This Saturday evening several freshmen, red shirt and true will get to experience their first action as a college football player, in front of 60,000 plus hostile fans as well as a national television audience. The words anxious, nervous, and possibly nauseous come to mind. It is all part of the glorious freshman experience. Adrenalin will surely be pumping and thoughts racing. Some of these young men will play greater roles than others. Here are seven freshmen or newcomers that will or may see their first college snaps Saturday.
#72 Ty Pollard 6-6 315 RsFr. Oak Grove HS.
Ty went from a physically immature junior at Oak Grove to developing into one of Mississippi high schools most dominant tackle prospects. Pollard actually had major interest from the school he will make his first start against. Both Mark Stoops and offensive line coach John Schlarman made an in home visit to Pollard in early December of 2014 where they offered Ty a full ride to the university of Kentucky. Many thought at that point that the Wildcats were the team to beat for Pollards services, But after a visit to Lexington the weekend of December 13th Pollard returned home to Hattiesburg without giving the wildcats his commitment. On the morning of the 14th, much to the wildcat nations chagrin, Pollard announced he was keeping it in the family, and pledged his services to the Golden Eagles. Now he makes his much anticipated college debut against a team and staff that know him well. Saturday will be a huge test for the young man. Kentucky's base defense is the 3-4, which means there will be times when Pollard will have to hold up in protection versus fast, athletic outside backers and ends. This will surely be a tremendous learning experience for the talented young lineman. Having patience will be key with Pollard. It will take this talented youngster time and repetition to develop into what I believe will be an all conference type tackle. The stage will truly be big Saturday, as all eyes will be on Pollard's baptism by fire Saturday.
#29 Ernest Gunn 6-1 190 RsFr. Selma Al.
Gunn was an athlete that John Wozniak and then corners coach Lytrell Pollard found late for the 2015 recruiting class. They fell in love with his length and the fact that he was a track star. Gunn flashed raw talent as true freshman, but was just not physically ready to meet the rigors of college football. After a season with coach Woodfin Ernest has packed on ten pounds of muscle adding much needed physicality to his game. Gunn has been impressive during scrimmages registering a pick six in the first scrimmage. Gunn's length adds a nice dimension to the corner position. Look for the talented youngster to make his debut Saturday as one of the Gunners on the punt coverage team. I know. Gunn at Gunner.
#45 Derrick Dixon 6-3 265 RsJr Lackawanna college Lancaster Pa.
Dixon really needed a full year to become accustom to the speed and physical nature of football at the D1 level. After A productive year in the strength program Derrick has put on the necessary weight and strength needed to compete at this level. He has put in time at both bandit end as well as helping to bolster a thin defensive tackle position. He has had a solid camp and appears poised to add quality depth to the defensive line.
#14 Demetrius Market 5-8 175 Fr.South Panola high.
Market came to the Eagles after a electric career at perennial state championship contender South Panola high school where he amassed 2,134 yds of offense and 24 touch downs playing both offense and defense. Market will put his explosive quickness and closing speed to good use as a backup corner. As of this writing it is still a question whether Demetrius will see the field Saturday. He has had an impressive Spring and continued to develop further during Fall camp. I feel that it is just a matter of time before he sees the field this season.
#48 Isaiah Spencer 6-0 230 RsFr Oak Grove high.
It has been a bit of a transition and learning experience for Spencer as he was primarily a defensive end in high school. Learning all the nuances of the line backer position presented a bit of a learning curve for Isaiah. He struggled during Spring, but has really come on under the tutelage of linebacker-defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro. Pecoraro moved Spencer to outside linebacker, which has really agreed with the red shirt freshman. Spencer could make his Southern Miss debut on special teams Saturday.
#55 Demario Smith 6-2 270 Fr. Canton high.
Jay Hopson has always had a keen eye for talent, and many times found a true diamond in a player that had been a bit overlooked. This appears to be the case with Smith, as he has more than held his own in the trenches against more experienced and physically developed offensive linemen. Much like Ladarius Harris did last season, Harris has been tough and impressive in the early going of Fall camp possibly earning himself playing time as true freshman, on what has become a bit of a depleted defensive tackle unit. The youngster has been impressive and should only get better with time.
#16 Quez Watkins 6-1 175 Fr. Athens Al high.
Last season Watkins was considered one of the most explosive players in the state of Alabama, racking up 847 yds. and 12 tds on just 44 receptions. Watkins transition to D1 college football has looked seamless. His speed and athleticism have been apparent in both practice and scrimmages. He has successfully competed against his older counterparts using his impressive speed and quickness, while showing the uncanny ability to come down in a crowd with the football. Quez is truly poised to make a very meaningful contribution this season as a true freshman.