After earning first-string left guard in the spring at Southern Miss, Brandon Farmer has every right to be upbeat this summer. But that's not the only reason the Harrison Central product has to believe his college career is making a turn for the better.
He's fully healthy after an Achilles injury that kept him out of the 2013 spring practice, likely cutting into his playing time as a redshirt freshman.
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Farmer also has a new offensive line coach, Luke Meadows, that he's warmed up to quickly. For Farmer, it's his third offensive line coach in three years and the fourth in four years at USM.
"In my short time, he's the offensive line coach that's treated us the best," Farmer said. "He knows what he's doing. He's not coming here trying to be a friend. He's teaching us like a coach. We trust his technique and we're learning a lot from coach Meadows."
Meadows moved to USM following two years at Florida Atlantic, where he was elevated to offensive coordinator midway through the 2013 season.
When he landed in Hattiesburg, Meadows understood he was taking over the group that has suffered the most from a lack of stability on the coaching staff -- three different head coaches from 2011-13.
"As a younger coach, I might have stepped in and put the hammer down," Meadows said. "As I've gotten older, I'm a little smarter. I had to take (past instability) into account. This is a group of guys that has been through four coaches in four years. You've got to be able to build trust."
Meadows has done just that, getting to know each player individually. As part of his efforts, he's invited the linemen to his house for meals with his family. Meadows is trying to build cohesiveness among a group of players that haven't been particularly close in recent years.
One of the players he's seen the biggest response from is Farmer, who dropped 20 pounds when Meadows challenged him to lose weight.
On the practice field, Meadows has seen Farmer hasten his development.
"I'm improved," Farmer said. "Coach Meadows has taught me a lot about technique that I didn't know about. Losing weight has helped me move a lot better."
Farmer will need to build on a strong spring to maintain his spot at the top of the depth chart this fall.
Redshirt freshman Devin Farrior, who could also see time at center, is expected to compete for time at left guard. Redshirt junior Michael Brinson, who has battled injuries during his time at USM, will also look to get snaps on the interior of the line.
Meadows likes the response he's gotten from Farmer, who was a member of the Sun Herald's 2011 All-South Mississippi Team.
"He's the type of guy I like," Meadows said. "He's one of those intelligent players where I tell him to do something and he can comprehend it and and do it immediately. He's met all the things we've asked of him in the system."
Meadows, who also worked at South Dakota State, continues to ask Farmer to drop more weight so he can fit a system that stresses agility and pace.
"I think he's bought into the idea that when he's lighter, he plays better," Meadows said. "When he feels better, he plays better. He's responded to everything we've told him, on and off field."