BILOXI – Southern Miss’ appearance in the College World Series energized second-year head football coach Larry Fedora.
In other words, the always enthusiastic Fedora has taken his enthusiasm to a new level.
Fall drills are drawing near and the season opener with Alcorn State on Sept. 5 at M.M. Roberts Stadium is less than six weeks away.
Virginia of the Atlantic Coast Conference is coming to M.M. Roberts Stadium this season and the Golden Eagles also travel to Kansas of the Big 12. They also visit Big East power Louisville, a former C-USA compatriot.
”The kids had a great summer,” Fedora told the Sun Herald before heading to the Southern Miss Beach Bash on Thursday. “It gets your juices flowing. With the baseball team going to Omaha, we want to keep the momentum going. I thought we created some momentum ourselves by winning a bowl game.”
Fedora faced a huge challenge last season when the team got off to a 2-6 start. It was a time to try men’s hearts. And those of Southern Miss fans, coaches and players. Fedora admitted that it was a difficult time.
”You have to have strong faith in what you are doing,” Fedora said. “A lot of people wanted change. As a football staff, we kept the kids believing in what we were preaching.
”Then we started making a few plays. Confidence grew.
”But 7-6 is not what we want. But we have won for 14 straight years. We want to keep it going.”
Fedora expects his second recruiting class to add depth and talent.
”We didn’t have a headliner like we had the first year but from top to bottom, I think this is a better recruiting class,” he said. “Expectations are high.”
Speaking of headliners from that class, Fedora expects 6-foot-6 sophomore end DeAndre Brown of Ocean Springs to recover from his leg fracture and play sooner rather than later.
”There was no reinjuring of the leg,” Fedora said. “There was swelling of the soft tissue area around the fracture from the running we were doing. That’s why we put him back in the boot. The doctors have never given me a date when he will be ready to go. We expect him the first of the season, early in the year.”
The quarterback position, a question mark a year ago at this time, is firmly in the hands of sophomore Austin Davis.
”Austin had a great year,” Fedora said. “I’ve gone back and looked at the records. This is the fourth school where I installed this offense in four different conferences. Compared to the other first year quarterbacks, he blew them away, It was beyond what I expected.
”I hope he makes the same level of progress that those other quarterbacks made. His arm strength has improved. We’ve worked on game management. He should be a much better quarterback this fall.”
Fedora also recognizes how big a factor Coast players have been on the squad.
In addition to Brown, senior Damion Fletcher is back at running back. And Fedora expects Andre Watson of Ocean Springs, C.J. Bailey of Moss Point and Jonathan Massey of Gautier to be major contributors.
Southern Miss also signed lineman Ben Schoenberger from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. D’Iberville’s Jacoby Bell, who signed with Southern Miss, is expected to play this season at MGCCC.
”We’re fortunate with the kids we’ve taken off the Coast,” Fedora said. “They have been major contributors.”
Doug Barber/The Sun Herald (MCT)