In three weeks, the 2022 college football season kicks off. Here is a preview of the season opener between Liberty vs Southern Miss. It’s year two of the Will Hall era in Hattiesburg, and fall camp this time around is different in a couple of ways.
First, they have a full roster of players (85) to pull from to evaluate and develop into starters and contributors. Secondly, they have momentum carrying over into this season having won their final two games last season. That all bodes extremely well for the Golden Eagles.
Liberty vs Southern Miss
The Flames finished 8-5 last season, led by dual-threat QB sensation Malik Willis, who was drafted into the NFL. Liberty does return three starters on the offensive line, along with their top returning receiver in Demario Douglas, who caught 52 passes for 701 yards and 6 TDs.
They also return T.J. Green at the running back position. Green rushed for 477 yards and 4 TDs.
To replace Willis at quarterback, head coach Hugh Freeze went into the transfer portal and found Charlie Brewer, formerly of Utah and Baylor. Brewer has quietly accumulated 11,057 yards of total offense, with 90 total touchdowns and 31 INTs in his college career.
But the flames return only four starters from a defense that ranked in the Top 30 in total defense, pass defense, and scoring defense. They return some experience on the defensive line and the secondary. DE TreShaun Clark (44 tackles, 10 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) and S Javon Scruggs (61 tackles, 6 PBUs, 1 FF) are the leaders for the Flames on that side of the ball.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles welcome a new member to the coaching staff, Offensive Coordinator Sam Gregg (formerly of Liberty). While coaching the offensive line for the Flames, Liberty was ranked in the Top 20 in the FBS in total offense and scoring offense in 2019 and 2020.
Gregg will have some talent to work with in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss returns just two offensive linemen (Gerquan Scott and Paul Gainer) from last year’s 3-9 squad. So, the next men up will have to step up their game to fill those other three slots.
In spring practice, Head Coach Will Hall named Ty Keyes the starting quarterback for the 2022 season. Keyes played in four games last season before being injured for the remainder of 2021. He passed for 365 yards, 3 TDs, and 4 INTs.
His further development and improvement in fall camp will be crucial to the Golden Eagles’ success this season.
Keyes is a former 4-star recruit from Taylorsville (MS.) High School and former ESPN 300 prospect. He was rated the #7 dual-threat quarterback in the country by 247sports. Keyes is a 3-time Mr. Football in the State of Mississippi and led Taylorsville to a state championship as a freshman.
He has the talent and the athleticism to take the Southern Miss offense to the next level.
The Golden Eagles also return RB Frank Gore, Jr. Gore rushed for 801 yards and five touchdowns last season. And he also played some at quarterback, due to reduced numbers on last year’s roster. He accounted for three touchdowns in each of the final two games, both wins.
At wide receiver, Jason Brownlee returns with his 643 yards and 8 touchdowns from last season. He caught 10 passes and scored four touchdowns against La. Tech and FIU to close out the 2021 season.
Also, look for WR Latreal Jones and WR Brandon Hayes to contribute as well in the passing game. They are having really good fall camps and could see the field sooner rather than later.
The Nasty Bunch
The “Nasty Bunch” defense returns seven starters from a unit that ranked #6 in the country in opponents’ red zone conversion (70%) and #24 in the FBS in passing defense (allowing 202 yards per game).
Southern Miss suffered a huge loss when LB Hayes Maples went out for the season with a knee injury. But the strength of this unit will still be at the linebacker position and in the secondary:
- LB Josh Carr: 55 tackles, 1 INT.
- LB Santrell Latham: 52 tackles, 7 TFLs, 1 sack, 4 forced fumbles.
- LB Swayze Bozeman: replaces Maples, made 20 tackles last season.
- CB Eric Scott, Jr.: 20 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 PBUs.
- CB Cameron Harrell: 37 tackles, 5 TFLs, 4 PBUs, 1 KO return for TD.
- WS Malik Shorts: led team with 89 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 TFLs, and 7 PBUs.
- FS Jay Stanley: 56 tackles, 2 INTs (1 returned for TD), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.
Head-to-Head Matchup-Southern Miss vs Liberty
Liberty and Southern Miss have only played each other once, with Liberty posting a 56-35 victory in 2020.
Liberty vs Southern Miss-Final Analysis
This is the home opener for the Golden Eagles and MM Roberts Stadium will be rocking. Southern Miss has the edge in talent in this matchup and comes out a winner in this one.
The Golden Eagles have nowhere to go but up in 2022 or as they like to shout in unison at The Rock: “Southern Miss-To The Top!
Prediction: Southern Miss 24 – Liberty 17
Thanks for reading.
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