By: Tony Thomas
August 16, 2019
The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in 2018 fielded a young and inexperienced offense, but produced a #19 nationally ranked defense. USM is looking to take their game to the next level in 2019. That offense is now another year wiser with 10 starters returning, and the defense returns 6 starters. According to Bill Connelly of http://sbnation.com and his “Returning Production Metric”, USM ranks #4 in the country in the amount of experience returning in 2019: 94% of the offense and 71% of the defense.
The strength of the defense is in the secondary, where 3 starters and 7 of the top 8 return, which ranked #1 in C-USA passing defense in 2018, allowing just 176 ypg. The star on this unit is Ky’el Hemby, who had 6 INT’s last year.
The linebacker corps suffered losses, losing 4 of the top 5. This is a concern.
The defensive line returns experience in Jacques Turner, and Torrance Brown (a transfer from Penn State) adds depth.
The offense returns all but 1 starter, including Junior QB Jack Abraham (2347 yards, 15 TD’s, 10 INT’s) and Junior WR Quez Watkins (72 receptions, 889 yards, 9 TD’s). All 5 starters on the offensive line return. Abraham completed 73% of his passes, tops in the FBS.
But the offense ranked #90 in the country in 2018, prompting Head Coach Jay Hopson to hire a new Offensive Coordinator in Buster Faulkner. Faulkner was the OC at Middle Tennessee State in 2015, an offense that featured a redshirt freshman QB in Brent Stockstill, who threw for almost 4000 yards and 30 TD’s and only 9 INT’s that year. In 2016-2018, Coach Faulkner was an offensive assistant at Arkansas State, and coached an offense that averaged over 450 yards per game in 2017 and 2018.
The Golden Eagles are 17-7 at home since 2015, and are 13-3 in C-USA home games going into this season. Their strength of schedule this year ranks #87 in the country, but they have a brutal 3-game road trip in September: at Mississippi State, at Troy, and at Alabama. The last time USM played 3 straight road games was in 2009, and they lost all 3 games. They also have 2 bye weeks: in October before the North Texas game,and in November before the UAB game.
Southern Miss should improve on their 6 wins from a year ago, and make it to bowl game after missing out on the postseason in 2018.
Thanks for reading.
Material for this article sourced from: http://sports-reference.com; Phil Steele’s 2019 College Football Preview, vol.25, pages 1-352.