Golden Eagles confident heading into season

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 10, 2009

HATTIESBURG — There are several words that describe the feeling buzzing around the locker room and the practice fields in year two of the Larry Fedora era at Southern Miss.

Swagger. Confidence. Elan.

“We’ve had a really good camp up to this point,” Fedora said at the team’s media day at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Saturday. “Our recall from the summer workouts has been excellent. In our first two days in pads, we’re really flying around, hitting some people and having some fun.”

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There are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Leading rusher Damion Fletcher is back for his senior season. The Biloxi native has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first three seasons, and has a chance to become only the ninth runner in college football history to make it four.

“I think it’s a great honor for me and I think it’s a chance for me to show the hard work I’ve put in,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher has returned to the team after being suspended for firing a gun in the air at an off-campus apartment. Fedora feels like Fletcher learned a valuable lesson from the incident.

“There’s no doubt about it. He definitely learned from it,” Fedora said. “I hope and pray he won’t make that same mistake again. Even more so, I hope everyone on our football team learned from those mistakes.”

Fletcher feels that the whole incident made him realize the importance of football in his life.

“I think sometimes, you take things for granted. You don’t realize how quickly it can be taken from you.”

DeAndre Brown, the freshman sensation who caught 67 passes for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns before breaking his leg in the New Orleans Bowl, said his recovery is right on schedule.

“I’m just ready to get back onto the field and showcase my talent and help our team win games,” Brown said. “I believe a lot of defenses will gameplan for me more, but I think it’s an opportunity for our other wide receivers to get open and showcase their skills.”

Former walk-on quarterback Austin Davis is more seasoned running Fedora’s no-huddle, spread offense and will be protected by a veteran offensive line that returns four starters from last season.

Davis feels that the offense will be a more efficient and more potent unit come fall. Last year’s team rang up a school-record 5,793 yards.

“Hopefully, we’ll score more points, but I think we’ll pick up where we left off from last year from the bowl game. I think we got better as the year went along and I hope we’re more efficient this year.”

Defensively, the Golden Eagles are loaded and brimming with confidence.

The Golden Eagles lost a pair of big-time linebackers in Gerald McRath and Tokumbo Abanikanda, but Korey Williams and Martez Smith feel that this year’s defense, with Conference USA’s deepest secondary and nose tackle Anthony Gray, will more than hold its own.

Southern Miss allowed 24.4 points per game last season.

“We want to fill that void, but we want to make our own name,” Williams said. “I think we’re going to be better. We could be one of the top defenses in the nation. We’ve got the talent to do it.”


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