Southern Miss

5 things to watch for in the Southern Miss spring game

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD
Southern Miss receiver Marquise Ricard lays out for a pass as Dante Blackmon of Appalachian State defends in 2014 in Hattiesburg. Ricard is back from injury after missing all of last season.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss receiver Marquise Ricard lays out for a pass as Dante Blackmon of Appalachian State defends in 2014 in Hattiesburg. Ricard is back from injury after missing all of last season.

With key players returning from injury and a new staff in charge, there will be plenty to watch for in Saturday's Southern Miss spring game.

The USM football team holds its first spring game under new head coach Jay Hopson at noon on Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.

Here are five things to keep an eye on Saturday:

1. Rising junior Ito Smith has had a strong showing this spring and that's bad news for the rest of Confernce USA. Smith is set to put in the biggest season by a USM running back since Damion Fletcher graduated after the 2009 season. He should be fun to watch when he touches the ball Saturday after accounting for 1,643 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns last year.

2. Redshirt senior Wil Freeman is making the transition to offensive tackle after playing on the defensive line his entire career. Freeman suffered a broken leg in the season opener last season and received a medical redshirt. At 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, Freeman has the perfect build for the position if he gains about 20 pounds of weight.

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3. After missing all of last season with an injury, redshirt junior Marquis Ricard has had a strong spring. Ricard has always been one of USM's best athletes at receiver, but he has yet to realize his full potential. He caught 30 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore. He has a chance to be the man that fills the shoes of Mike Thomas as a big-play threat.

4. Redshirt junior Tyre'oune Holmes mostly watched from the sidelines last season and only had one catch for three yards while playing behind Casey Martin, who had an outstanding senior year. Holmes has a chance to prove himself again to a new staff. If he can build on a solid spring, he could play a significant role in the offense in 2016.

5. Nick Mullens is rock solid as the starting quarterback, but it's not entirely clear who will be the backup this season. Northeast Mississippi CC transfer Kwadra Griggs is in good shape to be the No. 2 man, but redshirt junior Parker Adamson has a chance to prove himself with a nice spring game.

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