Expectations are flying high for the Golden Eagles down in Southern Mississippi. After a dramatic finish to end last season in the New Orleans Bowl, a 30-27 victory in OT against Troy, the Golden Eagles hope to continue that success into the upcoming 2009 season. They are returning their core playmakers on offense and despite losing their best defensive player in Gerald McRath, they still have a defense intact who finished 4th in total defense last year in the conference.
Austin Davis, who is only a sophomore, is considered one of the best mid-major quarterbacks in the country. As a redshirt freshman he broke numerous records including records held by Brett Favre. Coming off an MVP performance at the New Orleans Bowl, Davis will be looking to his All-CUSA First Team teammates in Damion Fletcher and DeAndre Brown. Fletcher might not be the most flashy tailback, and doesn’t get a lot of hype, but has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons at Southern Miss and will be carrying a majority of the load for the 3rd best rushing team in CUSA last season.
The only real question mark on offense, will be the return of their big-play wideout, DeAndre Brown who suffered a broken leg late in the first quarter of the New Orleans Bowl. He was a Freshman All-American, and ranked No. 2 among freshmen in receptions per game. If Brown is able to make a clean and healthy comeback, the Golden Eagles can be extremely dangerous on offense.
Last year, the defense was inconsistent at times. They finally got things together during the second half of the season where they created more turnovers and gave up on average 12 points a game. With McRath gone, nose-tackle Anthony Gray will be the player to look out for on defense. He led the team in sacks and usually takes more then one man to block him. Replacing McRath at linebacker is sophomore, Korey Williams. He showed glimpses of dominance as a freshman and now has the opportunity to excel as a starter.
If the Golden Eagles can improve their pass rush, continue to cause turnovers and build upon the success that they had with their success in the secondary last year, the defense will compliment their powerful offense very well.
’09 Prediction: 8-4