Newcomers already leaving their mark
As fall camp concludes, all eyes have been focused on the quarterback battle between incumbent starter Nick Mullens and transfer Tyler Matthews. While all eyes have been focused on the two quarterbacks, all ears have been focused on head coach Todd Monken, trying to get an idea on which quarterback he will lean toward.
However, Monken has remained mum on the situation, but the quarterback battle is not the story of fall camp. The true story lies behind all the new faces that recently joined the team and will undoubtedly play a huge role in the upcoming season.
Defensive tackles Andrew Bolton, Quincy Russell and Ricky Parks join former Miami defensive end Naim Mustafaa to provide the Golden Eagles with the depth and talent they sorely needed.
Bolton spent two seasons with the Kansas Jayhawks before transferring to USM while Russell is a former four-star recruit who transferred from Oklahoma. Parks originally was a highly sought after tight end, signing with Auburn out of high school, but was dismissed from the team twice.
He attended Coffeyville Junior College last season and made the transition to defensive tackle where his athleticism has made him a force as a pass rusher. All three have the pedigree and size to make a drastic impact on the interior of the defense.
Joining them on the defensive side of the ball are safety D’Nerius Antoine and linebacker Anthony Swain.
Antoine has spent time at linebacker, but is now working exclusively at safety with the first team. He has proven to be a physical presence in the run game at 231 pounds, but is also a great athlete who has the ability to play over the top in coverage.
Swain is a graduate transfer from Auburn and a traditional middle linebacker, but has his work cut out for him with Brian Anderson as the incumbent starter. However, Swain has opened eyes in the fall camp and will likely force defensive coordinator Dave Duggan’s hand in creating playing time for Swain.
On the offensive side, tight ends Taylor Marini and Julian Allen have brought an element to the passing game that has been missing from the Golden Eagle offense for years. Both players have the ability to play as a traditional inline tight end, but can also split out wide as a receiver.
Justice Hayes has brought even more competition to the running back position, which could pay huge dividends this season. The former Michigan Wolverine gives USM five solid options to tote the rock. Last season, the running back position was consistently banged up and hindered the Golden Eagles from being able to stick with their running game, leaving them one dimensional.
The Golden Eagle coaching staff has done a great job with pulling talented players from other programs and giving them chances to earn playing time. Depth has been an issue with this team ever since Monken took over as head coach, but this is the first season when it looks like USM can actually sustain injuries without suffering a huge drop off in talent and production.