The Southern Miss football team began week two on Monday of its intense fall football camp to prepare for the 2014 season.
The Golden Eagles, who started camp on Aug. 1, have continued to improve as camp moves along. “It is an exciting time and we are excited,”said USM head football coach Todd Monken to fans at 2014 Eagle Fanfare Media Day on Saturday. “You can see the progression .”Since the start of camp, the team has went through different training phases. On the Aug. 5, the team began workouts with pads and the next day, the team started its strenuous two-a-day practices.Throughout training camp, Monken has noticed growth in multiple areas on the team.
In terms of the defensive line, Monken has noticed “continual improvement each day during camp.”“(Redshirt freshman Draper Riley on the inside has really come on,”Monken said after second day of two-a-day practices . “We have Adam Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Will Freeman, Draper and I am still hoping Chris Robinson and Rod Crayton are going to keep pushing. On the outside, Das McCullum is coming back from a little bit of an injury with Michael Smith. In three weeks we will have a pretty good rotation.”
At the linebacker position, Southern Miss returns Alan Howze, who was granted a fifth year to play football. Along with Howze as an important piece to the defense, Terrick Wright returns at the position as well. However, junior transfer Brian Anderson continues to make a name for himself in camp. The 5-foot-10, 248 pound Anderson was moved to the mike linebacker position last week and has thrived in the position thus far, despite the change.
“He (Brian) is smart,” Monken said. “He got here about half way through the summer, maybe a little later than that. He is smart, really likes football and is physical. That is three pretty good attributes. That’s what he is about and he always seems to have a smile on his face. That is going to give you a chance.”
The defensive backs are young, but they are very talented. Kalen Reed is the only true veteran player at the position as a junior. However, with transfer Troy Jeter, Trae Collins and Jomez Applewhite redshirted and talented freshmen in Picasso Nelson and Cornell Armstrong, the group will continue to develop and improve as the season goes along.Emmanuel Johnson and Jacorius Cotton will hold the safety position. As seniors on the team, the two should not have many problems at their position.
On offense, the Golden Eagles feature three talented runnings backs in Jalen Richard, George Payne and Tez Parks.Nick Mullens will start as quarterback this season and he has continued to improve throughout fall camp.When asked if Mullens had the “charisma for the quarterback position”, Monken stated he has it all. “He is mentally tough,”Monken said at the Media Day. “He is intelligent and accurate.”
Not to mention, Mullens will have variety of weapons to deliver passes to as the the Golden Eagles feature a wide-range of depth at the wide receiver position. Markeese Triplett, Tyre’oune Holmes, University of Houston transfer Casey Martin and D.J. Thompson are a few of Mullens weapons.
Thompson, who was redshirted due to a series of injuries last year, has stood out in camp. Since this spring, Thompson has gotten healthier and continues to progress within the offense.“He knows the ropes, Mullens said in an interview to Hattiesburg American sportswriter Jason Munz. “He’ll be a great guy on the outside. He’s got that big, long, athletic body. So I look for him to get up there and make some plays.”
In terms of the offensive line, there have been a few changes but according to Monken, it has grown “better in a lot of ways.”“There were a lot of guys that we had to change to pull in the same direction,”Monken stated. “I feel there is a connection there. Moving Cameron Tom to center was tremendous. Him and Nick Mullens are the same age. They are going to be here together for the next three years.”
“Rashod Hill is better, Jerry Harris, a freshman is better and Norman Price is going to be a great player. I think we are going to be fine there. I know we have the right guys and we are all pulling in the same direction.” After playing its first team scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, the team took Sunday off and returned to the field yesterday with its third two-a-day practice. Initially, the team looked a little sluggish in terms of playing early on in practice Monday, but quickly became adjusted as practice went on.
Today, the team started practice at 8 a.m. and will continue the rest of the week with practices as they prepare to open the season in less than three weeks.
Southern Miss opens the 2014 season in Starkville, Miss., taking on in-state foe Mississippi State on Aug. 30 at Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.