Southern Miss Golden Eagles: CFN College Football Preview 2021

·10 min read

College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Southern Miss season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Southern Miss Schedule Analysis
– Southern Miss Golden Eagles Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 3-7 overall, 2-4 in C-USA
Head Coach: Will Hall, 1st year
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 117
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 98
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 68

Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Offense

The offense that should’ve been a whole lot better was fine early, struggled late, and now has eight starters expected to return for new head coach Will Hall. The O that came up with 372 yards and 25 points per game should be more balanced, efficient, and explosive – at least that’s the goal. It all starts with …

The running game has to be stronger because the offensive front has to be better. Four starters should be back around 6-5, 339-pound former JUCO transfer Khalique Washington, a potential all-star talent at left tackle who’ll get a look from the pro types.

If the line is just okay, the backs will do the rest with the 1-2 punch of Frank Gore Jr. and Darius Maberry quick enough and explosive enough to average close to six yards per pop. Gore led the way with 708 yards and two scores.

The quarterback situation should be set around Trey Lowe, a former West Virginia Mountaineer who got his feet wet last year as one of the three quarterbacks who saw plenty of work. Tate Whatley is gone and Jack Abraham left for Mississippi State, but Louisville transfer Tee Webb will get a shot. Mobility is a factor, but having one guy to rely on will be a big deal compared to last year.

The receiving corps is in place to help the cause. The tight ends played a huge role last year – three caught eight passes or more, and they’re all back – but veteran WR Tim Jones is done. Leading receiver Jason Brownlee is a 6-3 deep threat who caught 34 passes for 610 yards and five scores, and Demarcus Jones and Antoine Robinson are midrange veterans to rely on.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Southern Miss Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Defense

4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense just never got it going. It struggled from the start and only came up with a few decent performances, allowing 30 points or more in seven of the ten games. Ten starters are back, though, for a coaching staff looking to get far more aggressive and do far more to get into the backfield.

It would’ve been nice to get pass rushing lineman Jacques Turner back, but after missing 2020 he’s off to Louisville. The transfer portal is helping the other way, though with a few nice prospects coming in around a veteran front four that gets all the top parts back.

Terence Cherry and Dominic Quewon return on the ends, but they only combined for 5.5 sacks. There’s enough for a good rotation to keep everyone fresh, but to keep hammering on this, the pressure has to come. There isn’t a tone of bulk on the interior, but Tahj Sykes is a 308-pound veteran on the nose and more parts are coming in to help.

Most of the disruption came from the linebackers. Hayes Maples led the team with 91 stops and eight tackles for loss, and Santrell Latham came up with a team-high four sacks, but they’re not alone. Linebacker should be the team’s biggest strength – next to running back – with a whole lot of smallish, athletic options to play around with.

Star safety Ky’el Hemby is off to the NFL, but sophomore Malik Shorts is a is a good one – he was second on the team with 81 tackles in just nine games – leading a solid group. Natrone Brooks is a good one, but the corners have to show up. The lack of a pass rush was a problem, but there weren’t enough big plays for a D that came up with just six picks.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Southern Miss Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best Southern Miss Golden Eagles Offensive Player

RB Frank Gore, Fr.
It’s asking a lot to live up to the name of a Hall of Fame-caliber dad of a running back, and the junior version did just fine in his first year. He doesn’t have the same style – the 5-8, 165-pounder is more quick than pounding, but he can handle the workload.

The team leader with 708 yards and two touchdowns, he has the ability to do a whole lot more as a receiver after catching nine passes for 97 yards and a score.

2. WR Jason Brownlee, Jr.
3. OT Khalique Washington, Sr.
4. OT Arvin Fletcher, Sr.
5. QB Trey Lowe, Soph.

Related

Southern Miss Football Schedule 2021, Analysis

Best Southern Miss Golden Eagles Defensive Player

LB Hayes Maples, Soph.
The 6-2, 221-pounder might not be all that big, but he played tough for the struggling defense last year from his spot on the strongside. He was okay in his first two years, but last season he took over with 91 tackles and eight tackles for loss, hitting Tulane with 15 stops and getting to double-digit tackles five times.

2. S Malik Shorts, Soph.
3. DT Tajh Sykes, Jr.
4. LB Santrell Latham, Jr.
5. CB Natrone Brooks, Jr.

Top Incoming Southern Miss Golden Eagles Transfer

DT Montra Edwards, Soph.
It’s possible Louisville transfer Tee Webb pushes hard for the quarterback job this fall, former West Virginia Mountaineer Briason Mays should play a huge role in the center discussion, but the hope is for the 6-3, 295-pound Edwards to be a factor out of the gate on the defensive interior. A good recruit for Missouri. he didn’t see time in Columbia and now should be an instant part of the rotation.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Southern Miss Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Biggest Key: Offense

Find an identity and positive consistency. The overall numbers weren’t bad, and there were times when the attack rocked – it just didn’t do it the same way twice.

The running game went nowhere against South Alabama, and then it ripped through North Texas. The passing attack struggled in the middle of the year, but was good for 200 yards over the first part of the season. There was an almost perfect balance against Liberty, but everything died against WKU, and …

That was the 2020 season. Everything can be forgiven for the craziness with the pandemic, coaching issues, and bad start, but the new coaching staff has to implement its style and make it work right away.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Biggest Key: Defense

Pass rush. Everything else works off of that. The defense was awful on third downs, the secondary didn’t get a whole lot of interceptions, and the team couldn’t seem to control most games all because the front couldn’t get to the quarterback often enough.

The 2019 Golden Eagles came up with 39 sacks after the D dipped a bit the previous two seasons. Last year, though, the 16 sacks and struggles to generate tackles for loss were a huge issue. Ten of the 16 came in three games – and USM lost all three.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Trey Lowe, Soph.
Or Louisville transfer Tee Webb. No matter who it is, the Golden Eagles need someone to settle a quarterback situation that was never quite right. It was Jack Abraham’s offense to run for a few years, but last season Tate Whatley and Lowe ended up seeing a whole lot of action.

Abraham is now off to Mississippi State and Lowe appears ready to step up into the role. The program needs someone to build around for the next few years.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Key Game To The 2021 Season

UAB, Oct. 16
The Golden Eagles just want to get back on track after a rough 3-7 season, but with Rice and UTEP to start the Conference USA campaign, and with Middle Tennessee and North Texas after UAB, there’s a chance at a really, really good start.

The team misses Marshall and WKU from the East – that’s a big plus this year – and getting the Blazers in Hattiesburg is huge. The Golden Eagles won the last meeting 37-2 in 2019 – they didn’t get a chance to play last year – but lost the previous three meeting.

Southern Miss Schedule Analysis

2020 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Fun Stats

– 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 168 – USM 118
– Passing TDs: Opponents 24 – USM 12
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 67% – USM 35%

NEXT: Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Southern Miss Golden Eagles College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Southern Miss should be a Conference USA contender every year.

The program has a good recent history, reasonably high expectations, and enough production to assume a winning season and bowl appearance every time out. But it hasn’t played for the Conference USA title since 2015 and hasn’t won it since 2011.

Oh sure, every once in a while there’s a clunker – the winless 2012 season and brutal three-year run after that conference championship is front and center – but the program bounced back.

The talent and upside were there last year, too, but the season never got going, the early coaching issues killed the campaign, and it was a bit of a lost year going 3-7.

However, on the plus side, a whole lot of parts got in live work, and now this is a team loaded with veterans for new head man Will Hall.

Set The Southern Miss Golden Eagles Regular Season Win Total At … 7.5

Every new head coach gets a free pass for a year, but … nah.

The Golden Eagles will get rolled by Alabama, but there isn’t another game on the schedule they can’t win.

The West is the easier of the two divisions, at South Alabama, Troy and Grambling is a light and breezy non-conference slate – don’t lose the opener to the Jaguars again, USM – outside of the paycheck game in Tuscaloosa, and again, there’s enough in place to be a title contender.

It’s asking a wee bit much to take the Conference USA championship in Hall’s first season, but as long as it’s in the hunt in mid-November, it’ll be a strong rebound year.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
Southern Miss Schedule Analysis