard is 6-2, 288-pound sophomore Joe Duhon. After making a few cameos in 2009, he's really caught the attention of the coaches in the offseason, solidifying his spot atop the depth chart. He has some of the best feet among the blockers and packs a bigger punch than you'd expect for a player of his size and stature.
At right guard, 6-2, 319-pound senior Alex Michael is one of the few Eagles up front with any experience at this level. A veteran of two letters, he played in all 13 games a year ago, bringing some much-needed know-how to the unit. A tough and no-nonsense cog in the rebuilt unit, he'll play with good pad level and the work ethic of a blue-collar lineman.
Right tackle could go to a newcomer, 6-5, 320-pound junior Jason Weaver out of Arizona Western Community College. Considering his imposing size, he's impressed the coaching staff with his footwork, pass protection skills, and dearth of mistakes in his first spring. He'll be even better once he hones his technique and gets accustomed to being more of a knee-bender.
Projected Top Reserves: Barnes' stiffest competition is coming from massive junior Lamar Holmes, who did his apprenticeship at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College. At 6-6 and 335 pounds, he's absolute mauler when he locks on to his man, but in space, he's still liable to get exposed by smaller, quicker edge rushers. Maintaining his weight and conditioning are keys to winning the right to protect the blindside.
Sophomore Austin Quattrochi will back up Zipp at center before replacing him in 2011. After playing in all but two games as a rookie, he ramped up his game in the spring, drawing rave reviews from the coaches. At 6-3 and 286 pounds, he's strong enough to hold up at the point of attack, yet also has the quickness get to the second level and make blocks downfield.
Watch Out For .... the staff to make frequent changes to the depth chart in the summer and the fall. After Zipp, the lone pillar of stability, the Golden Eagles will be holding auditions at every other spot on the line. Don't bother committing the post-spring two-deep to memory, because it'll change after the first few days of summer drills.
Strength: Size. While this might not be the best Southern Miss front wall in recent memory, it sure is the biggest. With the influx of wide-bodies, such as Weaver, Holmes, and Barnes, the Golden Eagles will have an opportunity to bully smaller lines with their superior strength.
Weakness: Experience. Not only must four new starters be broken in, but only a couple of letterwinners return to Hattiesburg. This group is going to put a heavy emphasis on newcomers from the JUCOs and the defensive side of the ball, which is a recipe for breakdowns, especially in the early going.
Outlook: Not many defenses will stop the high-powered Golden Eagle attack this season. Its offensive line, though, might. By far, the biggest hurdle to a Conference USA championship, Southern Miss and assistant Chris Kapilovic will need to be miracle workers to get this pounding headache solved before the opener.
- 2010 Southern Miss Preview |
Southern Miss Offense
2010 Southern Miss Defense |
Southern Miss Depth Chart
- Southern Miss Previews