With the taking over of a new staff, there are certainly going to be question marks that will arise in the transition. Fortunately for Southern Miss, Coach Hop and his staff have made that transition so smooth that many do not remember that there has even been a coaching change.
One big reason for the smooth transition has been the maturity of the players themselves. After a trip to a conference championship, this group of Golden Eagles knows the chance to make it back and bring the title back to Hattiesburg.
In the trenches, Southern Miss has a core group who has really grown up together. The interior of the offensive line has seen the full ups and downs of this program, and their development has been a major reason the Golden Eagles have turned their program around.
"Our strength on this offense is right there up front in the middle of this offensive line," Offensive line coach Jack Wright told GoldenEaglePride.com yesterday after the fall camp morning work-out.
"These guys have been around for a while and have played together for many years. They are good leaders, they are hard workers, and they are hungry to bring a championship to Hattiesburg. I was impressed from day one in the spring with these guys and their maturity. I certainly walked into a great situation with these guys."
It all starts up front, where Cameron Tom has thrived at Center. Now a senior, Tom has become the clear leader of the line.
"The biggest thing I can say about Cameron is that he is a very quick processor," Wright said.
"He can look and figure things out really quickly. What is so amazing about this line is that they trust Cameron and his calls. There is no second guessing him. The way he has worked and his consistent play and leadership has anchored this line. When you have a senior Center and senior QB, you know you are going to be in good shape and that is the situation that we have.
"Cameron gained some strength and even trimmed up a bit. He's quicker and in better shape than he has ever been. He's so confident too. We all expect huge things from him this year."
At guard, Coach sees three who will split time.
"You have Devin Farrior who has been here forever and he's really a solid player," Coach Wright said. "Then Brandon Farmer and Oliver Bates are both back, guys who know the system and are mature as well.
"Devin is so strong, he can really get some push for us. Oliver and Brandon lost some bad weight and look a lot better coming in after some good work with Coach Woodfin. I'm just real pleased with where our guards are too."
The question mark coming in to the spring was the play of the offensive tackles, who had to be replaced after losing two seniors from a year ago. Fortunately, guys have stepped up and have calmed some worries.
"You know what we have four guys who will compete for two positions and these four are really pushing each other," Wright said. "I don't care who plays where, and they can interchange.
"They can all play either side. We are honestly just looking for the best two. We have Jacob Fleming, Wil Freeman, Ty Pollard, and Jerry Harris who are all competing. They each bring unique skills to the table. Wil has picked up things really fast and he's just a hard worker and really strong kid. Ty is young but has taken a redshirt year and is really mature for a young guy. I like to play two deep and move guys around because of our up tempo style, so I think they'll all play."
Looking into the future, he also sees a lot of skill and high hopes down the road.
"We have a group of young players who are really fantastic," he said. "The future is bright.
"These guys have amazing leadership ability and amazing skill. They are still learning and they have a long way to go as is any 18 year old put in this position. But, they are cerebral and tough, and have jumped right in. I couldn't be more impressed with the freshmen."