The Conference USA coaches have spoken and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles earned six spots on the preseason All-CUSA team.
Quarterback Nick Mullens leads the way, also earning the 2016 preseason Offensive Player of the Year award. The Alabama native is coming off of a junior season that saw him pass for a career-high 4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns. He sits at 8,722 yards passing and 63 touchdowns during his three years as a starter. Mullens has also been named to the Maxwell Award Watch list.
Joining Mullens on the All-CUSA list are running back Ito Smith and senior center Cameron Tom.
Smith, a rising junior from Alabama, joined Mullens as a second team All-CUSA honoree last fall. The 5-9 running back ended his sophomore season with 1,128 yards rushing (2nd in CUSA) and ten touchdowns. He also added 49 catches for 515 yards and another three touchdowns for the defending CUSA West Division champions. Smith has also been named to the Maxwell Award Watch list.
Cameron Tom heads into the 2016 season as the only returning first team All-CUSA member from the Golden Eagles roster. Arguably the most talented lineman in the conference and a consensus top five NFL Draft eligible center, Tom was the anchor for a Southern Miss offense that set multiple school records last fall. Tom has also been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Golden Eagles earned spots on all three levels. Defensive lineman Dylan Bradley is yet another in a long line of studs in the trenches. The senior has been a stalwart on defense and earned All-CUSA Honorable Mention honors last fall after accumulating 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, both career highs.
Former JUCO transfer D’Nerius Antoine is the lone "linebacker" to make the preseason list after spending the 2015 season at safety. Despite a team-high 103 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles, the senior was delegated to the All-CUSA Honorable Mention list last fall. He is listed as a linebacker but will be more of a safety/linebacker hybrid in the Golden Eagles defense.
Finishing off the list is rising junior Picasso Nelson Jr. Though it seems that he has been with the program much longer, Nelson has spent two years with the Golden Eagles. During that time, he has racked up 94 tackles, five tackles for loss, and two interceptions. He was not named to the 2015 All-CUSA team, but looks to be a leader in a secondary that lost Kalan Reed to the NFL.
Southern Miss Players on the Preseason All-CUSA Team
Offensive Player of the Year:
Nick Mullens, Sr., QB, Southern Miss
QB Nick Mullens, Sr., Southern Miss
RB Ito Smith, Jr., Southern Miss
OL Cameron Tom, Sr., Southern Miss
DL Dylan Bradley, Sr., Southern Miss
LB D’Nerius Antoine, Sr., Southern Miss
DB Picasso Nelson Jr., Jr., Southern Miss