High School Sports

5 to Watch: Areas of focus for Southern Miss spring practice

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ASSOCIATED PRSES 
 Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson speaks to fans, reporters and alumni after being introduced as the school's new football coach on campus Monday in Hattiesburg.
ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ASSOCIATED PRSES Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson speaks to fans, reporters and alumni after being introduced as the school's new football coach on campus Monday in Hattiesburg. AP

Jay Hopson's first spring as Southern Miss football head coach should have some interesting story lines.

There's no word yet on when the Golden Eagles will kick off the spring. The delay is understandable considering Hopson landed the job on Jan. 30.

Here are some areas to keep an eye on headed into spring practice:

1. Changes to offense: It's unlikely that offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and his staff will show much at all of the new scheme in the spring, but there will surely be some minor changes on that side of the ball. Dawson didn't have much to work with in his one season at Kentucky with Patrick Towles never fulfilling expectations at quarterback. At USM, senior quarterback Nick Mullens, junior running back Ito Smith and senior receiver D.J. Thompson provide a nice core to the unit.

2. Position change: Senior D'Nerius Antoine is listed as a linebacker on the new roster after having a strong season at safety a year ago. Linebacker is an area of concern for USM and he will likely be inserted into the starting lineup right away.

3. In the middle: With the graduations of Brian Anderson and Anthony Swain, redshirt sophomore Jeremy Sangster appears on pace to take over at middle linebacker. Senior C.J. Perry could be in the mix and redshirt freshman Isaiah Spencer may get a look there as well.

4. No. 2 receiver: Thompson is the top returning receiver for the Golden Eagles, but someone will have to step up as a strong second option. Redshirt sophomore Korey Robertson showed that he's fully capable last season with 14 catches for 200 yards and three scores.

5. Adjusting to new coach: Hopson has proven himself to be a good motivator who relates well to his players, but it's important that he gets all the Golden Eagles to buy in early. With the vast majority of players signing with Todd Monken's staff, there's going to be an adjustment period with the new coaches.

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