As the Southern Miss Golden Eagles’ season opener versus South Alabama approaches, the team adjusts to the recent loss of six players who opted out of the season.
Four players on defense and two on offense have opted out of the 2020 football season, listing the uncertainties of COVID-19 as the primary reason for their decisions. Five of the six players have publicly announced their intent to enter the transfer portal as graduate transfers.
Head Coach Jay Hopson says he backs the players’ decisions.
“We support them,” Hopson said. “These are crazy times. […]We let our players know we support them in any decision and we wish all of those guys the very, very best.”
Senior defensive lineman Jacques Turner was the first player to publicly announce his decision on Twitter. Turner thanked his coaches, teammates and fans for his time at Southern Miss. He finishes his career at Southern Miss with 93 tackles and 14 sacks.
Two more defensive linemen, Shannon Carswell and Garrett Crawford, also announced their decision to opt-out of the season shortly after. The final defense lineman to opt out was senior linebacker Racheem Boothe. Boothe finishes his career at Southern Miss with 166 total tackles and 10 sacks.
Junior defensive lineman Dominic Quewon, still actively playing this season, speaks on these losses at the defensive line.
“Unfortunately, we lost a couple of guys, a couple of key guys, but all we can do now is really just capitalize on the opportunity that was given to us,” Quewon said. “There’s not much we can do after that, but we’re just going to keep grinding and keep going, moving forward.”
Quewon will start at defensive end for the season-opener in what will also be his first game as a Golden Eagle.
On offense, the Golden Eagles lost junior running-back Steven Anderson and senior wide-receiver Jaylond Adams.
Assistant Coach Scotty Walden says he supports Steven and Jaylond’s decisions and is excited about the depth of the team moving forward.
“We’ve got a bunch of hungry guys on this football team from running back to receiver to DB, you name it,” Walden said. “They want to be the best in the country […] and I think when you got a group like that, they’re anxious to step up.”
Senior quarterback Jack Abraham also spoke on the team’s depth, specifically in the backfield.
“There’s talent two to three deep on this team and I think that guys will step in and get the job done, especially at running back,” Abraham said. “I think we’ve got some really good talent at running back and I’m excited to see those guys out there.”
Junior RB Don Ragsdale will slide into the starting spot for the season-opener. Offensive linemen Kevin Perkins, Dee Baker and Frank Gore Jr. will also likely get a share of carries and be utilized on offense. The Golden Eagles finished #13 in Conference USA in rushing offense last season, which they hope to improve with these new players.
“To be honest with you, we’re so loaded at RB, it’s a blessing, it’s a good problem to have,” Walden said. “We have to be smart about getting our best players on the field.”
Hopson also spoke of the impact new signees have had on the team.
“At some of these spots, we’re really blessed because we’ve had some good signees coming in,” Hopson said. “I’ve been really pleased with some of the new guys. […] I think we had an outstanding signing class last year[,] so that’s certainly a positive.