Southern Miss

5 to Watch: Southern Miss players who showed improvement

Southern Miss came up short in its 34-16 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, but several players appear to be improved.

Here are the Golden Eagles who showed more potential:

1. QB Nick Mullens: The third-year starter is starting to show his experience for the Golden Eagles. He faced consistent pressure, but stood in the pocket and threw the ball very well. He had just one mistake with an interception early in the third quarter. He finished 30-of-44 for 311 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

2. WR D.J. Thompson: After struggling with consistency for much of his first two seasons, Thompson had his best game yet as a Golden Eagle Saturday. He had five catches for 56 yards.

3. RB Ito Smith: He was USM’s top rusher in 2014 and it appears as if he’s ready to take a major step forward as a sophomore. He ran eight times for 69 yards, including a long of 44. He showed a better burst and grinded out yardage with little space to work with. He had 136 carries for 536 yards and two scores last year.

4. CB Curtis Mikell: He averaged 22.5 yards on his four kickoff returns Saturday and showed nice quickness. He also had the fumble recovery on MSU’s muffed punt. Mikell looks to be an impact player as a sophomore.

5. DB Picasso Nelson Jr.: The sophomore from Oak Grove made the switch from cornerback to safety in the offseason and he played well off the bench Saturday. He tied for the team lead in tackles with five.