On Saturday evening, Texas State will host the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles as their Week 3 opponent. Southern Miss will undoubtedly be a step up in compeition from Prairive View A&M, and is a formidable opponent for the 'Cats.
Publisher Drew White of GoldenEaglePride.com, gives us an inside look at what Texas State needs to know before kickoff on Saturday.
1. Coach Monken had to address several issues this off-season for Southern Miss. In the past 3 years, USM had gone 4-32 and a negative culture had settled in. The biggest hire Coach Monken has possibly made was bringing in a new strength and conditioning Coach Zac Woodfin, who really helped to change the entire culture. He brought positive energy and a winning attitude which has carried over into the season. Woodfin was the strength and conditioning coordinator of the year the season before he came to Southern Miss. Players have bought in and for the first time there is a confidence that hasn't been seen in several years leading into games.
2. To address the lack of depth, Coach Monken brought in 6 D1 transfers who could play right away. On defense, the Golden Eagles added Anthony Swain, LB (Auburn), Naim Mustaafa (Oklahoma State), Quincy Russell, DL (Oklahoma), and Andrew Bolton, DL (Kansas). On offense, running back Justice Hayes was brought in from Michigan and tight end Ricky Parks originally signed with Auburn out of high school. For the first time in three years, Southern Miss has depth and experience which has added to the competition during fall camp and depth during the season.
3. On offense, junior QB Nick Mullens returns. He has started since half way through the season his freshman year, and knows the system well. This season he has thrown for 586 yards and 4 TD's, and had a great game against a stout defense in Mississippi State. The offense has come out of the gate rolling with 4 out of 5 offensive linemen returning, two experienced running backs returning, and several WR's back. 12 players have caught passes for the offense this season as Mullens loves to spread the wealth.
4. The running game is starting to develop again. Southern Miss uses three running backs, all who could start. The stand-out so far this season has been sophomore Ito Smith who started some as a true freshman. Smith has 204 yards on 18 carries, including 1 TD. He's also caught three passes for 60 yards and a TD. Senior Jalen Richard has 92 yards on 24 carries, and senior Justice Hayes has 3 carries for 48 yards. One big reason for the running game has been the development of the offensive line.
5. Southern Miss is concerned about the multiple offense and running QB of Texas State. They will try to use their defensive front to get in the backfield and make plays. The defense is led by defensive lineman Dylan Bradley, who has had two great games and was named defensive player of the game in week 2. The defensive line is the strength of the defense, as Southern Miss has two deep across the line and rotates consistently.