The Southern Miss offensive line will have some holes to fill this recruiting season, as all C-USA performer at center and four year starter Cam Tom graduates. A model of consistency at guard, Three year starter Brandon Farmer also must be replaced. The left tackle position will lose Will Freeman and Jacob Fleming. After moving from defensive tackle Freeman got better and better as the season went on.
We must not forget the value Oliver Bates brought to the table, as he was able to play both guard positions and help at tackle when needed. That adds up to five offensive linemen on the way out. The USM offensive line went through the 2016 season with 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster. Generally 14-15 is what a staff wants heading into a season. So USM presently looks to be going into the Spring with 9 scholarship offensive linemen.
Going into the Spring I anticipate a few moves along the offensive line. Unless the staff can sign a combo guard/center, I expect the battle for center to be waged between Sr. Tyler Stutznman 6-4 280 and RSFR. Wyatt Ritchthofen 6-4 315.
For the majority of the 2016 season Jerry Harris backed up RSFR. Ty Pollard at right tackle. I expect Harris to get the first shot a filling the void left by Brandon Farmer at left guard. At 6-3 300 pounds the guard position is a natural fit for Harris' skill set. In terms of playing linemen at their natural positions, I expect Drake Dorbeck to go back to right tackle after spending the 2016 season at right guard. The staff played Dorbeck at right guard this season to provide needed depth at the position, and give them the ability to redshirt all the true freshmen guards.
Position breakdown going into Spring at tackle. Right tackle RSSO. Tyler Pollard 6-6 315 12 starts. RSSO Drake Dorback 6-6 320 0 starts. RSFR Cru Birdyshaw 6-7 290 0 starts,0 snaps. So at the tackle position it appears that the Eagles will be going into the Spring with only 3 true tackles, with only one of them having gotten snaps at the position in a college football game.
It is my hope that the staff will be able to add a tackle Wednesday The most likely candidate is Woodlyson Alcius 6-4 305 North Miami Beach High. Obviously not many bodies and experience going into Spring practice. I was hopeful that the staff would be able to add a junior college transfer to the lineup that could go through Spring practice.
At this point I do not anticipate that. Hopefully the staff has a tackle hidden we do not know about. For some reason or another the past few staffs have all had a hard time time keeping enough legit talent at offensive tackle on hand. You generally want to go into a season with at least five legit tackles on hand. Six would be ideal. Possibly the most glaring need in this signing class is the offensive tackle position. This staff must hit on two to three legit talents at tackle for the present and future success of the program. Getting some junior college help in December looks unlikely, making signing day on February 1st a critical date for signing at least one junior college tackle that can arrive in May and compete for a starting spot.
Position Breakdown going into Spring at guard.RSSR. Devin Farrior 6-5 312 three year starter. RSSR Jerry Harris 6-3 300 extensive playing time at guard and tackle. RSFR Arvin Fletcher 6-3 310. RSFR Jacob Johnson 6-4 315. RSJR Hayden Macmahan 6-4 270. In the event, USM signs a combo guard /center Wednesday, RSFR Wyatt Ritchthofen 6-4 315 will get work at guard as well. The numbers and experience are in pretty good shape at the guard position. Throw in the commitment of Florida prepster Travion Clayton 6-3 300 and the staff need not commit anymore resources to bringing in guards.
In regard to the numbers game, the team played with 14 scholarship players in 2016. Going into Spring we currently have ten scholarship players. I anticipate at least one being added to this list Wednesday giving the staff ten. When you add in guard commit Travion Clayton we are at 11. I anticipate commitment Andrew Cole 6-5 290 Somerville TN. to be an offensive tackle when he gets here. Now we are at 12. The staff really needs to sign at least 2-3 more linemen in February to make the numbers comfortable, with both of them preferably being tackles, and at least one of them a talented, experienced junior college talent.