Southern Miss

5 to Watch: Southern Miss players in need of a strong spring


Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

Southern Miss defensive end Darian Yancey runs down UTSA running back Jarveon Williams on Oct. 17 in Hattiesburg.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss defensive end Darian Yancey runs down UTSA running back Jarveon Williams on Oct. 17 in Hattiesburg.

Jay Hopson will start his first spring practice as the Southern Miss head coach on March 22 with players looking to make a positive first impression on the new man in charge.

While players like senior defensive end Dylan Bradley and senior quarterback Nick Mullens have little left to prove, there are plenty of Golden Eagles who will again have to show what they're capable of.

Here are five USM players who will look to make a strong showing in the spring for the new staff:

1. Redshirt freshman running back Patrick Brooks: Junior Ito Smith enters the spring as the unquestioned No. 1 at running back while redshirt junior George Payne will likely return to his role of power back after sitting out last year with an injury. The shifty Brooks has a shot to step in as a versatile third option in the ground game and a strong spring should put him in position to get his share of touches in the fall.

2. Redshirt sophomore receiver Korey Robertson: Senior D.J. Thompson is well positioned to take over as USM's top receiver after pulling in 55 passes for 779 yards and six touchdowns last season, but he could get a push from Robertson. The Greenwood native seemed to always produce when he got his chances, catching 14 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns last season. It won't be easy replacing Mike Thomas, but Robertson has a bright future ahead.

3. Redshirt junior tight end Julian Allen: Former head coach Todd Monken added a tight end to his offense last season, but the position didn't play much of a role in the passing game after Allen went down with an injury before the start of the season. If he's fully healthy to start the spring, Allen will have a chance to show he can be a reliable target for Mullens.

4. Senior safety Devonta Foster: After starting last season at safety, an injury limited him to a pair of starts and 10 games played. Foster played well and should see his time on the field increase if the move of D'Nerius Antoine to linebacker pans out. The combination of Foster and junior Picasso Nelson Jr. should be pretty strong at safety.

5. Redshirt sophomore Darian Yancey: He was forced into starting duty last year when injuries caused some reshuffling on the defensive line. Yancey played well, registering 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception. Even with the strong showing, Yancey will be pushed for playing time by players like senior Ja'Boree Poole, redshirt junior Naim Mustafaa and redshirt junior Xavier Thigpen. Yancey needs a strong showing in the spring to keep his starting spot.