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20. Southern Miss
With a newfangled offense, the Golden Eagles will try to fly faster and farther
Junior Derrick Nix is your father's running back. Until now he has
restricted all his ducking and weaving to hunting and spinner bait; as a runner,
he's as north-south as the prime meridian. The Baby Bull introduced
Conference USA to his power running style two years ago, when as a true
freshman he rushed for 1,180 yards. His 1,054 yards last season made him the
Golden Eagles' first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since Ben Garry in 1977, and
he's hankering to bulldoze a few more defenders and repeat the feat this season.
| The Book
| An opposing team's coach sizes up the
"Jeff Kelly throws a wobbly, sidearmed pass, but he completes it. I had a lot
more respect for him after we played them. I thought we'd give him a bad game.
He gave us a bad game.... Nix is so deceptive -- and he has tremendous
heart.... [Defensive tackle] Daleroy Stewart may be a surprise, a 300-pounder
who's really fast and powerful.... [Rover] Leo Barnes is nasty, tough on the
run. He's a little undersized, but he can really bring
This off-season, however, Nix has been working with first-year running backs
coach Shelton Gandy on improving his lateral quickness and allowing blocks to
develop before he plows into the line. "I need to learn to avoid contact
sometimes," Nix says. Why change? The same question was asked of Southern
Miss coach Jeff Bower after he axed his entire offensive coaching staff
following a season in which the Golden Eagles went 6-0 in conference and 9-3
overall, losing only at Nebraska, Alabama and Texas A&M. Bower points to an
imbalance between a defense that ranked eighth nationally and an offense that
was increasingly predictable and unproductive with its
A bull in nickname and in style, Nix is looking to add a few new moves to his
running repertoire. |
Enter Nevada coordinator Chris Klenakis, whose offenses in Reno finished among
the top five nationally each of the past four seasons. Klenakis will have the
Eagles using a high-energy, quick-passing attack, with more play-action sets and
quarterback movement. Unlike the last two seasons, several passing plays will
feature Nix as the first option, challenging him to become, like his team, a
more complex offensive
Issue date: August 14, 2000
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