Marshall opponent preview: Southern Miss
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 13th in a series of prewviews on Marshall and West Virginia football opponents.
Checking them out
The Golden Eagles went into Houston as underdogs in last year's Conference USA championship game and essentially took the Cougars' manhood. Case Keenum's quest to be a Heisman Trophy finalist was emphatically denied.
But while Southern Miss finished in the Top 25, its season could have been much more outstanding if it had beaten Marshall in Huntington. The Eagles could not handle Vinny Curry, who scored a critical safety in the fourth quarter.
Since then, QB Austin Davis has graduated and coach Larry Fedora moved on to North Carolina. South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who ran the Southern Miss defense in the Brett Favre days, takes over. A return to defensive roots is appropriate - as much as Fedora tried to emphasize a high-octane spread offense, this program is rooted in black jerseys and defense.
But really, both sides have some rebuilding to do. Defensively, the Eagles must replace DE Cordarro Law, among others. Jamie Collins (19.5 tackles for loss), the other "bandit" end, can provide the star power, with Khyri Thornton (nine tackles for loss) getting more snaps at nose tackle.
The linebacker corps will have to be overhauled, with Tim Green among the most experience candidates. Jacorius Cotton (98 tackles, tied for 2nd on team) will lead the back end.
Offensively and on special teams, the dangerous Tracy Lampley may do it all. He's been doing a lot as it is - 1,758 all-purpose yards last year, 3,765 in his career. Austin Quattrochi stands to be the best center in the league, but to whom will he snap, and how well can that QB fill Davis' shoes?
Peter Boehme (43.8) is back at punter, but place-kicking is another question mark.
You can't drum ol' Tommy West out of Conference USA, can you? The nine-year Memphis head coach was hired as Johnson's defensive coordinator - after West spent 2011 at Alabama-Birmingham . . . Johnson has been head coach at Gardner-Webb (1983, 5-6) and The Citadel (2001-03, 12-22) . . . The Eagles' streak of winning seasons has grown to 18, only behind Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech . . . Their defense forced turnovers in 48 of 53 games in the four-year Fedora era, two or more in 38 contests. They were 28-10 in multiple-takeaway games . . . The Eagles have blocked seven punts since the start of 2010, including one against Marshall that year.
Date Opponent 2011
Sept. 1 at Iowa State DNP
Sept. 8 Tulane* W, 31-3
Sept. 15 Nicholls State DNP
Sept. 22 Fresno State DNP
Sept. 29 at UAB* W, 37-20
Oct. 6 at Marshall* W, 59-17
Oct. 11 UTEP* (Thur) W, 57-28
Oct. 20 Rice* W, 38-20
Nov. 3 at Arkansas DNP
Nov. 10 at Houston* L, 16-48
Nov. 17 Central Florida* W, 24-17
Nov. 24 at SMU* W, 38-7
*Conference USA games
- By Doug Smock