NEW ORLEANS — Southern Miss football will be without veteran linebacker Hayes Maples for the 2022 season, Will Hall confirmed at Sun Belt Media Days on Wednesday.
In his absence, the Golden Eagles will lose one of their most productive defenders. But they may have added an extra coach.
“We keep a positive outlook on him,” fellow linebacker Swayze Bozeman said. “We check on him every day. We’re gonna go through this camp together, and he’s basically gonna coach us the whole time.”
Maples was a preseason All-Sun Belt third-team selection by Phil Steele, and received All-Conference USA recognition in each of the last two seasons.
Hall touted the depth that he can call on to help fill Maples’ role, noting that linebacker is one position where the Golden Eagles are truly deep.
Bozeman has started 17 games over the last three seasons for the Golden Eagles, and he’s one of the more established names Hall mentioned when discussing players who could step up in Maples’ absence. Already a vital piece, veteran linebacker Santrell Latham will become even more important.
Ole Miss transfer Daylen Gill and redshirt sophomore TQ Newsome warranted a mention from Hall as players who could see their workloads grow.
“We’ve got some depth right there,” Hall said. “We feel like we can overcome that with how we’ve recruited, but we certainly hate it for Hayes.”
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Maples helped lead a Southern Miss defense that improved as the season went on last year, holding the opposition under 20 points in the Golden Eagles’ final two games of the season – both wins for Southern Miss, which finished 3-9.
Bozeman said the Golden Eagles are fully bought into the system being implemented by defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong heading into 2022.
“To be able to have a second year going into that same scheme and get some key transfers in, it’s really exciting the potential that we have,” Bozeman said.
Still, Bozeman acknowledged that Maples’ injury – a lower extremity injury suffered in a workout last week – will be an emotional hurdle for the Golden Eagles to overcome.
“He’s one of the backbones of the defense,” Bozeman said. “He’s one of the biggest leaders on our team. ..You kind of hang your head a little bit, but I know if you were to ask him, he wouldn’t want you to hang your head. He would want you to attack the next day, so that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Reach Southern Miss writer David Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @davideckert98.