Impact players to keep an eye in this season
The Oak Grove product has produced so much in his years with the Golden Eagles. Last year, Nelson was third on the team in tackles with 48, 22 solo, and recorded two interceptions. Nelson is a di- verse talent that can be placed all around the field on defense. While he mainly plays defensive back, he can play safety and linebacker effectively as well. After starting as a two-star recruit out of high school, the senior looks to be a ball hawking defender this year. He has the potential to make it to the next level, but definitely has more to prove. Nelson has family ties to the NFL, as his father, cousin, and great uncle all had time in the league. He hopes to make his football dreams come true after this coming season, so look for him to do big things for the Golden Eagle defense.
– Chris Moran
A dependable kicking game may be the deciding factor on whether or not the Golden Eagles have a successful season. With a tough schedule and so far an offense that remains a question, Parker Shaunfield will be in high demand. The 2016 Lou Groza semifinalist made all of 40 of his PAT attempts and was 12-of-14 in field goals, recording a long of 49 yards last season. He will be a go to source for points if the offense stalls early in the season. Shaunfield will likely be put into several tough situations and possibly several down the wire games, which based off of last season’s Kentucky game has proven that he is reliable. Shaunfield can and will need to put up points, as his long game will be imperative in keep- ing the Golden Eagles alive. Look for Shaunfield to post some record numbers if he stays healthy. Shaunfield may very well be the key in keeping the offense productive as the season goes along.
No matter who takes snaps at quarterback for the Golden Eagles this season, they are sure to have a reliable pass-catching target in wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. Staggers ended the 2016 season as the team leader in receptions with 63, receiving yards with 1,163 and receiving touchdowns with seven. The senior also established himself as a deep threat in his first season with the team, averaging 18.5 yards per catch and surpassing 200 receiving yards in two games last season, the most notable being his record-breaking six catch, 292-yard performance against Rice. Another aspect of Staggers’ game that cannot be overlooked is his ability to play special teams, as a punt returner, Staggers returned 21 punts for 205 yards and one punt return touchdown. Staggers will serve as a trusted security blanket for the quarterbacks and as speedy receiver who can catch the long ball with ease. We all know that Ito Smith gives the Golden Eagles a legitimate running threat on offense, but in order to win games in 2017, the offense needs to look to Staggers to ensure the passing game is productive. Staggers’ versatility to play offense and special teams is what makes him the player with the most potential to make a big impact for the team this season.
T’Rod Daniels, the junior transfer out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is one of the fastest players on the team. With senior George Payne out due to injury, the 4.3 caliber speed of Daniels will add extra depth to the backfield. Daniels has shown explosive acceleration throughout fall camp, contributing some of the only big plays against the stout Southern Miss defense. Daniels is not limited to the rushing game, as his talents will also be utilized as a returner. Head coach Jay Hopson has compared Daniels to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Warrick Dunn, and with that he has big shoes to fill. Daniels, with a similar build and skillset to Dunn, will try to immolate that style of play. His 765 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns for MGJCC in 2016 were enough to get him to Southern Miss, so look for him to stand out. However, this year is only his stepping stone. Moving forward, he will be one of the feature backs for the Golden Eagles.