Keeping Score

Duggan pleased with progress of USM defense in spring

I spoke with Southern Miss defensive coordinator Dave Duggan this afternoon, and here are some notes and observations from our conversation:

* There is definitely a good level of comfort between Duggan and the players this spring. He is very familiar with the talent he inherited after spending four years on the defensive staff under former coach Larry Fedora from 2007-11.

"Honestly, it's kind of like the same ole, same ole," Duggan said. "It's like I never left. All the faces are familiar to me."

* While not going into intricate detail about his defensive scheme, he stressed that there will be significant differences between the defense he helped lead as a co-defensive coordinator at USM in 2011 and the 2013 verson. It will be more of a 4-3 scheme, but will be able to handle the various offenses that the Eagles will face in Conference USA.

* Duggan was upbeat about what he's seen out of defensive end Octavius Thomas this spring. Thomas, a redshirt senior, sat out last year because of eligibility issues.

"We're a lot better defense with him in our front four," Duggan said.

* As for the biggest surprise on defense this spring, Duggan pointed to his secondary.

"I think our secondary is playing a little better than I anticipated with our depth," Duggan said. "Those guys have been playing pretty well this spring.

* The biggest depth concern at the moment comes on the defensive line. You have a strong starting lineup with players like Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Khyri Thornton, but there is real concern about who will be backing them up.

* Duggan said that he was encouraged by the depth he has at linebacker with Terrick Wright, Justin Penn and C.J. Perry all having good springs.

* Duggan believes that the defense is on schedule as far as installation goes this spring.

"Guys have worked really hard," he said. "What we really stressed this year was that guys have to put in time off the field to be successful, maximize your potential."

* I'll have more on Duggan and some of the players working under him this spring in Sunday's edition of the Sun Herald.