Tag Archives: Chip Lindsey

Auburn: It Hurts to Face Reality

Enough has been written and said about Auburn’s offensive woes Saturday night in Clemson. Congratulations Clemson! Auburn, put this one as far out of your mind as possible and look toward getting some clean, crisp execution for the coming game with Mercer.

This is a perfect opportunity to get well, score some points, and make some noise.

Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey moves up into the press box and offensive line coach, Herb Hand, will now work from the sideline.

Fine.

The Tigers need to win their next four games (Mercer, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss) and they need to look good doing it. This can be done. It should be done. Auburn needs to be 5-1 as they make the trek to Baton Rouge with all of their goals still intact.

If Auburn were to accomplish this, and win in Red Stick for the first time since 1999, you really couldn’t ask for a whole lot more. I think that is probably where a goodly number of people expected Auburn to be at that juncture of the season.

Well and good.

But back to the business at hand. As I’ve stated on more than one occasion, Auburn has the talent, depth, and experience to win the SEC. One other attribute that I have mentioned on those occasions, along with the strengths above, is coaching. I thought Gus Malzahn had finally put together a staff, including both coordinators, that he was extremely comfortable with and one that could get the most out of his players. And win big.

That is no longer the case. I don’t know what to think any more. But, since the brutally deflating Texas A&M game of 2014 (won by the Aggies, 41-38), things have gone askew on the Plains. Auburn was ranked in the top four going into that game. It was coming off a huge, exciting win in Oxford against an Ole Miss team that was also ranked in the top four at the time.

And then? Welcome to hell. Since that A&M game, Malzahn’s Tigers have gone 17-16 (great score for a football game, but an achingly mediocre record for a football program of Auburn’s stature.) It’s record in conference play during that stretch is 7-12.

This won’t do.

I am typically a sunshine pumping, positive fan when I assess Auburn’s potential here in print or in conversation with others. The glass is not half full. It is full. Always. I understand how the reality of things work and what outcomes could possibly transpire, but I choose to, more often than not, side with the best case scenario.

That’s the way I operate in life itself. Positive pedal to the metal. No time for naysaying. Negativity be damned.

And then life, or football as a microcosm of life, happens and it takes a harsh turn, and one finds oneself quoting from a song penned by Robert Duvall for his brilliant, Oscar winning performance in Tender Mercies. “Because it hurts so much to face reality.”

The harsh light of reality now beams down harshly on the fortunes of Auburn football.

Auburn was picked, at SEC Media Days, to be the second best team in the Southeastern Conference. A few of those media members selected Auburn to win the SEC. I did in this space in late August. Of course I did. Auburn could yet fight its way to either of those spots, but that absolutely and unequivocally will not be the case if it continues to play as it has in the first two games of the 2017 season.

There is another song from Tender Mercies popularized by David Allan Coe. It is titled, If You’ll Hold the Ladder. Each verse concludes with the line, “And if you’ll just hold the ladder, baby, I’ll climb to the top.”

Gus, get this thing turned around. Our defense should be able to give us a chance to win any game we play. The offense is loaded with that talent, depth, and experience that I spoke of earlier.

Get everyone on the same page. Put them in the best position possible to win each game. Coach ‘em up! Hold the ladder!

For if you don’t, we Auburn fans will all be singing the song we so badly do not want to sing, It Hurts To Face Reality.

Comment on this story in our free forum.

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Auburn – Tiger Bites: Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung here in the Deep South, at least by temperatures and pollen counts, but I would certainly expect another cold snap or two before she gets here full throttle.

But spring is definitely here to stay by one standard that those of us who follow college football depend on. Spring practice.

Down on the Plains of East Alabama the Auburn Tigers have taken to the practice field. Tuesday, February 28th was the Tigers’ first day on the gridiron to begin preparations for the upcoming 2017 season.

Of note on that first day of practice, Sean White is not ready to practice yet due to the injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl, a broken arm.

Head coach Gus Malzahn has turned over the reigns of the offense to new coordinator Chip Lindsey. I am of the opinion, and I am not alone on this, that Gus must follow through completely on that plan for Auburn to achieve its maximum potential. SEC Country’s Justin Ferguson reports on the matter.

That brings us to the player who will be the front and center of attention during spring drills, Jarrett Stidham. There will be enormous pressure on the signal caller to perform at a high level, a really high level, for the Tigers. As I stated on a recent SEC 411 podcast, harkening back to an old Reggie Jackson quote, “He will be the straw that stirs the drink.”

Here is what Kevin Scarbinsky, of AL.com had to say about that matter.

Scarbo is on point with that one. Sridham’s upside is tremendous and he has all-star potential, but… we shall see.

Yes, having a standout quarterback is the key to turning the engine of an offense but he has to have other skill players to which to distribute the ball.

Injuries have thrown a bit of a crimp into the talented young corps of wide receivers, this spring, and these young players will be needed in order for the passing game to hit on all eight. More form AL.com.

Talented players abound at the running back position. Brandon Marcello, of 247sports, gives us a quick preview of this position. What he does not mention, in this snippet, is the two very talented running backs Auburn signed in its 2017 class.

Both Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams are very talented and highly versatile athletes who could be a huge boost to the Tigers future fortunes.

Barrett played both ways for Tampa Catholic High School but will most likely shine, ultimately, as a running back. He’s a burner who can take it to the house in a heartbeat. Barrett averaged over 10 yards per carry and can take it both inside and outside.

Williams hails from Southside-Gadsden in Alabama. He is more of a bruiser and complements Barrett’s ability to pop the home run. Running back coach, Tim Horton, thinks he might be the strongest guy in auburn’s 2017 class.

The trenches and the defense? There’ll be time aplenty to talk about all of this throughout the spring, into the summer, and during the final countdown to fall camp.

Let’s shift gears.

As many Auburn fans know, the new oaks that were planted in February of 2015 have, unfortunately, had to be replaced again due to a fire set to one of them last fall after the LSU game. The official word from Auburn.

Another small bite. A-Day will take place on April 8th and the Tiger faithful will have an opportunity to get a look at the 2017 newcomers, the veterans, and yes, the new oaks.

Like I said in my last installment of Tiger Bites, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Auburn – Tiger Bites: 2017 National Signing Day Hangover

National Signing Day lies behind us. The Super Bowl lies before us. Pitchers and catchers report later this month to signal the beginning of a new major league baseball season.

And yet, it is seemingly a time of unease, or purgatory if you will, in The Deep South. We love our college football down here, and we would be perfectly happy if we could immerse ourselves in it 365 days a year.

Well, we kind of do, don’t we?

Hardly a day rolls by without me asking someone a question about college football or someone asking me a question about our second “religion.”

The Auburn fan base did get excited about Bruce Pearl’s 2016-17 edition of its basketball team prior to SEC play. The Tiger round ballers posted a 10-2 record with big wins over Oklahoma, Texas Tech, UAB, and UConn; but since league play began they have lost three SEC home games and it appears that “wait till next year” will continue to be the mantra in that sport.

But what about our beloved football? I’m glad you asked that. Or did you? Well, whether you did or didn’t, here it is. A few Auburn football tidbits to whet your appetite for the blessed coming of the 2017 season.

Auburn, once again, garnered a top ten class under Gus Malzahn and his minions. Wesley Sinor, of AL.com gives a brief summation of that.

Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant was a huge late get for the Tigers, and Benjamin Wolk, of SEC Country, fills us in on that story.

I think this is a very good class for Auburn. It truly appears to have met its most pressing needs and names like Stidham, Askew, and Bryant aid in giving the group of future Auburn Tigers a heady quality.

2017 is put up or shut up time and I am quite comfortable in coming down on the “put up” side of things. The defense could be even better that the 2016 aggregation and the, about to be, re-tooled offense should light it up.

What about that offense? Chip Lindsey has been hired as the new offensive coordinator on the Plains. Malzahn has, purportedly, completely handed over those reins to him. Auburntigers.com has a word on that development.

And, it’s not too early to peek at what is going on in the way of the next recruiting class. Recruiting never ceases and the 2018 class is already taking shape. We, again, turn to SEC Country for pertinent news on that front.

Now, back to 2017 and a look at the schedule for this pivotal season.

Sept. 2: Georgia Southern

Sept. 9: at Clemson

Sept. 16: Mercer

Sept. 23: at Missouri

Sept. 30: Mississippi State

Oct. 7: Ole Miss

Oct. 14: at LSU

Oct. 21: at Arkansas

Oct. 28: Open

Nov. 4: at Texas A&M

Nov. 11: Georgia

Nov. 18: ULM

Nov. 25: Alabama

This schedule sets up most favorably for the 2017 Tigers. They should win the opener with Georgia Southern. Clemson will, obviously, be a tough game, but those Tigers lost a lot off the 2016 National Championship squad. Most notably, Deshaun Watson. That is a very winnable game.

Mercer, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. M, M, M, M. And three of those games are at home. It certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility that Auburn could be 6-0 when they take to the road for a, potentially, monstrous game with LSU.

At Arky? Another very winnable one.

Next? Auburn is 2-0 in Aggie Land.

And then? Amen Corner, with both Georgia and Alabama at home, punctuated by a whipping of LA-Monroe.

On Monday, March 20th, the Spring Equinox will occur at 6:28 AM. And with it, hope and resurrection.

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Brady White can Energize the Arizona State Fan Base

The Arizona State Sun Devils are in the exact opposite position that they found themselves in at this point last season. In 2015 the Devils had an established quarterback ready to go, but with three weeks to go before the 2016 opener against Northern Arizona University they have yet to name their starting quarterback.

New offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has to make a decision quickly, in my honest opinion. The sooner the offense can get used to a voice in the huddle and leader on the field, the better it’ll be for the Sun Devils.

There are three candidates that Lindsey has to choose from. They are sophomore Manny Wilkins, true freshman Brady White, and sophomore Bryce Perkins. However, with Perkins dealing with an injury, Lindsey’s choice is only between Wilkins and White.

With one of his choices being a true freshman, the coaching staff might be willing to have a go at the two-quarterback system if either player doesn’t separate themselves in fall camp. Going with a two-quarterback system is a recipe for disaster.

If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, because part of football is building consistency within the team. By possibly changing quarterbacks every other series, the consistency is lost for an offense that needs to establish itself as quickly as possible.

True freshman Brady White is the best option for the coaching staff to go with.

White is one of the most highly recruited players to ever don a Sun Devil uniform, and head coach Todd Graham has every reason to be impressed with the albeit young quarterback.

As Graham explained at media day, “He’s confident, mature, and highly intelligent. You don’t have to remind him about what needs to be done with every play.”

For only being 18 years of age, this is high praise coming for Graham. White is also a highly competitive player who’s not going to take a back seat to anybody on the field. When I asked him what could separate him from the other quarterbacks, he was very matter-of-fact.

“I have that next level quarterback mentality. I am confident in my abilities and I want to succeed on this level.” White said.

This is the self-confidence that is needed on this Sun Devil team and it’s something that White learned from watching last year’s starter, Mike Bercovici.

“He (Bercovici) never doubted himself even when things were not going well for him or the team. He had full confidence in what he was doing. I want to be like that.” White said during the ASU media day.

White will commit mistakes like all freshmen quarterbacks tend to do, but if the coaches are committed to letting him learn from those freshman moments, the team and White will benefit in long run.  Arizona State needs a jump start to the program and a way to keep the fan base interested and a young, confident quarterback is exactly the type of player who can energize the fan base.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Pac-12 Links: Tough Quarterback Decisions

Moving into the month of July, the curiosity factor with fans about their particular team gets a bit ramped up. Fans start looking forward to the start of camp.  Fall camp hasn’t started at all, but in the Pac-12 Conference there are a bunch of teams that still have lingering questions about their personnel. Let’s take a look at a few of those teams.

Arizona

Down in Tucson head coach Rich Rodriguez has to figure out how to keep his mobile quarterback, Anu Solomon, injury free. Much of last season for Solomon was spent on the sideline which left Arizona with an inexperienced threat under center.

Does Rodriguez adjust the playbook and not call plays that will put Solomon in harm’s way? It might be something that he’ll want to consider to keep his quarterback healthy. A healthy Anu Solomon gives the Wildcats a better chance at winning. Another 7-6 year is not going to cut it at Arizona. They want a winner yesterday.

During spring practice, Coach Rodriguez said he wanted back-up quarterback Brandon Dawkins to push Anu Solomon. However, Dawkins could push his way to the starting position. Dawkins is a big-armed, quick quarterback and showed some signs of brilliance against Arizona State in the season finale. He also could have a higher ceiling than Anu Solomon.

It’s going to be interesting in Tucson come fall camp. Don’t sleep on Brandon Dawkins.

Arizona State

This is a critical year for the Sun Devils and head coach Todd Graham. They are coming off a disappointing season in which they were picked to finish fairly high in the rankings and by a certain ESPN commentator to go to the playoff. We all know how that turned out. What do we know?

We know that questions about the quarterback situation are still not resolved. Coach Graham has not named a starter and likely will not until they are well into fall camp. Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins still seem the likely front runners to land the starting role, but it’s anybody’s guess. Sun Devil fans are simply hoping for a quick decision once camp gets rolling.

There had been talk of using the two-quarterback system, but that is something that should be steered away from. If you have two quarterbacks playing, you have no quarterback. Roles should be defined with the players, so here’s to hoping that Graham and new OC Chip Lindsey decide on somebody quickly.

Oregon State

What can you say about the program at Oregon State? Not much. Head coach Gary Andersen struggled to a 2-10 record in his first year. When Mike Riley left for Nebraska, he didn’t leave much in the cupboard for Andersen. What does Coach Andersen have to look forward to going into fall camp?

Coach Andersen is going to need at least another year to turn this rebuild around in Corvallis. He still has an extremely young team, but he does have something that he didn’t have in his first year. He has an experienced quarterback. Beaver fans are letting out a collective sigh of relief with that fact.

Darell Garretson is now the guy for the Beavers. He’s not a huge runner, but he is by far the most experienced quarterback on the roster. With that said, Garretson needs to stay healthy for Oregon State to have any chance at improving its win-loss record from 2015.

Garretson will have to get in sync with his two threats on the outside in Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin to create any kind of offensive efficiency for the Beavers. Bolden is the speed guy being only 5’9, 185lbs, but has good speed to give defenses some fits. Villamin is the size on the outside at 6’5”, 230lbs. Garretson will also have a huge tight end as well in Caleb Smith who is 6’6”, 265lbs. He certainly will be Garretson’s security blanket when things break down on offense.

All in all, it’s going to be another thin year in Corvallis, so Beaver fans, like myself, will have to temper their expectations for 2016.

Stanford

In this political season, Stanford would be considered the presumptive nominee to win the Pac-12 Conference in 2016. Why?

Head coach David Shaw and running back Christian McCaffrey are the solid pillars on the Cardinal team for this upcoming season. With all the good feeling that Coach Shaw has built up over the course of his reign over the Stanford program he does have some concerns for 2016.

As with many other Pac-12 schools he has to find a new field general at the quarterback position. With Kevin Hogan taking his talents to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL the need to find another quarterback is glaring. Who is the heir apparent?

Most people have thought it will be Keller Chryst, with Ryan Burns being the back-up. That is basically the same thought now, but Burns showed that he has gained more confidence in his abilities. The spring game was a bit of an eye-opener for coaches in what they saw out of both of these quarterbacks.

Coach Shaw said both players did some very good things and did some not so good things, but one thing was apparent. Ryan Burns is going to push Keller Chryst for the starting position.

I believe that this race will eventually go to Chryst, but it will come down to the final week of practice. All eyes will be on this position battle and it will certainly be interesting to watch who wins out.

Image: google

Pac-12 Links: The Conference of Quarterback Battles

Once again it’s time to see what is happening in the Conference of Champions with its football teams. There are plenty of things happening with these Pac-12 teams with spring ball, quarterback issues, and not having satellite camps, which to me is just ridiculous. Who cares where these kids practice or where these recruits get to be seen. Anyway, let’s get into the Pac-12.

In Tucson, head coach Rich Rodriguez has to answer to questions about his ability to get his team back to winning the South division. He can get a little irritated when questioned about it, but he says it’ll turn around in 2016.

“We got more questions now than in our first year.” Said Rodriguez heading into spring practices.

He absolutely does. He has a returning quarterback in Anu Solomon, but is Solomon going to be healthy enough to endure the season?

At Arizona State, Todd Graham is looking for a new quarterback after Mike Bercovici graduated. He has to decide between three guys, but in reality to me it’s down to two. I believe the job is between Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins. What do I know though? Based on what I have seen at practice, those are the two that I would be looking at to lead the team in 2016. Coach Graham and new OC Chip Lindsey have a big decision because the Sun Devils can not have another season like last year or an up and down year from the quarterback position again.

What’s happening for California right now? Quarterback/safety Luke Rubenzer asked to be permanently placed at safety after seeing he was falling behind in the race to replace Jared Goff at quarterback. It was matter of seeing the writing on the wall for Rubenzer who came to Berkeley from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. According to head coach Sonny Dykes, Rubenzer is whatever he can to help the team in the long run, but it’s also a good move for Rubenzer because projected starting safety Damariay Drew will be undergoing knee surgery in about two weeks.

Colorado wants to break through in 2016 and has more talent than it’s had in recent years, but is it enough to spring ahead of teams like ASU, Arizona, or even Utah? I know they are trying to build something in Colorado, but can it be done in the Pac-12 South? With coach MacIntyre now having a full recruiting cycle in his fourth year, fans want some results and that includes just not being competitive. Everything in football starts up front and the inexperience on the O-line is something to be addressed by the staff. Time to work that out in spring ball.

Oregon is just happy to have all their quarterbacks on campus at this point. In the long run that will only benefit the high flying Duck offense. People may think there will be questions at the quarterback position, but they are not bringing in Dakota Prukop, a graduate transfer, to sit on the bench. What it calls into question for me is their ability to develop young quarterbacks. At some point they will have to develop some young quarterback, so there is a bit more stability over a longer period of time for the Duck offense.

Meanwhile down on The Farm at Stanford, things are getting a little testy with head coach David Shaw or I should say that people are getting a little testy with Shaw’s comments about the recent ban on satellite camps and his veiled reference to SEC academics or lack of academics. To me, coach Shaw is spot on with what he is saying. He’s not hiding that the facts back him up. Stanford graduates 90 percent of its football players, while the SEC doesn’t even come close to that. Vanderbilt graduates 70 percent of its players and that leads the SEC. While these SEC fans get all bent out of shape about this, Shaw just sits behind the data. Don’t back down coach Shaw, you are right.

At USC, there is an intense quarterback situation brewing and it may not be over for the Trojans. The competition has boiled down to two guys. Max Browne, who was thought by many to slide into the spot left by Cody Kessler, has been pushed by redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. As a result of this competition, head coach Clay Helton has yet to name a starter which leads many to believe that this quarterback job may be open through fall camp. This is an important decision for Helton because this may set the table for the next few years for the program and the sooner a starter is named, the sooner the offense can get in rhythm for the Alabama game at the beginning of next season.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Google

Pac-12 Early Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

It is safe to say that Arizona State wants to forget about the 2015 football season. High expectations that went nowhere left many alumni, fans, coaches, and probably even players wondering what the heck happened.

Simply put, the Sun Devils underperformed on all levels. Between the coaches and players, there is plenty of blame to go around for last season, but have the Sun Devils learned anything from the 2015 season that they can apply to the 2016 season? The proof will be in pudding for Head Coach Todd Graham who can’t afford another season like this past one.

However, let’s not dwell on the past. Time to focus on the future for Arizona State.

Schedule

With the Sun Devils being in arguably one of the toughest divisions in all of college football it’s going to be another challenging year for them to gain any traction in terms of a winning season. With the schedule they have there are some high points where they can get some wins and other areas where it’s going to be difficult to come out on top. Let’s start with the areas that could be positives for Arizona State.

The Sun Devils have three out of their first four games at Sun Devil Stadium. They begin with Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, and California at home. In between the Texas Tech and California games, there is an away game against the University of Texas at San Antonio that the Devils should be able to win. Obviously the best case scenario is coming out of this stretch 4-0, but as the Devils have proven before, that is not going to be the case for them. If they come out of this opening four-game stretch 2-2, I would almost considerate that mark a gift.

The part of the schedule that gets difficult for the Sun Devils is just about the rest of the season. After the California game, they take on in order, at USC, UCLA, at Colorado, Washington State, at Oregon, bye week, Utah, at Washington and at Arizona. With the talent that they are losing, I am hard pressed to find many wins in there. Four of those teams have returning quarterbacks while Arizona State does not and having that experience under center is so crucial to a winning season in college football.

Additions/Losses

If you haven’t paid attention to what has gone on with Arizona State’s coaching changes you should have been. It’s been a crazy offseason for the coaches of Sun Devil Nation. First of all, Mike Norvell, the offensive coordinator left to become the head coach at Memphis. Norvell took Chris Ball to be his defensive coordinator and took Chip Long to be his offensive coordinator. Once those dominoes fell for the Sun Devils, Graham had to act quick on their replacements.

Coach Graham hired Southern Mississippi Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey as his new offensive coordinator. Coach Graham did say that the common terminology between what ASU has run and what Coach Lindsey will run is similar and that was a big determining factor in making the Lindsey hire. Josh Martin moved from running backs coach to tight ends coach as well.

Another couple moves that may turn out to be the best hires for them are Joe Seumalo and Jay Norvell. Seumalo comes to ASU from UNLV, but is best known for his time at Oregon State as their defensive line coach. Seumalo had one of the most dominant units at Oregon State for a number of years. Jay Norvell on the other hand, comes to ASU from the Texas Longhorns. Norvell will be the Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach and will bring his immense experience to that part of the offense. Will these changes help or hinder the Sun Devils? We shall see as the team progresses through spring and summer practices.

As far as player personnel changes go, the Devils will be losing some good talent. They will have to replace some of the offensive line, Mike Bercovici at quarterback, and DJ Foster who played running back and receiver. The loss of Foster will be felt in a huge way because you could put DJ Foster in different places on the field and it would alter what the defense was doing. Who will fill that role now? That’s a good question going into spring practice and one that the coaching staff would like to figure out quickly.

Final Analysis

The Pac-12 Conference is a tough conference to have success in and there has to be continuity and stability in your program. I’m not sure that is the case at Arizona State. The 2016 season is going to be a season of transition for them. From the new coaches and schemes to the new players on the offensive side of the ball it could be a long year for the Sun Devil faithful. Coach Graham can’t have another year like 2015 or the fans will turn on him. The seat is warm for Todd Graham and it won’t take much for that seat to be at a broil. This could end up being the most important coaching job he does in 2016. Forks Up!

No Breaks for Southern Miss Football

No Breaks for Southern Miss Football

After coming off of a nine win season with appearances in the C-USA Championship Game and a Bowl game in Dallas, former Head Coach Todd Monken decided to coach again on the sidelines of the NFL. Monken will be calling plays as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Bucs under New Head Coach Dirk Koetter. Monken in his resignation was very emotional in the press conference.

After much reflection, we decided that this was a position I couldn’t pass up,” Monken said.
“I have to thank Dr. Aubrey Lucas, Jeff Hammond, Bill McGillis and Dr. Rodney Bennett,” said Monken. “They saw our vision, and where our program was headed, and their support never wavered.”
Monken began choking back tears as he spoke of his confidence in the department in finding a replacement, and thanked the university once again.”

“Thank you for the chance to be a Golden Eagle.”

Athletic Director Bill McGillis was very disappointed in the announcement but is confident that a successor will be found to continue the direction that the program is heading. It is unclear just how much USM offered Monken to stay on as Head Coach.

Eagles will return a handful of starters both on offensive and defensive. One being Senior QB Nick Mullens who passed for over 4400 yards and 38 TD’s in 14 games in 2015. Mullens was only picked off 12 times and had a 63.5 completion ratio.

Junior RB Ito Smith also returns after rushing for 1128 yards and 10 TDs in 2015. Smith averaged 6.6 yards a carry in 2015.

Defensively at Strong Safety is Senior D’Nerius Antoine who accounted for over 100 tackles both assisted and unassited.

It’s hard to believe that a head coach would leave his team when there is so much talent returning. Eagle Fans for the most part were very excited that Monken was getting the opportunity to coach in the NFL.
But the timing couldn’t be worse for USM. There is a chance that USM will not have a head coach on signing day.
You cannot blame a coach for leaving for a lot more money however, USM needs to protect its interests with the next hire. The contract should have a protection clause that says if the coach leaves during the 2 month period prior to signing day he has to pay the university a buy-out.

A coach leaving is one thing, but at a critical time like national signing day, a school has a right to protect itself. Monken did a great job at USM, but USM also gave him his very first head coaching job so it goes both ways…Really tough spot to be in.

Also departed is former OC Chip Lindsey who took the same position at Arizona State. Director of Operations John Carr took a coaching position with Steve Buckley at Jones Junior College as Wide Receivers Coach. Buckley is also a former USM Coach but not under Monken.

Current Defensive Coordinator David Duggan appears to be the leading candidate for Southern Miss head coaching spot and would make some sense. Duggan did work on former USM Coach Larry Fedora’s staff and now Monkens. Duggan is familiar with Mississippi and has had a big hand in recruiting. The defense was better in 2015.

But USM has not had the best of luck promoting defensive coordinators to head coach. Former Eagles head coach Ellis Johnson destroyed the Eagle Football program prior to Monken being hired. Johnson went 0-12 as USM’s head coach in 2012.

Johnson was fired immediately after the last game but was apparently already hired back at Auburn as DC before completing his coaching debacle at Southern Miss.

The Eagles were 12-2 in 2011 and had 18 consecutive winning seasons before the hiring of Johnson.
Hopefully Southern Miss will make the right hire in a short time and not make a hasty hire. Eagle fans do not want a repeat of 0-12, 1-11, 3-9 in 2012-2014.

If all the players return and USM holds on to their recruits, 2016 could be a fantastic year. On the schedule is SEC teams Kentucky and LSU. If USM upsets one of them and cruises through C-USA, another championship game could be in the Horizon. #ToTheTop

Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org