We are in that odd part of the college football offseason between signing day and spring practice. Not much is going on with many programs, so now is a great time to look towards the fall and who will contriubute. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are no different as they attempt to fill in several holes on both sides of the ball.
Today, we will look at the 2016 recruiting class and what five players are most important to the team this fall. This list includes walk-ons, JUCO, and high school signees that have the chance to make the biggest impact moving forward.
Kwadra Griggs, Quarterback:
A JUCO transfer from Itawamba CC, Griggs averaged over 200 passing yards per game in 2015. Griggs is much more of a dual threat than Mullens and a better fit in the future for what head coach Jay Hopson wants to do. While Griggs is very talented, he will not be seriously competing with Nick Mullens for the starting quarterback position after Mullen's record setting 2015 year. He may not even be the most talented quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class with highly-rated Keon Howard joining the program this summer. Griggs is very important in 2016 because he is an early enrollee and has a solid chance to be the top quarterback backup this fall.
Racheem Boothe, Linebacker:
Very rarely does a coaching staff expect a true freshman to step in and compete for playing time right out of high school. Southern Miss rarely signs linebackers with the potential of Boothe. The only worry about Boothe heading into college is a light frame at 6-0, 210. He most likely will not see any playing time early, but could easily turn into a backup at weakside linebacker with his ability to cover in the passing game. While the Golden Eagles coaching staff would prefer to redshirt him this fall, lack of depth at the linebacker position could force their hands.
Andre Hale II, Running Back:
As Jared Kalmus said in his article about top sleeper recruits in the CUSA West Division, Hale has flown under the radar in the recruiting process. He is explosive with a 7.6 yards per carry average in high school, as well as effective in the passing game. Outside of Ito Smith and a hopefully healthy George Payne, there are several question marks in the Southern Miss backfield. Two of the top three rushers from 2015 were lost to graduation in addition to Payne recovering from a knee injury. The fact that Hale also prides himself in pass blocking could get him on the field sooner, rather than later.
Tarvarius Moore, Defensive Back:
Projecting as a safety, Moore could be a very important part of the defensive backfield this fall. The Golden Eagles must replace replacing Kalan Reed at cornerback and are looking at moving safety D'Nerius Antoine (2015's leading tackler) to linebacker. In a perfect world, Moore would be able to play a bit of cornerback to go with safety, but that is more wishful thinking than anything. If the position change to Antoine sticks, it would not surprise me to see Moore earn significant playing time immediately in the secondary.
Isaiah Jones, Wide Receiver:
Southern Miss made it clear that they wanted wide receivers that could make an immediate impact from the 2016 recruiting class. They have to replace the extremely talented and explosive Mike Thomas. Of the four receivers brought in, three are JUCO transfers led by Jones. He is the most talented of the group and started his career with promise at Florida State. He saw action as a true freshman, but ended up leaving the program due to academic troubles after sitting out the 2014 season. Jones needed some time to get everything in order while continuing to play football. It looks like the former four-star recruit has improved his academics and will be ready to star for the Golden Eagles.