The Southern Miss football team has yet to cross the threshold for bowl eligibility, but there’s no denying that it’s much improved this season.
In today’s edition of “5 to Watch,” we take a look at the five reasons Southern Miss has gone from four wins over the previous three seasons to a 4-3 record this year.
1. More depth: When one player goes down with an injury or just isn’t cutting it, head coach Todd Monken can go to the next guy in line. From 2012-14, USM sustained numerous injuries and rarely had a backup plan. The acquisition of junior college talent and FBS transfers has been a difference maker.
2. Ground game: USM averaged 2.6 yards a carry in Monken’s first season in 2013 and 3.1 in 2014. This season, the Golden Eagles are doing much better at 4.9 yards a carry. This has taken a lot of pressure off quarterback Nick Mullens. The last two years, it was all on the passing game to pick up the yardage.
3. Clear progression: Players in their second and third years of working under Monken have shown obvious progress. There were several examples over the last three years of players who had taken a step back from the prior year. The Golden Eagles have put in the offseason work and the hiring of strength coach Zac Woodfin from UAB has paid off.
4. Better blitz: After sacking the quarterback 14 times last year, Southern Miss already has 19 through seven games. USM is on pace to double the sack total from the previous two seasons (27).
5. Improved hands: The Southern Miss offense suffered from a bad case of the drops the last three years. The entire receiving corps has done a much better job of holding onto the ball this season. Mullens has full confidence in his receiver.