Southern Miss

Southern Miss sees familiar threat in Florida State’s Cam Akers

Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs past Florida defensive back Duke Dawson, left, for a 10-yard touchdown on Nov. 25 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida State won 38-22.
Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs past Florida defensive back Duke Dawson, left, for a 10-yard touchdown on Nov. 25 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida State won 38-22. Associated Press

Cam Akers has made a strong impression in his first season as a member of the Florida State football team, and that comes as no surprise to those watched him play high school football in his home state of Mississippi.

In Wednesday’s Independence Bowl against Southern Miss (8-4), Akers will face a team well aware of his accomplishments as a star at Clinton High School in the Jackson area

Many members of the USM coaching staff and team saw Akers play first-hand in high school. Widely considered the nation’s top high school running back as a senior, Akers was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016.

The freshman leads FSU (6-6) with 181 carries for 930 yards and seven touchdowns.

USM redshirt freshman defensive end Jacques Turner flashed a grin when asked if he was looking forward to facing Akers.

“Of course,” the D’Iberville product answered. “I got to see Cam Akers play in high school. He was a pretty good back and he’s got a bright future. It will be fun to play against him.”

Akers is a great blend over power, speed and vision at 5-foot-11, 213 pounds. If he continues to progress, he will eventually put up numbers that dwarf those of his freshman season.

If the USM defense keeps Akers from hitting the 1,000-yard mark for the season on Wednesday, the Golden Eagles will have a chance to overcome their status as a 16 1/2-point underdog.

“We’ve got to get pressure on him, get a few hits on him and see what happens,” Turner said.

Darius Maberry, a teammate of Akers’ at Clinton, is a freshman running back at USM and sitting out this season in order to receive a redshirt.

Maberry and Akers combined to score 59 touchdowns during the 2016 season at Clinton – 35 for Akers and 24 for Maberry.

Expanding role

Turner has seen his playing time increase on on the USM defense with each game, putting him in contention for a starting spot for the 2018 campaign.

The 6-foot-1, 260-pound defensive end was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team earlier this month after registering 21 tackles and four sacks during the regular season.

Turner made big plays late to close out wins at Marshall and Louisiana Tech and his coaches have taken note.

“Jacques is going to be a great football player,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said. “He came in and kind of cut his teeth as a pass rusher and now he’s just progressed to a really good defensive end. He’s one of those guys that can do anything. He’s a normal down guy. He’s a freshman who has been a really outstanding player. He’s had some big impact plays this season. He’ll only get better and better.”

Turner sees Wednesday’s game against FSU as another chance to prove himself.

“I’ve always been an underdog,” Turner said. “Playing against teams like Florida State or SEC schools, I try to play my best. It’s always something that gives me an extra edge.”

FSU connections

The USM football program features several ties to Florida State.

Senior receiver Isaiah Jones started his career at Florida State before transferring to East Mississippi Community College and then to USM.

He appeared in five games at FSU in 2013 as a freshman, catching two passes for 31 yards.

USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro worked as a student assistant and defensive quality control assistant at Florida State.

USM defensive line coach Derek Nicholson was a standout middle linebacker at Florida State, leading the team in tackles in 2007 and 2008.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee

Independence Bowl

Who: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

When: 12:30 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Shreveport, La.