Veteran leadership in the defensive backfield

Sep 10, 2016; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Southern Miss Golden Eagles defensive secondary coach Dan Disch talks to defensive back Curtis Mikell (19) in the second quarter of their game against the Savannah State Tigers at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Picasso Nelson Jr., a senior defensive back, summed up the defensive mindset best, “Do your job. Do it well and execute. Just get to the ball.”

The entire Golden Eagle football team understands how important the secondary’s leadership is to the defensive structure. Defensive backs coach Dan Disch wholeheartedly agrees. A standout comment from Disch when asked about experience and consistency came from him calling it, “the one thing in sports you can’t teach”. When Coach Disch first elaborated on that theme, two men came to mind quickly. That would be Senior cornerbacks Cornell Armstrong and Curtis Mikell.

Mikell forced the third lowest passer rating when targeted out of all FBS cornerbacks in 2016. Even so, his goals are not set to recreate this performance nor any other statistical feat for that matter. The team mantra of “brotherhood” has become more of a philosophy.

“We’re steady working,” said Mikell. “I don’t worry about stats when I’m working with my brothers and my team trying to get better every day.”

Cornell Armstrong embodies leadership on and off the field for the Golden Eagles.

“Everyone said I was too small and that I couldn’t get he job done at cornerback,” said Armstrong. “I lead because they [Southern Miss] gave me a shot.” His faith and determination drives his hunger to strive for greatness and pass his knowledge onto others. When asked about his approach to helping incorporate the younger players into different schemes, he gave nothing less than a brief, admirable answer. “We tell them to follow the coach’s plan and pray to God,” said Armstrong. “Every time.”

Tarvarius Moore, yet another veteran leader, Mikell and Nelson Jr. each notched two interceptions last season. Probably even more impressive than that, Nelson Jr., Mikell and Armstrong combined for a total of 131 tackles. This core group in the secondary will look to band together and unitedly bring Southern Miss home a conference championship.