Preview 2018: Previewing and looking ahead to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles season with what you need to know.
Preview 2018: Southern Miss Golden Eagles
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players, Key Game, Fun Stats
– What Will Happen & Win Total Prediction
– Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis
– Southern Miss Previews 2017 | 2016 | 2015
The Jay Hopson era is working so far, but …
It’s been so frustrating at times.
After a stunningly weird dip from 2012 to 2014 with just four wins – coming off a 12-win Conference USA championship campaign in 2011 – Todd Monken turned things back around with a 9-5 2015 before leaving for the NFL assistant coaching world.
In stepped Hopson following a great run at Alcorn State, and he’s been able to take the team to two straight winning seasons and two straight bowl games.
But the team that was good enough to open the Hopson era with a win at Kentucky two years ago also lost at home against Charlotte, and got walloped on the road against Old Dominion and UTSA as part of a rough run of five losses in six weeks.
And then it came up large against a strong Louisiana Tech team to become bowl eligible.
The team that won on the road at Louisiana Tech last season, beat Marshall on the road, and rolled to a bowl game also got crushed at home by UAB and blown out by North Texas.
Of the 11 losses so far under Hopson, five of them were at home in winnable games, five on the road, and once in last year’s Independence Bowl against Florida State.
If USM could just take care of home already, all of a sudden, this becomes a Conference USA championship-level program again after finishing third in the West over each of the last two year.
Hopson is a strong head man – don’t just blow off two straight winning seasons and two straight bowl appearances – but it’s going to be interesting once there’s more consistency.
But that’s probably not going to happen this year.
The offense that had so many good moments – but struggled too much in the five losses – has some big strengths and some massive concerns.
Again … frustrating. There are enough good pieces to win with, but not enough to make plans for a Conference USA title appearance.
The quarterback situation is terrific with Kwandra Griggs back – as long as he’s back and healthy after missing time this spring – but the USM passers don’t have most of the big-time targets from last year to throw to.
The line will be a big positive as the season goes on with a few sure-thing stars to work around, but star do-it-all RB Ito Smith is gone.
It’s the same deal on the defensive side, with a great-looking defensive front highlighted by one of the league’s best linebacking corps, but the entire secondary has to be replaced.
With all of the losses in the secondary, the defense has a few question marks, too, but the front six/seven will be a big positive, especially at linebacker.
But there’s plenty of talent to build around, the kicking game is fantastic – Parker Shaunfield will be among the nation’s best placekickers – and the coaching will ensure another winning season.
Eventually, Southern Miss will do so much more.