Base Offense: Spread. Larry Fedora coached under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma St. and has a similar style. He is considered an effective offensive mind. He'll spread the field with more than two wideouts and work you with both the run and the pass.
Returning Starters: 4. The key losses are former star tailback Damion Fletcher and four offensive linemen.
Key 2010 Rankings: 31st in Total Offense; 33rd in Rushing Offense; 43rd in Passing Offense. Notice the balance.
Quarterback: The Golden Eagles return two experienced quarterbacks in Austin Davis and Martevious Young. Davis began last season as starter and Young came in after Davis got hurt midway through the season. Davis goes into the game as the starter, but Southern Miss. coaches have said they may use Young in some situations. Expect Davis to get most of the snaps, though. Both were very effective last year, with Davis being a bit better pocket passer and Young more mobile.
Runningback: USM has little returning talent here after graduating Fletcher, the school's all-time leading rusher, and Tory Harrison; those two got the lion's share of the carries last season. V.J. Floyd, who got only 17 carries last season, comes into this game as the starter. Floyd, a smallish back, has only gotten modest carries over his career, but he is a senior and should know what he's doing. He's looking to cap off his career with a good season.
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Offensive Line: The Golden Eagles fielded an experienced offensive line last year that helped protect its quarterbacks and lead Fletcher to his fourth-straight 1000-yard season. This year, though, they'll be playing with four new starters, two of whom are sophomores. The talent USM fields on the line is closer to SEC-caliber than one might think, but inexperience is always a major cause for concern for offensive lines, which typically show a steep learning curve.
Wide Receivers: USM features a well-regarded cast of receivers. The leader of the group is DeAndre Brown, a former five-star recruit. Brown battled back from a gruesome 2008 injury to have a good season last year. There were some questions about his health during pre-season camp, but it sounds like he'll be ready to go. It should be interesting to see the showdown between him and Stephon Gilmore--Brown is a legit talent and one of the best wideouts we'll see all season, probably the best, actually, outside of A.J. Green.
Analysis: Although runningback is a question mark, USM's talent and experience at QB and WR should be sufficient to scare any opposing defense. Brown, in particular, is a freakish player who is capable of making the kinds of gamechanging plays big upsets are made of. With the quality of our secondry, though, I generally like our chances there.
Where USM has to be worried, I would think, is the battle in the trenches. Going up against a young offensive line, our defensive front should be able to make some big plays and rattle USM's quarterbacks. That could, hopefully, negate any relative potential the Golden Eagles can take advantage of with the passing game.