All eyes for the upcoming season have been mainly shifted to the quarterback battle between sophomore Keon Howard and junior Kwadra Griggs.
Despite this complication, the Golden Eagles return a very complete offense in other areas. A loaded backfield and a strong reliable corps of receivers await whoever wins the quarterback battle.
The backfield has a plethora of depth and is led by senior Ito Smith. As many know, Smith is on the verge of breaking several Southern Miss records such as the all-time, all- purpose yards record. Smith ran for 1,459 yards last season, caught for 515 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in his junior year. Smith will play a huge role in both the running and passing game. Many will expect Smith to be the leader on offense, but he is also accompanied by others more than capable in a loaded backfield.
“I got a good group of guys,” said running backs coach Lytrel Pollard. “The sky is the limit for us as long as we stay humble and continue to work like we’re doing. I think we can carry the offense to be one of the best [groups] in the league.”
Junior Tez Parks is most likely to become the number two running back since George Payne is still recovering from an injury. Of course, when Payne is healthy, he can have just as many star-studded moments as Smith. Injuries kept Parks from reaching his full potential all last season, but now Parks will get his fair share of carries to prove himself. Payne should be healthy at the start of the season, but may see limited carries early on as he still recuperates.
“All of my backs are fortunately good enough they can be first, second, third down, goal line, short yardage backs,” Pollard said. “We try to recruit guys that can do a little bit of everything, we don’t want to be limited.”
A new face added to this deep core of running backs is junior T’Rod Daniels. Daniels, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is believed to be the fastest player on the team, which makes him not only player to watch, but makes the core of running backs even more dangerous. In his sophomore season, he ran for 765 yards, averaging 7.3 yards, and seven touchdowns.
“T’Rod Daniels might be one of the fastest kids I have ever seen on the football field,” Pollard said. “He has big play ability.”
The wide receivers, like the running backs, are also a talented group that is led by Allenzae Staggers, who is the No. 1 returning receiver for the team. Staggers finished with 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns and was named the 20th best receiver in the nation by 247sports.com. Staggers is a complete receiver and can play to his many strengths on any play, which can help give confidence to the new quarterback.
The only loss the receivers had was D.J. Thompson, other than him the Golden Eagles return everyone.
Junior Korey Robertson’s 437 yards placed him third on the team’s receiving yards list, and also hauling in three touchdowns.
Robertson, Chase Whitehead, Jordan Mitchell, Isaiah Jones and tight end Julian Allen all had their key moments last season. The versatility of the group gives the quarterback different options when needed. Each
receiver possesses different strengths that will allow the quarterback to utilize them in different plays. Every receiver on the roster is capable of having a bust-out game and turning any play from nothing to something.
“They know they have potential, but the reality is if they continue to progress on a consistent basis, I definitely think we can be the most talented [group] not only in this conference, but in the nation,” said wide receiver coach Desmond Lindsey.
No matter who steps in at quarterback, being short of playmakers will not be an issue. If whoever, wins the starting job at quarterback loses confidence, having trust in his offense will never be an issue for him.