The 2010 version of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles combined an explosive offense with a defense that was very giving. This resulted in some wild shootouts (wins over Houston 59 to 41 and losses to UAB 50-49 and East Carolina 44 to 43). Southern Miss showed some flashes of being a very good team. Outside of the South Carolina loss their biggest loss was by only six points. Southern Miss also beat their Conference Champion UCF. Unfortunately, they also ended the season on a 2-game losing streak including giving up a big lead to fall to Charlie Strong's Louisville. Now that the season in the books we caught up with Drew White of Scout.com's Golden Eagle Pride to get his thoughts on the 2010/2011 season.
In our Pre-Season Preview you said that nothing short of a Conference Championship would be a successful season for Southern Miss. Now that the dust has settled and Southern Miss ended up the runner-up in the C-USA East how do you feel about the season....success, failure or somewhere in between?
It is somewhere in between. There is no doubt Southern Miss expected to win the East this season, so falling short in that sense is a failure. However, an eight win season is a success at any level, and the Golden Eagles extended their consecutive winning season streak to 17 in a row including nine straight bowls. Couple that with the fact that Southern Miss lost four of its five games this season by six points or less, and you see how close this season was to a very special one.
You also have to consider that the Golden Eagles overcame a great tragedy in a shooting incident that left starting linebacker Martez Smith paralyzed, starting defensive end Deddrick Jones out for the season, and back-up linebacker Tim Green also unable to play. The Eagles expected better than 8-5, but considering all that went into this season, it is one that they will be able to build on and look ahead to good things next year.
What was your favorite moment of the 2010 season?
There was not a dry eye in “The Rock” before the key conference game against the Houston Cougars. Linebacker Martez Smith wheeled out just a week after his injury to a standing ovation, and players of both teams were inspired and celebrating the moment. The Eagles went on to play one of their best games of the season and got revenge on a tough loss to Houston last season.
The other high point of the season was defeating Central Florida on the road the week after they had earned a top 25 ranking. UCF went on to win Conference USA, but Southern Miss proved that it could beat the best. It was the most complete game of the season for the Eagles.
Which player was the biggest surprise of the season?
Hands down, the biggest surprise was the turn around of the kicking game led by All-American and Lou Groza finalist Danny Hrapmann. After a dismal 2009 season that saw Southern Miss miss 10 extra point attempts, Hrapmann was automatic with his foot in 2010. Hrapmann ended the season 26-31 including 2-3 beyond 50 yards. He also converted on every extra point attempt.
Hrapmann turned the special teams from a liability into a serious weapon, and as a junior he will be back next season.
What players are you most looking forward to watching next year?
The good news for Southern Miss is that they played a lot of young players, including several true freshmen that made major contributions with bright futures ahead. One player that burst onto the scene was redshirt freshman running back Kendrick Hardy. Big and fast, Hardy is a bruiser who has the potential to be a great back at Southern Miss. He rushed for 903 yards without seeing much playing time in the beginning of the season. You can believe he will be the featured back next season.
Southern Miss will be full of playmakers on offense next season. Returning for his senior season is QB Austin Davis, who has a chance to rewrite all the Golden Eagle record books. WR DeAndre Brown has a decision to make about the NFL, but if he returns and is healthy, he always has the potential to be one of the top receivers in the nation. Junior College transfer Kelvin Bolden was a go-to receiver, and he’ll also be a senior next season.
Keep an eye on freshmen wide receivers Dominique Sullivan and Marquese Triplett, both of who showed tremendous promise.
Defensively, two linebackers to watch will be team leader and leading tackler Korey Williams, and sophomore Jamie Collins. Deron Wilson, the fastest player on the team, also showed promise at cornerback as a redshirt freshman.
What areas does your team need to improve on the most this off-season?
Southern Miss had one area continually exploited this season, the pass defense. In three conference losses, the Eagles gave up 44 points to East Carolina, 50 to UAB, and 56 to Tulsa. Conference USA is a pass heavy conference, and Southern Miss will not get to where they are trying to unless they fill the holes against the pass.
They gave up 3,155 yards this season through the air. A majority of the defense returns again, and talent is certainly there. Shore up this aspect of the defense, and Southern Miss will be back at the top of Conference USA.