2022 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles Preview

by Matt Fargo

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

2021-22 Season Record 3-9 (2-6 C-USA West) - 4-8-0 ATS - 4-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 9
Defense - 7

Overview

Back in the day, Southern Mississippi used to be a prominent team in C-USA as from 1996-2011, it had a winning record in all 16 seasons and went to 14 bowl games under head coaches Jeff Bower and Larry Fedora. When Fedora left for North Carolina, Ellis Johnson was hired in 2012 and was let go nearly as quick following a 0-12 season. It took three years for Todd Monken to turn things back around and it started a string of five straight winning seasons under he and Jay Hopson so things were back on track until Hopson left after one game in 2020 which left the program in shambles and last season, they stumbled to a 3-9 record under first year head coach Will Hall. Now it is a brand new start in the Sun Belt Conference and Southern Mississippi brings back 16 starters and has the No. 7 ranked returning production in the country to try and make noise in its first year in the conference.

Offense

The Golden Eagles brought back eight starters on offense last season but could do nothing right as it finished No. 127 in total offense and No. 122 in scoring offense, down 105 ypg and 7 ppg from the previous season. The quarterback situation was a mess as not one of five players could grasp the offense and part of that problem was also with the offensive line as they allowed 8.8 tackles per loss per game which was most in the country that led to turnovers and too many long yardage situations. The starting job is again up for grabs but the line will be stronger with good experience at the very least providing some comfort. The running game will once again feature Frank Gore, Jr. who ran for 801 yards with five touchdowns and he should go well beyond that number. Whoever wins the quarterback job will have a lot of options to throw to as nearly everyone is back.

Defense

The defense did their part last season, to an extent, as it finished No. 42 in total defense and No. 80 in scoring defense although those rankings are a bit skewed. Because the offense had 31 turnovers, the most in the nation, that led to the defense being pinned leading to scores on short fields which upped the points allowed and falsely reduced the length of scoring drives. Nonetheless, the defense is very experienced and loaded with talent at all three levels. Safety and leading tackler Malik Shorts heads the secondary that is a bit of an unknown considering teams did not have to throw very much at them so this could be the make or break unit. One thing is for sure, the 23 sacks from last season, tied for No. 87, needs to increase and that would only help the secondary. The linebacking corps led by Hayes Maples is loaded with everyone back and depth at all three positions.

2022 Season Outlook

This is a very important season for Southern Mississippi football as it leaves C-USA after 26 seasons to join a revamped Sun Belt Conference in what is basically a lateral move that could go either way. There is experience all over the place but talent is still a question as getting a read from last season is difficult. Add to that, the recruiting class ranked No. 123 last season so the future is now as a drop off down the line looks inevitable. The nonconference schedule is tough from the start, hosting a very good Liberty team before going to Miami Fla. but then comes a pair of likely wins. It is a mixed bag of conference games as the home portion is more difficult which is ideal and the only real road test is at Coastal Carolina. The O/U win total is set at 4 and the Golden Eagles should surpass this but by how much is an uneducated guess based on how they adapt to the new surroundings. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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