Finally... July is in the past and August has arrived. Football is in the air and Southern Miss will gear up for the opener with Kentucky with the start of fall camp in just a few days.
There is always plenty of intrigue with the start of fall camp, and one big question always awaits an answer: how will the freshmen respond to life at the next level?
This year has certainly been a blur for the class of 2016. Just 6 months ago they were officially signing with Southern Miss and graduating High School. Most enrolled early and jumped right in to college life and workouts with Strength Coach Zac Woodfin. Now, they are preparing to take the practice field for the first time to get their first taste of division one football.
The summer, for the freshmen, has given them a chance to get their feet wet and learn the Southern Miss way. Coach Woodfin has made it a point to teach newcomers about the culture of Golden Eagle football. Education about this culture has become a major part of the way the Eagles approach every day.
"We separated the freshmen into their own group and we started them with a methodical process of how we do things and educating them on how we do things," Coach Woodfin told GoldenEaglePride.com.
"We teach them how we act, how we walk around, how we keep things positive and how hard we work. From the exercise standpoint, some of them aren't ready to do what some of the older guys are doing, so we have to be smart in how we bring them along slowly so they can continue to have progress through their careers."
Coach Woodfin said the guys that have been able to get in for the summer have a huge advantage heading into August.
"It has been enormous," he said.
"The ones who have been been here the entire summer and with us from the beginning of June are prepared. There are a few guys in good enough shape and are going to be able to come in and compete if not to start then compete to be a back up and in the rotation right away. Some of them may surprise me and may compete to start. I don't know for sure, but there are a few guys who came in later that are coming along.
"Those who have been here all summer are really making their mark though already. Fall camp is when they come in and battle for positions and playing time and some of these guys are going to be right in the mix. Some haven't lifted much in their life but some of them have.
"Some are really stiff and we have to help get them opened up and build their stability. It is a process, and we are laying the foundation on those guys right now and getting all the things prepared for the next steps in their development."
Coach Woodfin also believes this is a class with great leadership and is going to be a strong one for Southern Miss down the road.
"It is a good class and there are some natural born leaders in this class," he said.
"Lorenzo Dantzler is one who has stood out. Keon Howard has been a leader. There are some really good offensive linemen, and Wyatt Richtofen has stood out in the way he leads.
"There are some great guys but those are three that have been leaders and done really well so far. Dantzler is one who should be able to compete for a spot right away and he might surprise some people with just his physical tools. Physically for a freshmen, he looks like he's been in the system for several years. He's just a real impressive athlete. He comes from a great high school and they obviously have been doing a good job developing their athletes there. He's a very prepared freshman that is for sure."
The hard work for these guys this summer is sure to pay dividends as the Eagles head to the grind of two-a-days and fall camp. One thing is for sure, Southern Miss fans will have a lot to look forward to, not only this year but also in the future of the program as these strong recruiting classes continue to grow and develop.