4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense just never got it going. It struggled from the start and only came up with a few decent performances, allowing 30 points or more in seven of the ten games. Ten starters are back, though, for a coaching staff looking to get far more aggressive and do far more to get into the backfield.
– It would’ve been nice to get pass rushing lineman Jacques Turner back, but after missing 2020 he’s off to Louisville. The transfer portal is helping the other way, though with a few nice prospects coming in around a veteran front four that gets all the top parts back.
Terence Cherry and Dominic Quewon return on the ends, but they only combined for 5.5 sacks. There’s enough for a good rotation to keep everyone fresh, but to keep hammering on this, the pressure has to come. There isn’t a tone of bulk on the interior, but Tahj Sykes is a 308-pound veteran on the nose and more parts are coming in to help.
– Most of the disruption came from the linebackers. Hayes Maples led the team with 91 stops and eight tackles for loss, and Santrell Latham came up with a team-high four sacks, but they’re not alone. Linebacker should be the team’s biggest strength – next to running back – with a whole lot of smallish, athletic options to play around with.
Star safety Ky’el Hemby is off to the NFL, but sophomore Malik Shorts is a is a good one – he was second on the team with 81 tackles in just nine games – leading a solid group. Natrone Brooks is a good one, but the corners have to show up. The lack of a pass rush was a problem, but there weren’t enough big plays for a D that came up with just six picks.