Know Your Foe: Southern Mississippi

The Kansas Jayhawks passed their first big test of the season last weekend by defeating the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech – but class is far from over. This week, Head Coach Turner Gill takes his team to Hattiesburg, Miss. for a Friday night match-up with Southern Miss. Phog.net caught up with Patrick Magee, USM beat writer for the Hattiesburg American, to get a breakdown of the Golden Eagles.

Phog.net: Southern Miss opened the season with a tough road test at South Carolina, but bounced back from that loss with a win last weekend over Prairie View A&M. What's your take on how the season is shaping up here in the early going?

Patrick Magee: There's still a lot to be determined with this team, two games in. At South Carolina things didn't go as expected, but the way things are looking South Carolina might be a little better football team than people expected.

That's why this Kansas game is so important. it's one of those games where you can see where this team is headed and how good they are. Kansas and the win over Georgia Tech has made this game kind of a measuring stick for where Southern Miss stands.

There's a little bit of anxiety surrounding the program. They want that defense to be greatly improved. They haven't proved it just yet. Offensively they've been kind of banged up early. They're hoping to get Quentin Pierce, Tracy Lampley and Johdrick Morris back for this game.

As far as the season has gone for Southern Miss so far, there's just so much left to be determined. This Kansas game is so important. If I'm not mistaken, I think it's eight games in a row they've won at home, so this is a game that people have kind of looked at on the calendar as a really important one.

Phog.net: What are the Southern Miss fans expecting from Friday's match-up with the Jayhawks?

PM: Well, people have kind of looked at it before the season started and they saw a lot of turnover at Kansas in terms of personnel and coaching staff. So Southern Miss fans kind of looked at this as kind of the big non-conference win at home. Right now people are a little uncertain at this point, but if you ask the general Southern Miss fan, I think for the most part they think Southern Miss can win this game.

There's a little bit of optimism about this game, but a lot of uncertainty.

Phog.net: Many Kansas fans are familiar with the names of wide receiver DeAndre Brown and quarterback Austin Davis after last year's game in Lawrence. Who are some other key cogs in the Golden Eagles' offense, and how is the unit looking right now?

PM: DeAndre, he's a special talent. He hasn't really realized his full potential as a player yet. He's 6-foot-6, 238 pounds and runs a true 4.5 forty whenever he's full-go. He's a very special talent and capable of breaking a game open at any point. So people are kind of looking at him, it's been really up and down for him early in the season so this Kansas game stands out as another opportunity for him to prove himself.

Austin Davis, he's really a smart quarterback. He's gonna make the right decisions. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the world but he's actually improved his arm strength in the off-season by the work he's able to do while he recovers from his foot injury.

Outside of him, they've got some injuries to some really important players. Tracy Lampley, who is one of the better punt returners and kick returners in the nation, he's kind of a running back/receiver type. You'll see him line up out wide, and nobody really knows for sure if he'll be out there Friday. Quentin Pierce another reciver that's kind of banged up, Johdrick Morris, he's banged up.

So there's a lot of key pieces right now that nobody is really sure if they're going to be on the field. V.J. Floyd and Desmond Johnson at running back are two guys that are good players. This is their time to shine this season, they're getting all the carries and they haven't gotten those in the past. It's really up to those guys to really carry this team and the running game.

Phog.net: How about the USM defense? What's the philosophy on that side of the ball?

PM: They run a 3-4 defense, but they're in nickel and dime a lot just responding to what they face everyday in Conference USA with the spread offense.

They talk about this Kansas offense they're going to be up against, and they see a lot of the Southern Miss offense. Darrell Wyatt, the co-offensive coordinator at Kansas, he was at Southern Miss the last two seasons. They know what they're going up against and they're very familiar with this brand of offense.

But they haven't really been able to stop offenses similar to the Southern Miss offense for the last 8-9 games. So you can say they know a lot about the Kansas offense, but I don't know how they will respond against that.

There has been a little bit of a problem with the deep secondary at the two safety spots as far as deep passes and stuff like that, just making tackles whenever guys get outside containment. The front seven is the strength. They've got two or three corners who have really stepped up here early in the season, but the deep passes bother them. If a quarterback can break containment or maybe get up the middle whenever people get deep in pass coverage, you have a chance to move the ball against Southern Miss.

Phog.net: Do you have a prediction for how this game plays out?

PM: This one is a tough one to predict, because Kansas has faced two teams that are entirely different than the team they'll be facing Friday. Right now I think it's going o be a very tight game. Roberts Stadium is a very tough place to win.

I pick Southern Miss this week, but I think it's going to be decided by a field goal or something like that.


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