The Southern Miss football team’s Black and Gold Spring Game created more questions than answers. Despite a 15-point second half, the Gold team walked away with a 20-15 win over the Black team. Many questions surround the offense as there is a variety of pieces that have yet to find their place.
Junior transfer Jack Abraham had a strong spring training but had a poor outing at the spring game itself. Heading into the spring game Abraham looked to be the favorite to earn the starting job come fall, but his performance in the spring game left questions. Abraham was 10-for-16 throwing for 103 yards and an interception. Junior Keon Howard had an average spring season but had a successful spring game where he threw 10-for-15 for 105 yards and ran for another 47 yards. However, a difference maker could have been the talent that surrounded each team as Howard had a strong receiving corps and a better offensive line on the day. To add to the complicated question of quarterback for a second season, last year’s senior starter Kwadra Griggs missed the entire spring season. So it is safe to say the quarterback position is nowhere close to being decided.
Senior Stephen Anderson has emerged as a new name to learn in the running back group. For most of his career at Southern Miss, Anderson has been listed as a quarterback. However, at 6’2 and 242-pounds Anderson moved to running back where his role will simple, to pound the ball and come in on third and short situations. Anderson filled that role well in the spring game on a one-yard touchdown run and had six carries for 29 yards. Next, to Anderson, senior T’Rod Daniels had the most impressive outing finishing with four carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt senior George Payne looks to be returning to his true form after missing last season due to a hip injury while senior Tez Parks also had solid runs in the fourth quarter. Overall, having a go-to running back and replacing Ito Smith does not seem like an option but rather the team has four solid running backs to call on.
After losing Allenzae Staggers and Korey Robertson, sophomore Quez Watkins looks to be the next man up. Watkins dropped a touchdown pass but made up for it with a 16-yard touchdown catch finishing with five catches and totaling 56-yards. Sophomore Jaylon Adams looks to be the deep ball receiver as he broke away with a 45-yard catch and finished with two catches for 73 yards. An unforeseen target was sophomore Anatawyn Fludd who had three catches for 77 yards. Aside from Watkins, the wide receiver group seems to be wide open much like the quarterback position.
A key to holding all these moving parts together is naturally the offensive line. Last year, the offensive line had a young group, but it was an unsung hero of last season. The Black team offensive line consisted of freshman Trace Clopton, redshirt sophomore Wyatt Richthofen, sophomore Paul Gainer Jr., redshirt junior Ty Pollard, freshman Douglas Gearity and redshirt junior Drake Dorbeck. This offensive line did not have a strong day, but Ty Pollard and Trace Clopton easily looked to be the strongest points of the Black team’s offensive line. As for the Gold team that offensive line comprised of redshirt sophomore Arvin Fletcher Jr., senior Jimmie Terry, sophomore Bryce Foxworth, sophomore Travion Clayton and junior Tairek Johnson. This group had the best outing of the spring game with consistent pass protection and run game blocking. The offensive line may have the most consistent and talented depth on the team.
Many questions will remain unanswered as the team heads into summer training. The offense certainly has the parts to duplicate the 29 points it averaged last season. The most distinct factor for the team to find is their next star player. There are guys who have star player potential, but for the offense to go from good to great, it will need to find its next Ito Smith/Korey Robertson caliber of player.