HATTIESBURG — For the last three and a half Southern Miss football seasons, Cameron Tom walked up to the ball and snapped it, usually to Nick Mullens.
Not going to happen this year.
For one thing, Mullens is no longer the quarterback. He finished school and is trying to make the San Francisco 49ers.
For another, Tom is no longer the center. He finished school is trying to make the New Orleans Saints.
While there is no denying that Mullens, another 3 1/2-year starter, will be missed, so, too, will Toms.
But there’s a difference. The two quarterbacks trying to take Mullens' place, Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs, are basically untested.
And while senior lineman Devin Farrior is kind of new to the center role, he has played in 41 games and started, mostly at right guard, in 27 of them.
“I’m really high on Devin,” Southern Miss second-year head coach Jay Hopson said. “I think Devin is a guy that has caught a lot of scouts’ eyes. He’s a next level guy.
“I think he’s a guy that brings an edge and toughness inside at center and he’s the old man, or bell cow, of that group. He’s going to have an outstanding senior year. That’s a great spot for him because that senior is the leader upfront that sets the table. He’ll do a great job there.”
Farrior, now a 6-foot-4, 304-pound redshirt senior from Waynesboro, played in his first Southern Miss game on Sept. 7, 2013, before more than 90,000 fans at Nebraska.
But an injury kept him off the field in all but one other game that season, against Boise State, and he received a medical redshirt.
He started seven games and played in all 12 in 2014, started 12 games and played in all 14 in 2015 and started eight and played in all 13 games in 2016.
Now he’s the veteran of the offensive line.
“There’s always an excitement,” Farrior said about the Golden Eagles’ first game of the 2017 season, at 3 p.m. Saturday against Kentucky at M.M. Roberts Stadium. “We’re definitely excited to be out there. We’re ready for it.”
Even with 27 starts behind him, Farrior said switching positions — even though he worked at center at times last year — is causing some concern.
“Guard was a lot less stressful,” Farrior said. “You had Cam telling you what to do, where to be. This year, playing center will be a little bit more stressful. You have to step up your game. But I like it. I like playing center. Because I know what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Snapping the ball to the quarterback is only one duty of a college center. He makes sure the other linemen know what’s going on.
“Our fronts, our calls, everything,” he said. “I have to look at the safeties to make sure we’re not getting a blitz from unexpected spots. It’s a little bit more stressful there.”
Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has no doubts that Farrior will come through at center this season.
“He did enough last year for me to put him in that center spot,” Dawson said. “He proved to me that he’s a leader, he proved to me that he’s got a high football IQ and those are two things at that position you need desperately. Moving him to center was not a hard decision, to be quite frank. He earned it. He wanted to do it. He embraced it, which is probably a bigger element than me moving him is that he wanted to do it. He’s definitely the leader of that group. The biggest thing is that he proved to me over the course of last season that he was the guy that was going to be picked to that job.”
So, Southern Miss fans will still see No. 78 Devin Farrior on the field this season. It’s just that on Saturdays he’ll move over one spot, and he’ll be snapping the football, making calls for the offensive line and being the leader of it.
Who: Southern Miss vs. Kentucky
When: 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 FM