Here are five things we’ve learned so far.
1. The defense is ahead of the offense, but the offense is improving
After last season’s results, it’s likely no surprise for Southern Miss fans to hear that the defense holds the edge on the offense through five preseason practices.
The Golden Eagles’ front seven has looked solid, with a firm anchor at the back of the defense in the form of a highly experienced secondary.
But the offense has started to make some progress. Hall described Tuesday’s session as the best practice the Golden Eagles have had with their pass protection since his arrival before last season.
Continuing that trajectory will be vital for new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Sam Gregg as he looks to turn around one of the nation’s worst offensive lines from a season ago.
2. Southern Miss has a true talent in freshman QB Zach Wilcke
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilcke hasn’t needed much time to showcase his raw ability during his first collegiate preseason.
Wilcke combines excellent arm talent with deceptive quickness, making a few standout plays throughout the first five sessions.
The Hernando High School product has mostly been working with the third team, though he did step in to take some reps with the second unit during Sunday’s practice.
Certainly, talent is only part of what it takes to be a good college quarterback, with the mental strain of the position holding as much – if not more – importance. But it’s already clear that Wilcke has a solid foundation from which to build.
3. The Golden Eagles aren’t just talented in the secondary, they’re also smart
If you need a lesson in Football 101, spend some time hovering around the Southern Miss defensive backs.
The Golden Eagles secondary spends the time between sessions transacting on a marketplace of ideas – throwing out pointers, asking for feedback, dissecting each rep.
Such is the benefit of returning such a wealth of experience with players like Natrone Brooks, Eric Scott and Malik Shorts.
“I think that’s one of the strengths of our team,” Hall said.
4. The Southern Miss WR room holds a pair of players looking to make a move
Hall has said he believes wide receiver Jakarius Caston could be the Golden Eagles’ breakout player in 2022.
Caston’s preseason performance has backed that up as he looks to build on a 2021 season in which he caught 16 passes for 239 yards with a score.
Southern Miss fans should keep an eye out for freshman wide receiver Tiaquelin Mims, too.
Mims’ athleticism jumps out just about every time he touches the ball, and wide receivers coach Desmond Lindsey singled him out as the new arrival that has impressed him the most.
5. The Golden Eagles are dealing with some short-term injuries
Neither tight end Cole Cavallo nor corner Dee Baker practiced on Monday or Tuesday.
Hall said Cavallo got “banged up” and will return before long. Baker might be out a bit longer, Hall said, with a lower extremity injury.
“It’s not season- threatening or anything,” Hall said.
The Golden Eagles are also waiting for transfer offensive lineman Calvin McMillian to get the green light for contact drills. He is dealing with a hand injury.
Reach Southern Miss writer David Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @davideckert98.