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Sports Football Southern Miss NFL Draft prospects look to continue careers...

Southern Miss NFL Draft prospects look to continue careers as free agents

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Though Southern Miss’s two NFL Draft prospects were not selected in this year’s draft, wide receiver Tim Jones recently signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent.

According to NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the Jaguars signed Jones after the NFL Draft ended. Said contract reportedly guarantees Jones $165,000, and included a $15,000 signing bonus.

With this, Jones joins one of the most up-and-coming teams in the league. Newly hired Head Coach Urban Meyer’s squad includes the Draft’s number one overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Clemson, and the combo could prove to be electrifying. Jones will also provide depth to the Jaguars’s deep receiver corps, which also includes DJ Chark Jr., Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.

Jones, a Biloxi native, finished his career at Southern Miss with 150 receptions, the fourth-most in school history. He also ran 2,011 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns. His 2019 season, where he started for all 13 games, was particularly impressive. That season, Jones caught 73 receptions, ran 902 yards and earned three touchdowns.

Though Jones missed playtime this past season due to injuries, he still made an impact. In six games, he recorded 30 receptions, 480 yards and four touchdowns.

Southern Miss’s other Draft prospect, safety Ky’el Hemby from Abingdon, Maryland, also went undrafted, and has yet to sign with a team as of May 2. 

Hemby transferred to Southern Miss from Iowa Western Community College and made his debut as a Golden Eagle in 2018. He finished the season second in the nation for interceptions per game and third in interceptions overall with six.

In his final year at Southern Miss, Hemby recorded 72 tackles, one interception and four pass deflections. Hemby also recorded his first solo interception of the 2020 season on the final defensive snap in Southern Miss’s last game against Florida Atlantic University, which helped secure the win.

In his career at Southern Miss, Hemby recorded 216 tackles, ten pass deflections and nine interceptions.

In March, Hemby and Jones drew interest from 19 teams that attended their pro days at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Based on their stats, both players were projected to either be late-round picks or go undrafted. Professional scouts have questioned Hemby’s ability in man coverage and agility in transitions, but have praised his run-stopping abilities and versatility.

Hemby played in various positions at Southern Miss and could likely be a strong safety on a pro team. Some scouts have even suggested he could fit better as a linebacker in the NFL, though it would ultimately be up to the team he signs with to decide.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected former Southern Miss wide receiver Quez Watkins in the sixth round. DeMichael Harris went undrafted, but later signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Golden Eagles have 11 active players in the NFL, and have had 127 players drafted in the league overall. Southern Miss will kick off the 2021 season on Sep. 4 at the University of South Alabama.

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