The Southern Miss beat writer and I had a Q&A exchange, and here are some of his views on the Golden Eagles:
Q: Obviously, Southern Miss’ coaching change came amid much, much better circumstances than the one before. How has the team and the fan base treated the transition from Todd Monken to Jay Hopson?
A: Monken’s resignation came as a bit of a shock, especially given the timing. I think most people thought once some of the college football openings that made sense for Monken (Illinois, Virginia) were filled with other coaches, there was sort of a sigh of relief. Then, less than two weeks before Signing Day, the NFL comes calling. Nobody blamed Monken for leaving. The timing just wasn’t ideal. Given all that, the fan base and the team really took to Hopson pretty quickly. I’ve been saying it’s the smoothest transition I’ve ever seen.
Q: How welcomed was the Golden Eagles’ off week, and will we see a rested or rusty team come Saturday?
A: The team would be hard-pressed to look any more rusty than it did in the two weeks leading up to the bye. So I’m going to say the off week came at a very good time (post-LSU), and Southern Miss took advantage of some much needed time off to get ready for the stretch drive.
Q: Discuss the state of pass protection in front of Nick Mullens. Marshall has played him twice and has 8 sacks, a defensive TDs and a bunch of hits on him.
Marshall has certainly benefited from having a big, athletic defensive front in recent years. Couple that with the relative youth and inexperience (in 2013 and 2014), and we’ve seen what can happen. Southern Miss’ offensive front has done a better job this season of keeping Nick clean. Seniors Cameron Tom, Oliver Bates and Brandon Farmer, and redshirt junior Devin Farrior have had a lot to do with that. Lot of experience between those guys.
Q: What is the most pleasant surprise on this Southern Miss team?
Probably Allenzae Staggers at wide receiver. He’s a junior college transfer, and was probably the lesser heralded of the two (Isaiah Jones being the other) Southern Miss picked up during the offseason. The monster game against Rice (292 yards receiving and 3 TDs) obviously helped his numbers. But he’s been the most dependable receiver for USM this season. He’s sixth in C-USA in receiving yards per game and has scored five TDs.
Q: Finally, what the heck happened at UT-San Antonio (55-32 loss)?
You name it! First and foremost, Southern Miss was not prepared for what the Roadrunners threw at them. Second, Mullens missed a series at a pretty critical juncture in the game – and he wasn’t the same when he was put back into the game. But, the defense simply didn’t show up in San Antonio. No sugarcoating that one.