Tulane Opponents: Game 4 - USM

Tulane Opponents: Game 4 - USM

But this is a program built on defense, and USM lost 8 starters from last season's defense and that could spell trouble

A regular nemesis of Tulane, USM leads the all time series between the schools 18-7. Nine starters return on offense and the Eagles could have their most productive offense in several seasons. But this is a program built on defense, and USM lost 8 starters from last season's defense and that could spell trouble in the 'burg.

Offense
The hallmark of the USM offense during the Jeff Bower era has been a conservative approach to a football game. That approach has been a deliberate effort to complement the Golden Eagle defense, which has had several dominating seasons in C-USA. The object is to minimize turnovers, which can put a defense into holes and shortfield situations, which often result in points for the other side. USM's offense has been at it's best in seasons where their offense had a strong, experienced o'line, a road-grader type running back and was able to eat clock and move the chains in a low risk style. Southern Mississippi is at it's offensive best when they're throwing the ball 20 times a game or less.

Minimal research into USM's recent season stats shows that in the POOREST two consecutive seasons - 2000 and 2001 - that USM has had since 1998, the Eagles averaged only about 102 yards per game. In those two seasons the Eagles went a combined 13-9 (7-4 and 6-5). The yards per carry average in those two seasons was a paltry 2.7 per rush. Obviously, USM's ability to run the ball and stay out of must-pass situations is a key to their success.

QB
Dustin Almond, 6-2 212 Jr.
Has made 11 career starts over two seasons. Won the starting quarterback job after Mickey D'Angelo was injured, lost it, then earned it back later in the season. Was shaky in early season appearances but had a better second half of the season. Threw for 1,877 yards with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13 to 7. Did not fare so well in the Liberty Bowl, completing 11-of-33 passes for 122 yards. Almond is not much of a running threat. Should be considerably more productive given his playing time over the past two seasons.

Damion Carter, 6-3 187, So.
True freshman relieved Almond in the Nebraska game and made an impressive debut. Made two starts but couldn't hold job. Was 26-41 for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns against 2 interceptions.

J. Young, 6-3 204, RFr.
Highly recruited prospect who could be the ultimate answer to the quarterback instability which has prevailed at USM since the graduation of Lee Roberts.

RB
Anthony Harris, 5-11 222, RJr.
Became the starter midway through the 2003 campaign and produced 671 yards and 7 touchdowns on 158 attempts. Accounted for 324 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2002. Very strong and has a lot of stamina, having been in on 64 plays against Tulane last season. For the seaon his total participation was 408 plays on offense and 105 plays on special teams. Has played both fullback and tailback Has 7 career starts, all in 2003.

Sherron Moore, 6-1 215, Sr.
Ex-JUCO averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 239 net yards on 53 carries in 2003. Started the first five games of the season before Harris moved him out.

Tim Blackwell, 6-0 198, RSr.
Second leading rusher with 332 net yards in 2003. Missed 2002 because of disciplinary suspension.

WR
Experienced group that had a good 2003 and should be more effective in 2004.

Antwon Courington, 6-3 210, Jr.
Had a 60 yard catch against Tulane last season. Has made 9 career starts. 36 catches for 532 yards and 3 touchdowns.

DaRon Lawrence, 6-3, 204, RSr.
Big, extremely fast receiver. Had an outstanding season as a junior with 37 catches for 536 yards, a 14.5 per catch average, 2 touchdowns. Longest play went for 50 yards.

Marvin Young, 6-0 165, Sr.
A former walkon who was named Third Team All-Conference USA last season. Has 92 career receptions, 1,432 yards, a 15.6 career average per catch, 14 career touchdowns, and a long catch of 80 yards. A big playmaker both as a receiver and a punt returner.

Reserves
Adam Hurst, 5-10 178, RFr.
Attended Mandeville, La. Fontainebleu High School.

TE
Otho Graves, 6-4 258, Sr.
Ex-JUCO. Solid blocking tight end.

Alan Whitney, 6-3 264, So.
made one start last season.

Pedi Causey, 6-3 239, Jr.

OL A veteran unit bolstered by a pair of JUCO transfers who were in school for spring. Should be one of the strongest elements of the USM team this season, although they must replace last year's starting center.

Eagles o'line production dropped from 3.6 per carry in '02 to 3.0 per carry in '03. The big stat was that they allowed 32 sacks last year after allowing 38 sacks in 2001 and 48 sacks in 2002. Chronic inability to protect the quarterback is another reason the Golden Eagles want to run the ball.

Starters
C Addaryl Edwards, 6-2 286, RSr.
Played high school football at Amite, La. High School. Has made 3 career starts.

OG George Batiste, 6-5 306, RSo.
Played at Higgins High School in Marrero, La. 11 starts as a redshirt freshman.

OG Travis Cooley, 6-3 280, RSo.
Made 6 starts last season.

OT Jeremy Parquet, 6-7 318, RSr.
Destrehan High School grad who is a two-year regular starter on the offensive line. All told has made 27 career starts. Named First Team All-Conference USA last season.

OT Chris White, 6-3 280 Sr.
Ex-JUCO who switched from offensive guard to left tackle during the 2003 season. Third-Team All-Conference USA. Didn't allow any sacks during the regular season. Has made 13 career starts.

Reserves:
C Robby D'Angelo, 6-2 274, RSo.

OG Ricardo Clark, 6-1 300, Jr.
JUCO transfer in for spring.

OT Neal Mead, 6-4 315, RJr.
Made 6 career starts last season.

OT Joe Leech, 6-4 283, Jr.
JUCO transfer in for spring.

Defense
Pressure from the front, especially from the edges, has been a hallmark of the USM game plan in the Bower era. This year the Eagles lose both of last year's starters at defensive end and look to converted linebackers as replacements. USM specializes in signing athletes, redshirting them while they develop physically and fielding a defensive front larded with big 4th and 5th year players.

The past two seasons the USM defense has been uncharacteristically weak against the run, allowing per carry averages of 3.8 per carry in 2002 and 3.6 per carry in 2003. Per game rushing average was 167 in 2002 and 156 in 2003. This year 8 starters depart.

Starters:
DL
DE Akeem Lockett, 6-2 250, Jr.
Converted linebacker has made 3 career starts.

DE Robert Henderson, 6-3 250, RFr.
Another converted linebacker.

DT Chad Ruffin, 6-0 285, RSr.
New Orleans native attended Edna Karr High School. Mostly plays nose tackle. Played in all 12 games last season, starting six. Has made 9 career starts. Has made 92 career tackles, 10.5 career tackles for losses and 2 career sacks.

DT Eric Scott, 6-0 317, Sr.
22 career starts. Named Third Team All C-USA after last season.

Reserves:
DE T Johnson, 6-3 280, Jr.
JUCO transfer who was in for spring.

DE DeMarcus Barner, 6-0 242, RSr.
Ex-JUCO transfer.

DE Jonathan Palmer, 6-3 260, RSo.
Converted tight end.

DT Greg Casnave, 6-3 286, RSo.
Attended Mandeville, La. Fontainebleu High School.

DT Terrence Ford, 6-1 300, Jr.
6 career starts.

DT Jonathan Landor, 6-4 272, RFr.
Attended Mandeville, La. Fontainebleu High School.

LB
The loss of 5th round NFL draft choice Rod Davis hurts. There seems to still be a pretty fair amount of talent, but there should be some drop off. Strong linebacker Boley is as good as any linebacker in C-USA.

Starters
SLB Michael Boley, 6-3 233 RSr.
Twice named 1st Team All-CUSA. Is a potential All-America selection. Has made 26 career starts; has made 298 career tackles, 23 career sacks, 39 career tackles for losses and 19.5 career sacks.

MLB Kevis Coley, 6-1 223, RJr.
Has played sparingly over the past two seasons.

WLB Antoine Cash, 6-1 222 RSr.
Played free safety earlier in his career. Has made 12 career starts; has 10 career tackles for losses and 4.5 career sacks. Also plays extensively on special teams.

Reserves
Dillon Cleckler, 6-2 233, RSr.
38 tackles last season, 1 career start.

Natron Stewart, 6-3 239, RJr.
Originally recruited as a wide receiver.

DB
Could be a fall off here as the Golden Eagles lose all four starters. The loss of both edge rushers could be bad news for a largely young and inexperienced secondary.

Starters
CB Seth Cumbie, 5-11 179, RSr.
Played extensively in 2003, made 1 start and totalled 20 tacles.

CB John Eubanks 5-11 179, RJr.
Six career starts over the past two seasons. Excellent return man.

Rov Nate Young, 5-11 188, RSr.
Wyoming transfer who made 11 starts there in 2002, booked 100 tackles.

FS Trevis Coley, 6-2 216, RJr.
Played extensively in 2003, made 1 start, recorded 79 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Reserves
Howard Overby, 5-11 191, Jr.
JUCO transfer in for spring.

Special Teams
Usually a strength, the return game and kickers seem outstanding. Given the usual high standard of team speed and athleticism, the cover units should be solid.

P
Luke Johnson, 6-0 250, RJr.
Averaged 42.1 yards per punt with a net average of 35.5. Ex-walkon. Might add kick off duties as well.

K
Darren Caleb, 5-11 170, So.
Connected on 14-of-16 field goal attempts and made 21-of-32 extra point attempts. Might also add kick off duties. Named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2003.

PR
Marvin Young, 6-0 165, Sr.
Outstanding career as a punt returner - 62 career returns for 838 yards, 13.5 average, 1 touchdown and a long return of 87 yards. Dangerous, return man with the potential to break a long play on every return.

KOR
John Eubanks, 5-11 179, RJr. Outstanding threat as a kick off returner. Had a career season last year with 17 returns for 499 yards and a touchdown, a 29.4 average per return and a long return of 94 yards. Was named First Team All-Cusa as a kick returner after the season.

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