Preview 2017: Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Previewing and looking ahead at the Southern Miss Golden Eagles season – and what you need to know.
2016 Southern Miss was just plain weird.
It was a team built to crank up the offense, and it did. It finished 21st in the nation, but it wasn’t as explosive as Louisiana Tech or Western Kentucky.
The defensive experience and talent were there, and it showed for the nation’s 15th-best D. And it still gave up 35 points or more six times.
Everything seemed to work on offense, except it forgot to score. Everything seemed to work on defense, except it forgot to stop teams from scoring.
It was a good enough team to beat Kentucky, but it got obliterated by 23 against UTSA and lost at home to Charlotte 38-27.
Just as it looked like it was in for a totally lost season with the regular season finale against Louisiana Tech – and on a run of five losses in six games for a 5-6 record – USM pitched a gem to win easily to become bowl eligible.
It wasn’t the season that first year head man Jay Hopson needed. It might have been a disappointing year for a team good enough to be playing for a Conference USA title, but considering it didn’t, nothing else mattered as long as the team finished with a winning season and a bowl game.
And now Hopson has to do more with a worse team – or at least one that has a slew of holes to fill.
The offense should be dangerous again if the line retools in a hurry, and the quarterback situation is settled right away. Four-year starter Nick Mullens is gone, but there are decent QB prospects to step in and shine with Ito Smith to hand off to and bowl star Allenzae Staggers leading a strong receiving corps.
A few all-stars are gone on D, but the secondary has the potential to be great again, the ends are sound, and if a few linebackers turn into top tacklers, there won’t be much of a drop off.
Parker Shaunfield is one of the league’s top kickers, the rest of the special teams are sound, and Hopson knows what he’s doing. He made McNeese State into a star, and he has enough talent back at USM to be in the mix for the Conference USA title.
But that was supposed to happen last year, too.
Maybe, after being weird-bad last year, this team might just surprise and be quirky enough to pull it off.