2013 Pre-Season Preview: Southern Miss Golden Eagles

2012 Record: 0-12 (0-8 in C-USA)

Head Coach: Todd Monken (First Year Head Coach)

Last Bowl Game: 2011 Sheraton Bowl: beat Nevada 24-17

Stadium: M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, MS (capacity = 36,000)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 45th out of 55 mid-major teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Conference Home Games: 10/5 vs FIU, 10/26 vs North Texas, 11/16 vs FAU, 11/23 vs Middle Tennessee

Conference Road Games: 10/19 at ECU, 11/2 at Marshall, 11/9 at Louisiana Tech, 11/30 at UAB

Out of Conference Foes: 8/31 vs Texas State, 9/7 at Nebraska, 9/14 at Arkansas, 9/28 at Boise State


Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: Lost turnover margin by 1.33 turnovers per game (119th in Nation), allowed opponents to convert 49.69% of third downs (last in C-USA

Stat to Cheer: they have already won as many games in 2013 as they did in 2012 and the season hasn't started yet

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 115th out of 124 teams



Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense 8, Special Teams 1

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Alan Howze (66 tackles, 2.5 sacks), DB Deron Wilson (61 tackles), LB Dylan Reda (55 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: RB Jalen Richard (426 yds rush, 4.9 ypc, 4 TD), WR Dominique Sullivan (19 rec, 3 TD), WR Justin Sims (20 rec), WR Francisco Llanos (20 rec)

Top Recruits: DT Rod Crayton, DT Christopher Robinson, DT Dylan Bradley, OT Devin Farrior, WR Tyre'oune Holmes, OT Fredrick Moore


Inside Scoop with Drew White of Golden Eagle Pride:

CFBZ: Todd Monken has his work cut out for him. How quickly can he turn this team back around?
Golden Eagle Pride: Coach Monken knew the state of the football team when he took the job, and he knew that this was a team that was talented enough to win 13 games two years ago.  Many of those players remain, and Monken's first job was to restore confidence. In the first team meeting, last season was put to rest, and the Eagle coaches and players started pushing forward. They have certainly done that in a big way.  
One of Coach Monken's most important hires was strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Smith, who has many years of experience including working in the NFL. Coach Smith has focused on returning Southern Miss to its core; toughness, determination, and physical play.  The impact was immediate. The players have bought in, and Coach Smith has pushed the right buttons to motivate this team. In fact, this past winter was one of the best off season work-outs Southern Miss has ever had.
In spring practice, Coach Monken brought the fun and intensity back to practices. If you were to observe a Southern Miss spring practice, you'd see music playing, coaches motivating, up-tempo pace, and a ton of energy. The coaches excitement was contagious. Coach Monken did have his work cut out for him, and he did exactly what he came to Southern Miss to do, and then some. This is truly a new day for Golden Eagle football. The 0-12 team is in the rear view mirror, and really good things are ahead.  
CFBZ: QB was an adventure for the Golden Eagles in 2012. Who do you think will win the job this season?
Golden Eagle Pride: Southern Miss started 5 different QB's last season, and that stat alone can tell a lot about the season last year. The silver lining is that several of those QB's did gain game experience. As it stands now, two of those 5 from last season transferred out, and the Eagles only had two healthy QB's to go through spring practice.  
Kyle Sloter is a 6'5 freshman who redshirted last season. He has all the physical tools to be an effective QB at this level. He has a strong arm and is very athletic for a 6'5 QB. He showed flashes of brilliance of times, but also was a little inconsistent. As he continues to develop confidence and sits under the coaching of Monken, he has the potential to really be a quality QB in this system. Monken was certainly pleased with his progression this spring.  
Cole Weeks was a walk-on who took the other helping of snaps in the spring. While Weeks does not have all the physical tools, he's a very smart QB who runs the system well.  
The quarterback everyone has been waiting to emerge is sophomore Ricky Lloyd. Lloyd was recruited to run Coach Fedora's system out of northern California, where he broke all kinds of state records. Lloyd tore an ACL last season and was only 70-80% this spring. While he didn't throw in scrimmage settings, he was able to participate in most drills, and seems poised to take over the starting job this fall. Lloyd is another great athlete who has a strong arm and runs the up-tempo, fast paced system very well. Summer work-outs will be crucial for him as he gets back to 100%.
The Eagle's have a new name in the mix heading into the fall in Cal transfer Allan Bridgford.  Bridgford played sparingly under Coach Arroyo, his offensive coordinator there, and now his offensive coordinator at Southern Miss. He will certainly be in the mix for the starting job because of his game experience, age (he'll be a 5th year senior), and knowledge of the offense. The competition for the job should be healthy and push Lloyd, Sloter and Weeks as well.  
Regardless of who gets the snaps, the Eagles are in great hands with Coach Monken, who is one of the better offensive play callers in the game. He knows how to run an offense, and any of these QB's can be effective in this system.  
CFBZ: What are the strengths of this Southern Miss team?
Golden Eagle Pride: Coach Monken has said several times that the strength of this team is at the running back position. Four players with experience and talent return for the Eagles, and each brings a different running style to the mix. Jeremy Hester is an explosive 5'10 back who is surprisingly strong and can run between the tackles. Jalen Richard is a sophomore who really emerged last season and rushed for over 400 yards as a true freshman. He has a great mix of speed and power as well. Kendrick Hardy is a senior who is a downhill runner and can earn the tough yards between the tackles. Hardy was an All-American prospect out of high school and is ready to bust out and be the player everyone has expected for several years in Hattiesburg. Sophomore Tyre Bracken shows a unique ability to get yards on the ground and through the air as he is an excellent receiver as well.  
Another strength for the Eagles is along the defensive line, where a set of defensive tackles are ready to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Khyri Thornton were disruptive all spring in scrimmages against the offense, and are very quick and strong off the ball. The stand-out in the spring game was defensive end Michael Smith, who finished the game with 5 sacks and will help fill some of the void left by departing Jamie Collins. The Eagles also have a pair of linebackers who are seniors, but depth there is a concern.
The defensive backfield will be much improved this season, as the Eagles have a four year starter in Deron Wilson at one corner, and emerging star Kalan Reed, just a sophomore, will compete for the other corner position. At safety one player to watch will be Emmanuel Johnson, who was one that really stood out to Coach Monken during the spring.  
Another position of strength is kicker Corey Acosta, who returns as a junior this season.  Acosta has a very strong leg and is deadly accurate as well.  
CFBZ: With the new alignment in Conference USA, who do you see as the primary competition for the Golden Eagles in the East?
Golden Eagle Pride: Conference USA will have a much different look this upcoming season. For one more year the Eagles will lock horns with ECU, which has become quite a rivalry in the conference. The Eagles and Pirates have competed for the top spot in the east for many seasons, and this one appears no different. The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee is an emerging program that will be a nice game for the Eagles, and they travel to Hattiesburg this season. Two other teams that have given the Eagle's fits lately are Marshall, and UAB, typically good conference battles in the east for Southern Miss.  
Going into last season, I thought the Golden Eagles would be able to maintain some of the momentum that Larry Fedora and his staff had built in Hattiesburg. The Ellis Johnson hire turned out to be a disaster. As Drew mentioned, Todd Monken has come in and had a very strong off-season for the Golden Eagles. This is a team that went from 12-2 in 2011 to 0-12 in 2012. Can Southern Miss have a similar turnaround this season?
After opening with Texas State, the Golden Eagles will have to go on the road to three straight hostile environments in Lincoln, Fayetteville and Boise against Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. 1-3 looks like a best case scenario to start the season. After that, conference play kicks up and the Eagles have FIU, North Texas, FAU and Middle Tennessee at home. Not exactly a murderers row. After the tough start of the season, if the team can stay together and focused, I think they can put together a good season provided they find somebody that can throw the ball around a bit for them in Monken's system. I'm predicting a conservative 6-7 wins for the Golden Eagles this season. I think they can sweep their home conference games and if they can pick up one (or two) on the road they would be looking 6/7 wins and bowl eligibility which is a long way from a zero win season. It wouldn't shock me to see this team do better but after last season it's hard to predict a complete turnaround.

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

Independent: Georgia StateOld Dominion
Sun Belt- Texas StateULM


Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots