It appears Jerry McCorvey's time has arrived at Southern Miss.
Injuries and tough luck have limited the Vancleave native’s snaps since first arriving on the USM campus in 2012. In 2016, the Vancleave native appears set to fulfill the promise that so many saw in him out of high school.
“This year is just everything to me,” McCorvey said. “I've got a lot to prove. I haven't been on the field much since my redshirt freshman and sophomore years. This year just means everything. I've got to go all out.”
The redshirt senior defensive lineman is now fully healthy. He's also significantly heavier at 6-foot-3, 276 pounds, as he prepares to fill a different role in his final year at USM. McCorvey will factor heavily into the rotation at multiple spots along the defensive line, but his primary spot at the moment is at defensive tackle.
Much like star defensive tackle Dylan Bradley, McCorvey will be expected to fill a variety of positions. When it's a four-man front, McCorvey will likely be at defensive tackle. When it's a three-man front, he could be back in his previous position at defensive end.
“I like it. It's a new experience,” McCorvey said. “I feel like I can help the team out when I play inside. It helps improve depth. I kind of like it on the inside, but I love outside too.”
McCorvey missed the entire 2015 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. In 2013 and 2014, he was mostly relegated to a backup role. He had four tackles and a fumble recovery while playing in 12 games in 2014 and 10 tackles in four games in 2013.
With the arrival of new head coach Jay Hopson and an entirely new defensive staff, McCorvey has benefited from the new perspective from his coaches, including defensive line coach Derek Nicholson.
“I believe the new staff made a fresh start for everybody,” McCorvey said. “(Nicholson) is one of the best coaches I've had since I've been playing football. It's just the intensity (the coaches) bring, how they expect us to play nasty. That will be the difference.”
Nicholson is a former standout Florida State linebacker who worked under Hopson at Florida State.
USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro, who served in the same role at Alcorn State, sees a significant role for McCorvey this season.
“I think he's going to help out a lot,” he said. “He has a big body, moves well. He's a kid that's been looked upon to do some things. He's had a good camp and I expect him to be a big part of the puzzle this year.”
McCorvey has seen plenty of time with the first-string defense during fall camp with Bradley missing time due to an injury. Where he'll fit on the depth chart for the season opener on Sept. 3 at Kentucky is to be determined, but he should receive significant playing time.
“I feel like in my position I'm at now, It's not going to be about the stat sheet,” McCorvey said. “I can be the defensive player of the year for Southern Miss, but I'm not the guy that's going to be in the newspaper. I'll try to execute my job for my team and defense to be successful.”
McCorvey is part of a defensive line that has to replace a pair of defensive tackle starters in Andrew Bolton and Michael Smith, but the line as a whole has a chance to be one of the strong parts of the defense. Bradley, a senior, and redshirt junior Draper Riley appear on pace to start at the two defensive tackles while sophomore LaDarius Harris should also factor heavily into the rotation. Sophomore Darian Yancey, senior Ja'Boree Poole and redshirt junior Xavier Thigpen provide provide plenty of experience at defensive end.
“I think we're very deep,” McCorvey said. “We've even got freshmen being physical in camp right now. “Bradley, me and Poole, we're looking forward to leading the D-line along with (Thigpen) and Draper Riley. We can be the No. 1 defensive line in the country. That's what we're set to be.”
As far as the team as a whole, McCorvey believes all is headed in the right direction under the new staff.
“I feel like a couple of years in the past, everybody wasn't really all in. People were down and not really buying into the program,” McCorvey said. “This year, I feel like everybody is buying into the program. We have a lot of seniors that provide leadership for the team. We'll have juniors and sophomores that will be able to play this year.
“When coach Hopson says he wants 11 brothers, we eat together, hang out together. We're around each other all the time, 24-7. As 11 brothers, we're going to take it to the top.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. Kentucky
When: 6:30 p.m., Sept. 3
Where: Lexington, Kentucky