Southern Miss

Ricard, fellow receivers look to impress in Southern Miss spring game

 Southern Miss receiver Marquise Ricard strikes a pose after catching a Nick Mullens touchdown pass in 2014.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss receiver Marquise Ricard strikes a pose after catching a Nick Mullens touchdown pass in 2014. SUN HERALD

Southern Miss fans get their first glimpse of what the Jay Hopson era will resemble in Saturday's noon spring game at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Snaps may be limited for stars like senior quarterback Nick Mullens and junior running back Ito Smith, but others should get plenty of time to make one last impression on the coaching staff as the spring comes to a close.

Hopson has been encouraged by what he's seen thus far in the spring and one bright spot has been the play of redshirt junior receiver Marquise Ricard. The Baton Rouge native, who missed last season due to an injury, has put on a show in practice after sitting and watching his teammates go 9-5 in 2015.

"He looks really good," redshirt junior backup quarterback Parker Adamson said. "He's definitely had a really good spring. He's going up and getting the ball real well."

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Ricard pulled in 30 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns in 2014 and has 54 receptions for 723 yards and five touchdowns in his career.

After Mullens and the rest of the offense put up record numbers in 2015, Ricard is anxious to get in on the fun this season.

"It was real tough watching teammates go off without me on the bus as I wave goodbye," Ricard said. "It was tough, but I really got to watch a lot more football. My IQ is built up a lot. I kind of benefited from sitting. I learned. I'm kind of grateful because it was a time to learn."

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Ricard has long been considered one of the best athletes on the field, but he was part of a receiving corps that had problems holding onto the ball in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

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Ricard is confident that he's moved past those struggles.

"I'm better at catching the deep ball. I'm more focused on the ball," Ricard said. "I try to not get as distracted as often as I used to. I'm a lot more focused player than I was before. Just from the year sitting out, I learned a lot. I really missed the game. Sitting out does a lot to you."

Ricard will get a look at receiver Saturday along with a handful of junior college transfers, including Allenzae Staggers, Shannon Smith and Isaiah Jones.

Redshirt sophomore Korey Robertson should also get plenty of playing time after showing great promise early in 2015.

USM's top returning receiver, D.J. Thompson, has missed time this spring with an ankle injury, giving Ricard and company a chance to catch more passes.

Along with replacing two tackles on the offensive line, one of the bigger challenges for the USM offense will be replacing the production of Michael Thomas and Casey Martin. The two receivers combined for 151 receptions for 2,316 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.

With Mullens behind center in practice this spring, Ricard believes the offense looks every bit as good as it did in 2015.

"It feels like a powerhouse. We can do anything with Nick on the field," Ricard said. "We're working efficiently as an offense. We look great. It's amazing."

Ricard is just looking forward to playing in front of a crowd "The Rock" for the first time since the 2014 season finale.

"I missed the game, missed the fans," Ricard said. "I missed the eagle walk."

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