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Southern Miss Offense Poised To Surprise This Fall

Southern Miss has a mix of experience and talent on offense but unless they learn to run the ball much better, the Golden Eagles will struggle again this fall.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles were not a very good team on offense last fall with the 124th ranked rushing attack and the 117th ranked scoring team in the nation. There is hope for optimism this fall with several players hoping to take that all important step forward from average player to Conference USA standout.

This battle is the most publicized position battle and will only make the Golden Eagles better no matter the outcome. Junior Nick Mullens is the starter with over 4,100 yards passing and 23 touchdowns during his first two years as starter. Tyler Matthews is the former four-star prospect that originally went to TCU but made the move to Southern Miss in 2014. After being forced to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules, the 6-4, 215 pound junior is looking to start. If Mullens wins the job, it means a game tested quarterback that fought off a hard battle in camp and should be that much better for it. If Matthews wins the job, it means the Southern Miss coaching staff thinks the transfer is ready to set Conference USA on fire this fall.

The Golden Eagles are feeling good heading into the season at running back despite the loss of junior George Payne (86/271/6TD) to a knee injury. 2014 leading rusher Ito Smith (136/536/2TD) is back for the upcoming season and is joined in the backfield by Michigan transfer Justice Hayes. The two backs would give Southern Miss a nice 1-2 punch but things have gotten even better in camp as senior Jalen Richard (40/236/1TD) looks ready to finally earn a larger role in the running game. All three running backs could easily get 60 or more carries and make last season's #124 ranked rushing offense much better.

In an offense that liked to pass the ball last season, Casey Martin (55/531/2TD) and Mike Thomas (41/592/5TD) emerged to be a solid combination at wide receiver with a combined 96 catches and seven touchdowns last fall. Martin replaced the injured  Tyre'oune Holmes, a dangerous player that can score on any play if fully healthy and ready for this season. Maurice Ricard (30/417/2TD) and D.J. Thompson (22/231/0TD) are also a big part of the offense and caught 20 or more passes last fall. Southern Miss is also finally attempting to incorporate the tight end into the game plan with JUCO transfers Taylor Marini and Julian Allen part of the team. Neither will light up the stat sheet but should allow Southern Miss to be more flexible on offense this fall.

Even with all of the other weapons emerging in the Golden Eagles offense, the men in the trenches are the reason for so much optimism. Center Cameron Tom (21 starts) is the glue in the middle and has the size, 6-4, 287 pounds, and skill to play at the next level. Left tackle Rashod Hill (23 starts) is very experienced and will have his hands full all season long with a long list of excellent pass rushers on opponent rosters. Left guard Brandon Farmer (12 starts) made all 12 starts last fall after slowly working his way up the depth chart. Right tackle Normam Price (6 starts) and Devin Farrior (7 starts) are the least experienced of the group but at 6-4 and 300+ pounds a piece, they have the size to push defenders around. The starting offensive line averages 6-4, 304 pounds.