EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 16th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
When the realignment bell tolled on July 1, the Golden Eagles found themselves one of the last charter members of Conference USA still in the league (and Tulane is leaving in 2014). Seven months earlier, the once-proud football program found itself cleaning up from a shocking 0-12 season.
The Ellis Johnson era ended after one year, as he was effectively hooted out of Hattiesburg. Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken accepted the job of putting the pieces back together. (Take credit if you identify him as Dana Holgorsen's replacement at OSU.)
The Eagles' spring prospectus will tell you all you need to know about the coaching staff and nothing about the players, save for a roster, and absolutely nothing about the 2012 season. It does tell you the Eagles return four starters on offense, nine on defense, if that matters.
Four of the top five rushers return, led by Desmond Johnson. Cole Weeks, who threw 19 passes last year, and redshirt freshman Kyle Sloter split reps in the spring game, so the three QBs who played against Marshall last year are out of the picture. Three of the top four receivers - Justin Sims (20 catches, 294 yards), Franscisco Llanos (20-226) and Dominique Sullivan (19-331, three TDs) are back and might get more on-target passes.
Those five Eagle QBs completed 48.2 percent of their passes, averaging less than 13 completions a game. The line allowed 30 sacks and produced just 3.9 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Eagles gave up 629 total yards to Marshall, the school's worst defensive showing since the Brett Favre era. Of the few notable defenders, tackle Khryi Thornton (91/2 tackles for loss) is back, along with cornerback Deron Wilson (third-leading tackler with 63).
Corey Acosta, who went 11 of 17 on field goals and hit a 51-yarder against MU, is back, but Southern Miss needs a new punter. Justin Sims (22.6 average) had 19 of the team's 53 kickoff returns.