SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Southern Miss Golden Eagles

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Jeff Bower (13th year, 80-58-1)
2002 record: 7-6 (Lost to Oklahoma State 33-23 in Houston Bowl)
C-USA finish: T-3rd
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 143.7 ypg
(3rd in C-USA, 63rd in nation)
Pass: 188.5 ypg (7th, 78th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 167.4 ypg (6th, 75th)
Pass: 168.9 ypg (3rd, 65th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
SE   83   Chris Johnson   Jr.  
FL  89  Antwon Courington  So. 
WR   88   Marvin Young   Jr.  
WT  72  Myron Powe  Jr. 
WG   77   Jeremy Parquet   Jr.  
C   68   Jim Hicks   Sr.  
SG  61  Travis Cooley  Fr. 
ST  65  Neal Mead  So. 
TE  35  Terrell Browden  Sr. 
QB   7   Micky D'Angelo   Jr.  
FB  Anthony Harris  So. 
RB  11  James Walley  Jr. 
Defense (8)
DE   90   Ronald Jones   Sr.  
NT  95  Terrance Ford  So. 
DT   92   Eric Scott   Jr.  
BAN   91   Terrell Paul   Sr.  
SLB   27   Michael Boley   Jr.  
MLB   24   Rod Davis   Sr.  
WLB  42  Antoine Cash  Jr. 
CB   5   Greg Brooks   Sr.  
CB  John Eubanks  Fr. 
ROV   14   Alex Ray   Sr.  
FS   28   Etric Pruitt   Sr.  
Special Teams
87  Jacob Matlock  Sr. 
17  Luke Johnson  So. 
KR  John Eubanks  Fr. 
PR  88  Marvin Young  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at California 
Sept. 4  at UAB 
Sept. 13  Memphis 
Sept. 25  Nebraska 
Oct. 4  at Cincinnati 
Oct. 11  at Alabama 
Oct. 25  South Florida 
Nov. 1  Louisiana-Lafayette 
Nov. 8  at Houston 
Nov. 15  Tulane 
Nov. 20  TCU 
Nov. 29  at East Carolina 
New Southern Miss offensive coordinator Rip Scherer is somewhat reluctant to describe how his relationship with head coach Jeff Bower blossomed.

It happened when Scherer was the head coach at the University of Memphis and USM was making its appearances in the 1997 and '99 Liberty Bowls. Scherer and his wife, Michele, and Bower and his wife, Debbie, would get together during the Golden Eagles' week-long stay in Memphis leading up to the game featuring the Conference USA champion.

"Every time he came up for the Liberty Bowl we would go out for dinner and, unfortunately, I was always home," says Scherer. "Now that I've left Memphis my goal is to get [the Golden Eagles] back there."

Southern Miss hasn't won the C-USA title since '99, but Bower is hoping Scherer's influence will resurrect C-USA's seventh-best passing offense and lead the Golden Eagles back to Graceland. Southern Miss scored 147 points in eight league games, C-USA's second-lowest output.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

How quickly quarterbacks Micky D'Angelo and Dustin Almond adapt to Scherer's new schemes will determine how far the Golden Eagles go. D'Angelo, a drop-back passer, possesses a strong, accurate arm and owns a quick release. Almond was the only other quarterback getting significant playing time a year ago.

Southern Miss had a 1,000-yard rusher for three straight seasons in the late 1990s, but the new offensive approach likely will see the Golden Eagles sharing the football more in a two-back set. Junior James Walley is expected to get the bulk of the carries. Walley is a 196-pound back with outstanding speed and excellent vision who can be difficult to corral.

The Golden Eagles will try to work their tight ends more into the offense. Scherer likes senior Terrell Browden, a player who has the ability to turn a short reception into a big play. As for traditional receivers, the Golden Eagles will look to Chris Johnson (50 catches, 673 yards) and Marvin Young (41-615).

Offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue has the most difficult task. He has to find three new starters to play alongside solid veterans Jim Hicks, a senior center, and Jeremy Parquet, a 6-foot-7, 318-pound guard.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

There may not be a better linebacking corps in Conference USA. The unit is led by All-America candidate Rod Davis and junior Michael Boley, a first-team all-conference selection a year ago. Davis, hard-hitting, instinctive and always around the football, had 23.5 tackles for lost yardage and 10.5 sacks last year. Boley is athletic enough to stay in the game on passing downs. He finished with 142 tackles, third in the conference.

Coaches have moved free safety Antoine Cash to weakside linebacker, giving the defense a player who can blitz off the edge. Cash needs to work on his tackling and add about 10 pounds.

The emergence of junior college transfer Ronald Jones at defensive end last season was a pleasant development. Jones forced opponents to abandon the strategy of doubling bandit end Terrell Paul, a 246-pound senior who was a second-team all-conference selection last season and is beginning his fourth year as a starter. A warrior who will play through injuries, Paul has the speed to wreak havoc on the edge.

Another All-America candidate heads the secondary. Senior free safety Etric Pruitt, a first-team all-conference pick last year, takes on tight ends, pulling guards and running backs with equal abandon.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

This is where the Golden Eagles have to start over. Army transfer Derek Jacobs steps in to get first shot at the kicking duties. Sophomore Luke Johnson will move into the punting job.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

It's no secret that Southern Miss will once again have one of the nation's best defenses this season. Davis is considered by some to be the top player at his position in the nation. Boley may be the conference's second-best linebacker. The secondary, anchored by Pruitt, will be as unyielding to C-USA opposition. The key for the Golden Eagles' bid to unseat TCU as league champion will be how well the offense adapts to Scherer's multiple scheme.

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