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Southern Miss Football Preview
by Matt Fargo - 08/20/2008
No. 79 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
2007 Record ~ 7-6 SU ~ 6-6 ATS
Starters Returning ~ Offense (6) Defense (4)
It is rare to see Southern Mississippi ranked this low but it works when you have only 10 starters coming back as well as the coach you had for 17 season no longer along for the ride. Jeff Bower stepped down prior to the Golden Eaglesâ€™ bowl game and it caught many by surprise. He led them to 10 bowls in 11 years and last season was the 14th straight winning season in Hattiesburg. The new man in charge is Larry Fedora, who was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma St. that finished 7th in the nation in total offense.
Fedora does not have the same offensive talent that he did with the Cowboys. The receiving corps will be one of the better ones in C-USA as six of the top seven are back. The problem is who will be getting them the ball. Neither redshirt freshman Austin Davis nor sophomore Martevious Young has thrown a pass so breaking into a new system could be a challenge. Or because it is new, it may actually work in their favor. Tailback Damion Fletcher, who has rushed for 2,974 yards over the last two years, is back.
The Golden Eagles finished 48th in the country in total defense last season and while that isnâ€™t horrible, it is below standard for this program. Even worse, it could be taking a bigger step back this season. Linebacker Gerald McRath, the reigning C-USA defensive Player of the Year is back and while he has talent around him, there isnâ€™t a whole lot of experience. Most notable, the entire defensive line needs to be replaced. Another factor is the spread offense being put into place meaning more time on the field for the defense.
The non-conference schedule works for and against the Golden Eagles. They have two Sun Belt Conference teams in the mix but on the flip side, they have to travel to Auburn as well as host Boise St. The C-USA schedule is also a mix of good and bad but it is hardly the worst. They do not have to play Tulsa and they get preseason division favorite East Carolina at home. The new offense will have to be looked at closely before backing this team. If it gets out in a hurry, the Golden Eagles could surprise.