Dynamic Duo

The Golden Eagles are expecting big things from their defensive line this season, especially up the middle with the dynamic duo of Rakeem Nunez Roches and Khyri Thornton. The pair talked with GoldenEaglePride.com about the upcoming season and what they hope to bring to the defense this season.

A strong defensive tackle will typically draw double teams and will always get the attention of the offensive line when facing each other in the trenches.

Teams will simply not have that luxury when lining up against the Eagles this season, because of the dynamic duo Southern Miss can put out there in senior Khyri Thornton and junior Rakeem Nunez Roches.

These two are already giving offensive coordinators nightmares as they try to prepare to contain the big men. Even in the Southern Miss practices, the offensive line has a very hard time keeping these two contained.

Nunez Roches and Thornton have taken different paths to get to where they are now, and both are clear the experiences they have had have helped lead them to the high expectations this season.

"As an individual I'm in better shape than I have ever been," Thornton told GoldenEaglePride.com.

"Last year I'll be honest, I didn't feel like I took things seriously. It was the player's fault, and I'm taking that to heart this year.

"This year, practice has an entirely different feel and I feel so much more comfortable this year. I'm actually lighter than I was in the spring (now at 291) but I feel so much quicker and even stronger."

Nunez Roches said he's seen similar progression this summer.

"At the beginning it was a lot different than the strength coach we had last year," he said. "I saw my body changing and I just got a lot stronger and faster. I've learned a lot of lessons from the year's past."

There is no shortage of confidence, despite the tough season last year, in either of these guys. They know how hard they've worked, and how hungry they are to win again.

"I can sustain plays now," Thornton said.

"Coach Smith has pushed us to the brink; he challenged us in every way. As a team, we have the confidence we need. The offense is sharp and is very sound, and we are having some great competitions.

"This is the best defense I've ever been a part of, that is for sure. We want to change things so we want people to be afraid to come to the rock and we want to hit people in the mouth this year. This defense has so much to prove."

"The first few days of camp really test you in every way," Nunez Roches added.

"It is nothing like conditioning in the summer because when you put that helmet on it's a whole different ball game. Right now things are getting better every day."

Playing side by side, these two are always pushing each other to be great and to make the plays necessary. They have a lot of chemistry too off the field.

"That's my brother right there," said Thornton of Nunez Roches.

"We room together so we are always around each other. Sometimes he can be a pain in the butt but we look after each other and we really push each other to great things."

Nunez-Roches takes his turn with a catchy nickname for his teammate Thornton.

"The plow" is coming in through," Nunez says of Thornton. "He's just blowing up the middle and frees us all up to just go and make plays."

The two also share in common experience under current defensive coodinator David Duggan.

"When Coach Duggan was here we won the championship," Thornton said. "He is so focused on the little things, and he's always focusing on not missing assignments and paying attention to the details.

"He brought back the nasty bunch. He's a player's coach, we all love him and we have a strong desire to play for him."

"I really feel that the coaching staff and players really love each other and that helps us a lot," Nunez Roches added.

"They motivate us and we really feel like we have so much to prove this year."

When it all boils down, however, the dynamic duo knows what is most important this fall.

"I want to make all-conference and that is my goal, but more than that I want to win," said Nunez Roches.

"None of it matters if we don't go out there and win ball games. Khyri and I know that, and we are going to make sure it happens this year in every game we play."

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