With the annual Black and Gold spring game coming this Saturday, the Golden Eagles have continued to work their craft on the football field.
Southern Miss has moved past the uncertainty following the departure of Todd Monken back in January. Now, the Golden Eagles can look forward to a productive future led by first-year coach Jay Hopson.
This is Hopson’s first spring, so he will have some adjusting to do on these players, but he certainly has a vision on what his goals are before the players leave before summer vacation.
“We have to keep developing the guys and that’s what spring is for,” Hopson said. “Just make sure the guys that make plays and you want to see it when the lights come on.”
The mainstays are still on the team, such as C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Nick Mullens, and defensive stalwart Dylan Bradley. There have also been new faces added to the roster such as junior college transfers Isiah Jones and Allenzae Staggers.
All across the roster, USM has an abundance of talent, maybe the best it has had since the 2011 season. Where there is talent, there is also experience.
For example, senior Elijah Parker was tied for fifth on the team’s tackle list last year. Senior D’Nerius Antoine also returns as the team’s leading tackler at safety.
On the other side of the ball, junior running back Ito Smith returns after posting 1,128 all- purpose yards last season. That is 134 all-purpose yards a game, good for 18th in the nation.
Hopson sees the progress and the leadership all across the roster but would like to see it all come together on Saturday when the team will play in their annual scrimmage.
“I just want to see the guys who will be the playmakers on offense,” Hopson said. “Defensively, I just want to see guys that will step up and make plays. I think you’re trying to find your 11 playmakers on the offensive side and the defensive side.”
The Black and Gold scrimmage will feature all of these players and more pitted against each other this Saturday. Where first-stringers will falter, the second stringers will hopefully take advantage of their miscues. The ferocity of the players is something that Hopson will pay close mind to, and it is something that he anticipates also.
“I think they will be excited,” Hopson said. “They like to go out and talk a bunch of stuff to each other.”
The players on the field will be led by a coaching staff full of new faces, including secondary coach Dan Disch and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. The new faces could give way to confusion on the field, but Hopson is confident that the team will be led by a good group of men.
“I got the best coaching staff in America, I couldn’t be more pleased,” Hopson said. “I think we are all doing a great job as a collective team.”
The Golden Eagles will participate in their annual Black and Gold spring game this Saturday at noon inside the Rock.