By NEMS Daily Journal
HATTIESBURG – Southern Miss fans will get their best look yet at the Golden Eagles’ new defensive scheme this afternoon at the annual Black and Gold Spring game.
Kickoff at Carlisle-Faulkner Field is set for 1 p.m.
Southern Miss went 8-5 last season but gave up 40 or more points in four of those losses and ranked 81st in NCAA scoring defense (29.5 points per game).
After the season, head coach Larry Fedora brought in a new co-defensive coordinator, Dan Disch, to install a 4-2-5 scheme with the intention of better adjusting to spread-style offenses.
“I think they’ve done a pretty good job of picking it up,” Disch recently told the Hattiesburg American. “We’ve thrown a lot at them.”
Of a particular concern is the defensive secondary, which ranked 99th last year and gave up 28 touchdown passes.
“I just see a renewed enthusiasm and excitement from those guys,” Fedora said of the Golden Eagles’ defense. “It’s almost like they get to wipe the slate clean, start over, and get to become what they want to be.”
The team’s leading tackler from a year ago, linebacker Korey Williams, has been sitting out this spring with a sports hernia.
On offense, quarterback Austin Davis returns for his senior campaign. He accounted for 3,103 yards passing and was the team’s third-leading rusher with 452 yards and 11 TDs last season.
Also returning are the team’s leading rushers from a year ago, rising sophomore Kendrick Hardy (139-903-7) and junior Desmond Johnson (115-611-8). They, along with Davis, led the NCAA’s 13th-ranked rushing offense last season.
The Golden Eagles’ roster includes one Northeast Mississippi player, veteran long snapper Creighton Nelms, a senior from Corinth.
Southern Miss opens the 2011 season, Fedora’s fourth at the helm, on Sept. 3 against Louisiana Tech.