Heading into the 2017 season, the Southern Miss football team had a sizeable contingent of players that could have been considered breakout players to watch for the season. Running back Ito Smith, wide receivers Korey Robertson and Allenzae Staggers and defensive backs like Tarvarius Moore and Cornell Armstrong are players that had noteworthy talent and experience, and each player could have made for a fine breakout player prediction.
This season, both Staggers and Robertson are gone, along with Smith, Moore and Armstrong. Also, a new quarterback in Jack Abraham will lead the way for Southern Miss in 2018. Given the turnover at key positions on the team and the relative youth of most of the projected starters, there are two players that can make a notable impact for the team, one that is a veteran of the program and one that is relatively untested. The one thing both players have in common is that they have the tools to make a big impact for the Golden Eagles.
Defensive lineman LaDarius Harris is a returning senior who will be called on to anchor the line for the 2018 season. The 2017 Conference-USA honorable mention selection recorded 37 total tackles along with 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack while starting all 13 games last season.
Harris also played in 13 games as a sophomore in 2016 and 11 games as a freshman in 2015.
Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Hopson had high praise for Harris when asked about the defensive line at media day.
“LaDarius I think is for sure a next level NFL football player,” Hopson said. “I’ve felt like LaDarius for the last two years has been one of the best defensive lineman in the conference, so we need him to be real productive.”
While the defensive line has other solid contributors with experience like senior Delmond Landry and sophomore Jacques Turner, Harris will be one of those veterans who can provide veteran leadership to the defensive unit as a whole and mentor the younger guys in his unit.
On offense, the performance of the skill positions will be integral to the potential success or failure of the unit. Wide receiver will be one of those position groups that has a lot of new faces heading into this season. Among the players who will see playing time at the position this season, sophomore Jaylond Adams is one of those players who is young, but brings a lot of talent to the position.
Adams received quite a bit of playing time in 2017 as a backup receiver. As a freshman, he recorded 219 receiving yards, and showed a glimpse of his deep threat ability with a 52-yard touchdown reception in the team’s 24-0 win over UTEP. With one season under his belt and having the opportunity to observe and learn under Staggers and Robertson in the receiving corps last season, Adams should transition well to the starting lineup. At 5’10” and weighing at 180 pounds, Adams will also complement the 6’2” Watkins and 6’1” Tim Jones as the shorter, but shifty receiver in the receiving corps.