Southern Miss begins football training camp

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss’ football team got back to work this week, but head coach Will Hall said it’s really just a warm-up.

The Golden Eagles went through two practices in helmets and shorts on Wednesday and Thursday, with each lasting 2 hours and 20 minutes in accordance with NCAA rules. They’ll practice in pads on Friday morning, and Hall seemed eager to see what his team is really made of.

“They’re called football players, I don’t know what else to say. Football is played with pads on,” Hall said. “If you can play without pads a lot of times you can still play with pads but there are some people that just can’t do it and there are some people that are better with pads on. You’ve got to play football with pads on.”

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The second of two helmet and shorts only practices by the NCAA took place Thursday morning on the Southern Miss campus.

While the team is limited on being able to have contact during this time, the first two practices allowed the coaches to teach and improve on things that they worked on during spring practice and earlier this summer during organized team activities.

It also gave the younger players a chance to pick things up as they transition to Division I football from either high school or junior college. Hall said he has not seen many struggles over the first two practices and that both the rookies and veterans are understanding the early demands of summer camp.

“Everybody is excited. It’s early and we haven’t hit the grind part yet. We’ve got depth and we’re installing on both sides. I’ve seen nothing out of the ordinary. The young kids are swimming like they should be,” Hall said. “For them it’s like jumping into Calculus IV when you didn’t take Calculus I, II and III, so you’ve got to get caught up and learn. Going from high school football to college football is a drastic, drastic, drastic change. That’s big for a lot of them but we’ve got attitudes and I like the young kids. They’ve got a lot of length and size and they’ve got a chance to be really good players.”

One position group with some uncertainty is quarterback. Southern Miss used five of them last season because of injuries or ineffectiveness and only two — Zach Wilcke and Jake Lange — are still on the roster.
The leading contenders to be the starter as camp opens are transfers Holman Edwards (Houston) and Billy Wiles (Clemson).

Hall said he is looking for three things out his starter heading into the season.

“Number one is accuracy,” he said. “I don’t think you can create that once I get them. Number two is toughness, mental and physical. I don’t think you can create that once I get them, I think you can add to it. Then number three, the way they treat people around them. Their teammates would tell you, they’ve already moved in with several offensive lineman. They’ve already got off-campus places with them. That’s how quick they were able to latch on to people and people were to take to them.”

Another position group that Hall was asked about was the offensive line. He said that group’s work in helmets and shorts focused on getting assignments right rather than technique. As with the rest of the team, the real test will begin Friday when the Golden Eagles put on pads.

“You want to cover people up and make sure we’re assignment sound,” Hall said. “You want to make sure you’re doing with technique you teach and we want to make sure that we’re covering people up. That’s really it. You can convince yourself of anything until you put pads on at all positions.”

Overall, Hall added, he said he’s pleased with the early look at the 2023 Golden Eagles. The roster has a number of returning veterans — either at Southern Miss or another college — which is helping speed the learning curve. There are 15 starters back from last season.

“We like where we’re at with this group. Most of this group has played in some way, shape or form,” Hall said. “Last fall most of them played and then they played again this spring. I’m looking forward to watching them play again tomorrow.”

Southern Miss opens the season Sept. 2 at home vs. Alcorn State.