Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 2010 Review

2010 Record: 8-5 (5-3), Tied 2nd Conference USA East
2010 Bowl Game: Beef O'Brady's Bowl, Lost to Louisville 31-28
2010 Schedule/Results: @ South Carolina, L 41-13, Prairie View, W 38-7, Kansas, W 31-16, @ Louisiana Tech, W 13-12, Marshall, W 41-16, East Carolina, L 44-43, @ Memphis, W 41-19, UAB, L 50-49, @ Tulane, W 46-30, @ UCF, W 31-21, Houston, W 59-41, @ Tulsa, L 56-50, Louisville, L 31-28


     Someone told Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora that arena football rules applied in Conference USA. While the Eagles were loading up on points most weeks, they were giving them up by the buckets on occasion themselves, allowing lesser teams to stay in games and make life difficult for the defense, which never really played up to potential in big games. In the end, Southern Miss, which has been their MO in recent seasons, failed to live up to expectations once again.
     Junior QB Austin Davis had rather illusory numbers in 2010. He surely put up the yardage, as he passed for 3103 yards, averaging 238.7 per game, but his 20 TDs were not indicitive of a QB who passed for 442 attempts on the season. The number is actually quite low for a player who threw the ball so many times. You can't fault his accuracy of 62.9%, and he did only throw 6 INTs on the season, but his performance overall just felt safe. Something was definately missing. He did rush for 452 yards and another 10 TDs, but there were other QBs in college football who run a similar offense who would have done much more with the offense.
     Kendrick Hardy led the team in rushing as a freshman. His numbers were very good for a freshman, but not what I would deem as dynamic or incredible, but very good. Hardy rushed for 903 yards and 7 TDs. His YPC average was actually quite nice at 6.5 yards per carry, but I cannot figure out why he was not unleashed more, or just used more for that matter. Desmond Johnson, a sophomore, rushed for 611 yards and 8 TDs, and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
     There will be depth in the receiving corps in 2011, as 5 of the top 7 receivers will return for coach Fedora. Kelvin Bolden was the yardage leader for the Eagles, as he rolled up a line of 46-722-6, and averaged 15.7 yards per reception. Johdrick Morris was the receptions leader for Southern Miss, as his compiled line eneded up as 50-684-4. Quentin Pierce was a very solid 3rd option, as he finished with 38-454-4. Deandre Brown was held to just 6 games in 2010, which is hugely disappointing. He finished with 19-284-3.William Spight and Ryan Balentine both return in 2011 to add depth.
     For a defense that gave up 30 or more points 7 times, Southern Miss didn't end up giving up a ton of yards. It was a very Jeckyl and Hyde season for this unit, and that inconsistency is what stood in the way of Southern Miss doing what needed to be done to win a CUSA title in 2010.
     The top 4 tacklers will all return in 2011, but what will be needed is for a leader to emerge in a group that only saw one defender step over 80 tackles, and that was junior LB Korey Williams with 92, or 7.08 per game. Sophomore LB Jamie Collins was second on the team with 76, while Kendrick Presley and Ronnie Thornton, with 63 and 61 tackles respectively, round up the pack, and will be back next season as well, giving Southern Miss a completely intact LB unit for this fall.
     Williams may have been the leading tackler, but he was also the leader in placing pressure directly on opposing backfields. Williams got busy in the backfield, as he collected 14.5 TFLs in 2010. He was joined in double figures by junior lineman Cordarro Law, who had 11.5 last fall. Nobody else got close to obtaining double figures here, but Southern Miss did collect 87 TFLs as a team on the season. Law led the team in sacks, but only had 5.5, and the pass defense suffered a little for it.
      The secondary gave up 248.8 yards passing per game in 2010, and that was largely the byproduct of having no pass rush up front. The Eagles found a young star in the making in the secondary, as freshman Deron Wilson proved to be a very good playmaker with 12 passes defended, double the nearest output from any other teammate, which was Chico Hunter, with 6. Southern Miss picked off 16 passes as a team in 2010, while giving up only 8. Justin Wilson, a senior, led the team with 4. Wilson and Jamie Collins both returned picks for scores.
     Danny Hrapmann was as good as any kicker in the nation in 2010, as he connected on 26 of 31 FGs on the season. Hrapmann will bring his considerable talents back into play in 2011. The Eagles will need him desperately, as they went 1-3 in games decided by 3 points or less. Peter Boehme was less than stellar at punter, as the sophomore only averaged 39.2 yards per punt. With an up and down defense, better production will be needed out of this position in 2011.

Southern Miss will need to have a big season in 2010. So far the Larry Fedora era is a head scratcher, because they have never been any better than they were during the Jeff Bower era, and the whole point of bringing in Fedora was to take it to the next level that they felt Bower could not get them to. Guess what? Fedora isn't taking you there either, Eagle fan. Can Southern Miss finally bust the label as shortcomer, or will they slide right back into the middle of the pack? The talent is there, but will it overcome?


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