There's been some shuffling on the defensive side of the ball for the Southern Miss football team this spring.
USM head coach Jay Hopson and his staff made a handful of changes to help some Golden Eagles find their way onto the field easier in 2017. One key example is redshirt junior Walden Davis moving from safety to outside linebacker.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Davis started two games and played in seven last year as a safety after receiving primarily special teams duty as a redshirt freshman.
With Elijah Parker and C.J. Perry lost to graduation, USM needed to add depth at linebacker. If Davis proves a quick study at the new position, that could be a significant boost.
“We're just looking for a spot he can play,” USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said last week. “We saw some athletic ability in him and he's a smart, tough football player. That's why we decided to make the move. He's a guy that went from not playing at all to getting a whole bunch of snaps. He's a straight-A student, so he's very intelligent and he works hard. It's not scary at all (that he lacks experience). If he's tough and smart, I'll make it work.”
With Davis moving closer to the line of scrimmage, a pair of Golden Eagles have moved into the secondary. Redshirt freshman T.J. McGinnis has moved from receiver to safety and sophomore Demetrius Market has shifted from cornerback to safety.
McGinnis seems a good fit at safety at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, while Market will be undersized at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds.
One of the least experienced groups for Southern Miss in 2017 will likely be the offensive line following the graduation of three starters.
Senior right guard Devin Farrior is the only returning starter participating in spring practice with redshirt sophomore right tackle Ty Pollard sitting out as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Redshirt senior Tyler Stutzman began spring as the first-string center, flanked by redshirt freshman Arvin Fletcher at left guard. Redshirt senior Jerry Harris has a chance to bring some playing experience to left tackle. Redshirt sophomore Drake Dorbeck has filled in for Pollard at right tackle on the first team.
It's up to new offensive line coach Erik Losey to make it all work after he was hired away from East Tennessee State.
“He's a high energy guy and a perfectionist,” Farrior said of new position coach. “He gets on us, but we respond well to it. He likes to speed it up and I think that'll be good for our offensive line.”
The first string unit will likely have plenty of changes before the spring game, which is set for 1 p.m. on April 22.
Baseball still climbing
The USM baseball team entered the national rankings last week at No. 25 in the Collegiate Baseball poll and moved up two more spots this week to No. 23 in the same poll.
USM debuted in two other polls this week. The Golden Eagles are No. 25 in the D1Baseball.com poll and No. 27 in the poll conducted by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Entering Tuesday night's game against South Alabama in Hattiesburg, USM stood at No. 33 in the NCAA's official RPI rankings. USM only plays two games against RPI top 50 teams the rest of the way, both against Ole Miss.
For USM (19-5, 5-1) to garner serious consideration for the right to host an NCAA regional, it will likely need to move into the RPI top 16.
USM is in a three-way tie for first place in Conference USA along with Florida Atlantic and Old Dominion.
USM hosts New Orleans at 6 p.m. on Wednesday before traveling to Western Kentucky for a three-game C-USA series starting on Friday.