HUNTINGTON -- The first thing to know about the retooling Southern Mississippi offense is this: The quarterback and coaching staff may be new, but quite a bit of last year's cast remains the same.
And the 2010 cast, to some degree. In fact, a few Golden Eagles span three head coaching eras, sort of.
"I committed under Coach [Jeff] Bower," said center Austin Quattrochi. "So yeah, I've been here awhile."
After the iconic Bower left Southern Miss following the 2007 season, Quattrochi was re-recruited by the incoming staff of Larry Fedora, and is now one of six fifth-year seniors on the offensive depth chart under new coach Ellis Johnson. On a team otherwise dominated by youth, the offensive line is the veteran unit, carrying 106 career starts.
Southern Miss takes on Marshall at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. CBS Sports Network (Channel 512 on Suddenlink cable in the Kanawha Valley) will air the game.
Quattrochi, a Rimington Award watch candidate, will be starting his 21st game in a row, left guard Joe Duhon his 26th straight and left tackle Jason Weaver his 18th in a row. For all the Eagles' troubles in an 0-6 season, that unit has been strong enough to lead the rushing attack to averages of 4.1 yards per carry and 173 yards per game.
(Remember, the Eagles - 0-6, 0-2 - have not enjoyed a stat-fattening game against an FCS school.)
Only East Carolina has held the Eagles to less than 160 yards rushing (91, including minus-40 yards in sacks), and the Eagles slugged through Central Florida's well-regarded defense for 194 yards and four touchdowns.
"The offensive line, against Central Florida, did a phenomenal job," said Chris Rippon, Marshall's defensive coordinator. "They put it on their seniors. They put it on the strength of their team, their running backs are excellent and 'do what we have success with,' and they did."
The backfield, as displayed against UCF, is emblematic of youth meeting age. Fifth-year senior Desmond Johnson, who began his career backing up all-time leading Southern Miss rusher Damion Fletcher, has a 100-yard game and 410 yards for the season. Jalen Richard, one of the Eagles' 10 true freshmen who have played, broke out with 87 yards on 13 carries and two TDs against UCF.
The top four receivers are fourth-year juniors or older, led by "X" receiver Dominique Sullivan (12 receptions, 173 yards, one TD). The No. 2 receiver is Tracy Lampley, a senior who certainly never redshirted - he has terrorized defenses and special teams from the moment he hit Hattiesburg. His 93-yard kickoff return TD in November 2009 was critical to the Eagles' 27-20 win at Marshall.