FS Etric Pruitt

2002 Statistics

Coach: Jeff Bower
80-58-1, 13 years
2002 Record: 7-6
at Alabama LOST 7-20
at Army WON 27-6
at South Florida LOST 13-16
at TCU LOST 7-37
at UAB WON 20-13
at Tulane LOST 10-31
Oklahoma State LOST 23-33

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

Since its inception, Southern Miss has the Conference USA's best record at 34-11. The Eagles have had this success with strong defense, and, ala 1970's Bobby Bowden's prototypical approach, a willingness to play anybody, anywhere and at anytime. The non-conference slate over the past few years has included Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, Florida, Penn State, Georgia and Texas A&M. This season's schedule is no different with games at California and Alabama and a winnable tilt (at home) against Nebraska.

Southern Miss should be a vastly improved team from last year's 7-6 squad that faltered near the end of the year. We expect the defense to be in the elite in the nation with three legitimate All-American candidates. The offense will struggle early, and the kicking game will be new. These parts will determine whether the Eagles can be a Top 25 team and how the team fares in those important early season tests listed above. Going to California could provide a strong launching pad. Look for the Eagles to win two of these early big three tilts - Alabama and Nebraska are beatable early, their only hope. If the Eagles can get by a home game against South Florida they could be 9-1 heading into a late season showdown with TCU that should be for the conference crown. This squad will not lose to the lesser teams that finally got revenge during 2002's anemically offensive effort(s). Payback could be forthcoming, so look out Tulane and TCU.

Southern Miss will reestablish their tough-nosed tradition with head-turning defensive results and enough offense to achieve what wasn't in 2002. Constantly overcoming being the third Mississippi school in recruiting battles isn't easy. Yet, the Golden Eagles will again go a long way toward legitimizing their wanna-be conference. They need to be one of many CUSA teams that, on a consistent annual basis, dent the national scene so that a team like this year's Golden Eagles can earn national respect. It will take another five years of wait-and-see to find out if this can happen. Until then, CUSA's mediocre competition level will render any dominating USM seasons second-tier in the eyes of poll-voters - teams with worse records will again finish ahead of them. It usually makes them play that much harder, watch.

Projected 2003 record: 9-3
WR Chris Johnson
LB Rod Davis
OG Chris White
QB - 2.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 2 LB - 4.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Micky D'Angelo, 232-122-8, 1647 yds., 7 TD's

Rushing: Anthony Harris, 78 att., 324 yds., 4 TD's

Receiving: Chris Johnson, 50 rec., 673 yds., 3 TD's

Scoring: Marvin Young, 6 TD's, 1 two-point PAT, 38 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: none

Tackles: Rod Davis, 168 tot., 122 solo

Sacks: Rod Davis, 10.5 sacks

Interceptions: Etric Pruitt, 6 for 96 yds.

Kickoff returns: John Eubanks, 22 ret., 23.9 avg.

Punt returns: Marvin Young, 29 ret., 13.4 avg.


WR Marvin Young
OFFENSE: Derrick Nix-RB, LeRoy Handy-WR, Bobby Garner-TE, Jeremy Bridges-OT, Torrin Tucker-OG, Jason Jimenez-OT, Curt Jones-K
DEFENSE: Rayshun Jones-NT, Joe Henley-SLB, Leroy Johnson-CB, Mark Haulman-P

written by Dave Bagchi

Offensive prowess has never been the forte of Coach Jeff Bower's Eagle teams and 2003 should be no different. The unit will lose six starters including TB Derrick Nix. Look for the USM to try to go to the pass more often than 2002 when the Eagles ran the ball 58% of the time. Primarily this was because of the maturation process of two underclassmen quarterbacks and the abilities of Nix. This ratio might reverse with the questions at running back and the continuation of the Eagles running a three-receiver, one-back set. This is especially true if the less-mobile QB Micky D'Angelo gets the starting nod. The passing game's success will not lie entirely on the shoulders of the young quarterbacks but also on the talented duo of receivers who will be the focus of opposing defenses.

Lanky junior walk-on WR Marvin Young and speedy junior SE Chris Johnson return after a 2002 campaign in which the pair combined for 1,288 yards. Gone from the starting core is LeRoy Handy, but he will be replaced at the starting WR spot by heralded 6'3 sophomore Antwon Courington. Junior DaRon Lawrence and sophomores Rocky Harrison and Pedi Causey spell relief, as will returning senior Kenneth Johnson. This talented back up duo is big, fast and cut out of the mold of today's generation of wide receivers. Size issues with Young and Johnson should cause some interesting mix of receiver packages until the most effective emerge from this healthy team competition.

The Eagle offense struggled mightily last season averaging only 22 points per game, less than four yards per carry on the ground, committing 30 turnovers, allowing 48 sacks and averaging only 332 total yards per game to rank 99th in I-A. The biggest shoes to fill will be in the offensive backfield where there will be a heated running backs competition between junior James Walley and sophomore Anthony Harris. Look for Harris to get the early nod based on his slightly better numbers last season (336 yards versus Walley's 267) and extra bulk that will help in pass-blocking assignments, an area where the 225-pound Nix excelled. Walley will rotate in regardless, unless Harris excels early. Coaches have mentioned that both players do have better hands than Nix. Delayed swing and screen passes appear to be an option if defenses forget to use their LB for coverage and bull-rush him only.

The weakest part of the Eagle team a year ago was the offensive line. This group could neither run-block nor pass protect. Losing three of five starters plus the tight end needs to be a blessing in disguise. The 2002 version struggled with their footwork and were not able to play cohesively as usual conference underlings stuffed Southern Miss' offense regularly. Returning will be junior OG Jeremy Parquet and senior center Jim Hicks. In to replace the departed seniors will be highly rated underclassmen looking to reverse any bad trends. At tight end the team loses their starter and will be relying upon 2002's second-TE, athletic senior Terrell Browden. On just four receptions, Browden gained 94 yards and scored two TDs, making opposing DBs (no LBs will stay with him) have to commit another helmet to follow his play-by-play activities. Smart money says he has a breakout year and becomes an X-factor in any passing or running success.

While pass protection will be a large question mark, the quarterback position will even be more up-for-grabs. The aforementioned D'Angelo and sophomore Dustin Almond will compete for the opening day job but expect 242-pound junior Zac White to get his chances. D'Angelo and Almond combined for only 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and a low 50% completion rate. Both are physically similar while Almond has slightly better mobility and D'Angelo has the stronger arm. One thing is for certain - offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer will have a short leash. A rotation could work - we will update as spring and summer ball iron this issue out.


WR Chris Johnson


Returning Starters in bold
QB Micky D'Angelo-Jr (6-3, 215) Dustin Almond-So (6-2, 211)
RB James Walley-Jr (5-10, 196) Anthony Harris-So (FB) (5-11, 216)
WR Chris Johnson-Jr (5-10, 173) Pedi Causey-So (6-3, 221)
WR Marvin Young-Jr (6-0, 165) DaRon Lawrence-Jr (6-3, 205)
WR Antwon Courington-So (6-3, 210) Rocky Harrison-So (6-1, 205)
TE Terrell Browden-Sr (6-3, 260) Otho Graves-Jr (6-5, 260)
OT Jeremy Parquet-Jr (6-7, 312) George Batiste-Fr (6-5, 283)
OG Chris White-Jr (6-3, 280) Ben Culp-Jr (6-5, 302)
C Jim Hicks-Sr (6-4, 285) Addaryl Edwards-Jr (6-3, 280)
OG Travis Cooley-Fr (6-3, 271) Bradley Worthington-So (6-4, 295)
OT Neal Mead-So (6-4, 310) Myron Powe-Jr (6-4, 298)
K Jacob Matlock-Sr (6-0, 224) ..



written by Dave Bagchi

Defense is what has put Southern Miss football on the map over the past half-decade. Since 1999 the Eagles lead the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed. Last year's unit ranked in the top 25 in the nation in pass defense and scoring defense. With eight starters returning to run the aggressive 3-4 scheme of coordinator Tyrone Nix, the 2003 unit should be special, again the wave the Golden Eagles ride to success.

The back seven is a talented cast consisting of five returning starters. The line-backing corps should be one of the tops in the entire nation with returning starters Rod Davis and Michael Boley. The strength of this unit is discipline and solid tackling, a trademark of Southern Miss football. The duo was the most productive in the nation combining for 310 tackles, 40 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. An All-American senior (NC.net 2003 Preseason 1st-teamer), Davis had double-figure tackles in 12 of 13 games. Junior weakside-backer Boley earned all-conference. Expect either junior LaVon Pears or speedy junior Terry Anderson to fill the other spot. Pears gets our nod for his size and potential.

Southern Miss was fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense primarily due to their hard-nosed secondary. Returning is the team's third leading tackler and All-American candidate (NC.net 2003 Preseason 2nd teamer) FS Etric Pruitt. Pruitt is big and fast and very active as evidenced by his 139 tackles and six INTs last season. Senior rover Alex Ray will flank Pruitt in the deep middle. At the corner will be another senior returning starter Greg Brooks. Brooks is a speed player who typically matches up against the opponent's best receivers. Gone is LeRoy Johnson at the other corner - expect sophomore John Eubanks or Seth Cumbie, who played in all 13 2002 games in a reserve role.

Two areas of improvement could elevate this defense back into the national elite. The first is the maturation of a defensive line that ranked only 75th in the nation against the run. The Eagles front will be returning seven-of-eight deep along a three-man defensive line and at their pass-rushing-focused "bandit" position. Seniors Ronald Jones and Terrell Paul will accompany a newcomer in the middle, junior NT Chad Ruffin. Chad is under-sized and should rotate with sophomore Terrance Ford for freshness. Either way, the unit will have experience. This is not a strong tackling defensive front nor did they shed blocks well. This group last season used its speed to sack quarterbacks 39 times and keep running backs from getting to the outside. Up the middle is another story - giving up 167 rushing yards-per-game again would be disastrous. The key will be for Ruffin and Jones to keep blockers off the spectacular Eagle linebackers.

The second area of improvement is in causing turnovers. Southern Miss relies on its defense to make plays. Last year's team was only 75th in the nation in TO-margin. The Eagles did, however, return four INTs for TDs. Look for the fumble recovery total of only 11 to go up. Eight returning starters should entertain the first issue as they directly affect the second.


LB Rod Davis


Returning Starters in bold
DE Ronald Jones-Sr (6-3, 265) Seante Williams-Sr (6-6, 246)
NT Terrance Ford-So (6-4, 280) Jared Parten-Fr (6-2, 257)
DT Eric Scott-Jr (6-0, 302) Greg Casnave-Fr (6-3, 281)
DE Terrell Paul-Sr (6-3, 241) Akeem Lockett-So (6-2, 235)
SLB Michael Boley-Jr (6-3, 218) Naton Stewart-So (6-4, 228)
MLB Rod Davis-Sr (6-3, 245) Dillon Cleckler-Jr (6-2, 230)
WLB Antoine Cash-Jr (6-1, 208) Kevis Coley-So (6-1, 218)
CB Greg Brooks-Sr (5-11, 175) Seth Cumbie-Jr (5-11, 180)
CB John Eubanks-Fr (5-11, 175) Jasper Faulk-Fr (5-10, 182)
ROV Alex Ray-Sr (5-11, 203) Darrell Bennett-Jr (6-0, 206)
FS Etric Pruitt-Sr (6-1, 188) Trevis Coley-So (6-1, 220)
P Luke Johnson-So (6-0, 250) Neal Schmidt-Fr (6-2, 199)




When a team has question marks on offense, their defense and special teams must step up. The Eagles have an average overall special teams unit that will need to replace both starting kickers. Senior PK Don Urquhart will replace departed senior Curt Jones. Jones made only 15-of-26 FGAs, so this area will improve. At punter, the job is up for grabs between three players, with sophomore Luke Johnson most likely getting the chance. Problems in the kicking game could be counter-balanced by a strong return unit that was ranked in the Top 40 in the nation in both return categories. WR Marvin Young's punt return average of 13.4 yards, along with speedy DB John Eubanks and WR Chris Johnson to share KO return duties, make this dimension one that could be a difference-maker.


Though they are installing a new system, the offense was not quite up to what Jeff Bower wanted to see this spring. That will be a main focus heading into fall, with more consistency being the benchmark. Improvement in the running game should also be thrown in there… Bower holds firm that Micky D'Angelo is their #1 QB, though Almond had a better spring game. This could be a rotation that continues throughout the season. D'Angelo will monopolize the spot if he improves his decision-making and his line holds up for him. If either of those factors depreciates, we'll see Almond in alternation… WRs had nominal outings, though Chris Johnson proved explosive. No doubt he will be the go-to-man for this offense in 2003. WR Da'Ron Lawrence raised eyebrows in camp and will get more snaps this fall…. The offensive line is slowly coming along. Bower has shuffled players around, still seeking "the best five guys for the job".

The defense paced the Eagles' spring practice, concluding in the spring game with 4 INTs, one for a TD. The D-line stepped up to apply pressure on Eagle QBs, forcing more turnovers than Bower could have accepted. It was a good sign for the defense, as it saw the front four emerge as tone-setters. What's scary (for opposing offenses) is the talent only gets better behind them at LB and in the secondary… One thing about this defense that jumps out at me is how opportunistic they are. This squad forced many turnovers this spring and it wasn't because this is a bad offense- these guys really make you cough up the football. Something to watch… The Eagles had good play from their backup LBs, which was exactly what the coaches wanted to see. Rod Davis' backup, Dillon Cleckler led all tacklers in the spring game and showed he can add a value when the Eagles run a four LB package. Look for Naton Stewart to be the next great 'backer at USM… CB Greg Brooks was all over the passing attack this spring, nabbing himself a few INTs and blanketing intended receivers in complete lock-down. He showed us that he certainly deserves consideration for not only C-USA accolades, but possible All-American strides as well… DB Corey Yates received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and should see a good amount of playing time this fall.

FYI- The Golden Eagles' motto this year is "Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime." Not a bad a theme- they play at Cal, Nebraska at home on a Thursday night, and at Alabama- a game they usually play tough. If they can nab those three and lock up Conference USA, these guys could be playing someone big, somewhere even bigger, in prime time! Rock and Roll…