Southern Miss football's numbers were better than the last two years. There were also three losses that were by a touchdown at most. There should be some momentum from several returning key players, but the quarterback position needs to be settled before the Golden Eagles can take off.
SOUTHERN MISS FOOTBALL 2023 PREVIEW
THE CONF.: SBC Sun Belt Conference
2022 RECORD: 7-6 overall, 4-4 Sun Belt
CONF. FINISH: 4th in the East Division
HEAD COACH: Will Hall, 3rd year, 10-15
FIVE ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Frank Gore Jr. Jr./RB (1,383 YDS, 9 TD); Jay Stanley, Sr./S (61 total tackles); Hayes Maples, Sr./LB (60 total tackles, 1.5 sack in 2021, hurt in 2022); Jalen Williams, Sr./DT (51 total tackles and 2 sack); Gerquan Scott, Jr./OG (12 game starts in 2022)
THE NEWCOMER: Holman Edwards, redshirt Jr./QB (comes from Houston, didn't play in 2022)
The defensive line welcomes back three starters. They did lose a valuable outside linebacker in Dominic Quewon, as he had ten sacks last season. The Golden Eagles also lost LB Santrell Lathan, LB Daylen Gill, S Tylan Knight, and S Camron Harrell. Though it sounds like a lot, LB Hayes Maples and LB Swayze Bozeman are making returns that should do more than help fill the void.
RB Frank Gore Jr.'s return is a key to the success of Southern Miss football this season. Last season, he set a FBS bowl game and Southern Miss single game record with 329 yards against Rice. Although Gore at QB has been effective for the last two years, HC Hall understands the urgency of finding a consistent starting QB. Billy Wiles and Holman Edwards are up for the position. Southern Miss welcomes back the dynamic RB Kenyon Clay and adds transfer RB Dreke Clark.
The offensive line returned four starters, added two transfers, and gained OL coach Sam Gregg last season. They did secure at least 150 rush yards in a game six times, but also didn't hit 100 five times. The Golden Eagles lost T Tykeem Doss, OL Coker Wright, and T Paul Gainer this season. They have four returning starters, including LG Gerquan Scott. The returning group should be able to improve somewhat with more time together.
THE KEY GAME AND WHY
The key game will be at Appalachian State (Oct. 28). It comes after the game at South Alabama (Oct. 21) and should be an interesting watch. The Golden Eagles haven't played the Mountaineers since 2014 and this is the second away game that follows the off week. With all of this stacked together, it's hard to say who will win. App. State will likely have a stout running game.
THE TOUGHEST GAME AND WHY
The toughest game on the schedule is against Troy (Nov. 25). Troy went 12-2 overall last season and won the Sun Belt Conference championship. This is the last game on the schedule and Troy will likely be on fire well before then.
THE CHANCES OF SOUTHERN MISS MAKING CONF. TITLE GAME
It's unlikely. Southern Miss will likely do better than last season, but probably not well enough to make it to the conference title game.
Southern Miss will go 7-5.
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