By Iliana Limon Romero
12:02 AM EDT, May 11, 2013
Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 107: Southern Miss
Coach: Todd Monken (0-0, first season; 0-0 overall)
2012 record: 0-12 (0-8 in Conference USA, sixth in C-USA East)
Look back: A year after going 12-2 and winning the Conference USA championship, the Golden Eagles suffered an utter collapse under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, finishing without a win. It was the first time since 1993 Southern Miss finished with a losing record, and its first season since 2001 without playing in the postseason. There were some near-misses during the season — most notably a four-point loss to Louisville, a double-overtime defeat at UCF and a one-point loss to UTEP — but the Golden Eagles got little going during the season. They struggled offensively, ranking 106th in the country in total offense, and also gave up 37.8 points per game — eighth-worst in the country.
Offensive starters returning: 4
Offensive starters lost: 7
Defensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters lost: 2
Key losses: QB Anthony Alford, DL Jamie Collins, OL Austin Quattrochi, OL Jason Weaver, DB Deron Wilson, RB Desmond Johnson
Top returnees: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, WR Dominique Sullivan, LB Dylan Reda, DL Michael Smith, DL Khyri Thornton, LB Alan Howze
Strengths: The Golden Eagles hope the turnaround of the team starts with a defense that returns nine starters and brings back former defensive coordinator Dave Duggan, who left last season to coach at North Carolina under former Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. The Golden Eagles bring back three top defensive linemen and have four starting-quality linebackers behind them. That should help improve a unit that gave up 207.5 rushing yards per game last season, and struggled especially keeping teams out of the end zone.
Weaknesses: There is little settled on the offensive side of the ball. Southern Miss lost several experienced starters on the offensive line, as well as the one quarterback, Alford, who had shown flashes of effectiveness in his five starts. The freshman transferred to Ole Miss. The Golden Eagles are looking everywhere for a quarterback, including walk-on Cole Weeks and redshirt freshman Kyle Sloter. No returning back had more than 451 yards rushing last season. Monken will want to establish a running game, and whether they find the right mix in the backfield could dictate how well the offense copes this season.
Outlook: For a second consecutive year, Southern Miss will be going through a coaching transition. Fortunately, it has nowhere to go but up. The Golden Eagles face a brutal nonconference schedule that includes three tough road games at Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. Not the best gauntlet to sort out the issues that come with putting in a new system. The new-look C-USA should provide more relief this year, however, and Southern Miss hopes it is far better on defense with the return of Duggan. The Golden Eagles should pick up a few more wins this season, but they're likely a couple years away from returning to postseason football.
Aug. 31 Texas State
Sept. 7 at Nebraska
Sept. 14 at Arkansas
Sept. 28 at Boise State
Oct. 5 FIU
Oct. 19 at East Carolina
Oct. 26 North Texas
Nov. 2 at Marshall
Nov. 9 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 16 FAU
Nov. 23 Middle Tennessee State
Nov. 30 at UAB
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