TE Shawn Nelson

2005 Statistics

Coach: Jeff Bower
103-72-1, 16 years
2005 Record:7-5
at Alabama LOST 21-30
at East Carolina WON 33-7
UCF WON 52-31
at UAB WON 37-28
at NC State LOST 17-21
at Marshall WON 27-24 (OT)
at Houston LOST 24-27
vs. Arkansas State WON 31-19

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2006 Outlook

Winning with smash-mouth results no matter what the level of opposition is the trademark of Southern Miss football, and head coach (and alum) Jeff Bower will produce no less in his 16th season at the helm. The former-star QB here has now produced 12 straight winning campaigns. He knows how to get the most out of his players, often overcoming marginal statistical rankings for the win as they hang in with even BCS-aligned teams for a full 60 minutes. This present campaign will see some major changes that should prove to be challenging, but nothing within which Bower & Co. cannot again achieve optimal results.

After so-so results in spring ball, the offense will need to further adjust to a new style of quarterbacking with Jeremy Young, who has the foot-speed Dustin Almond never did. With a strong line and corps of WRs to go with an all-American-level TE, Young (or backup Michigan State-transfer Stephen Reaves) should find production through the air easily achievable. The running game is of concern after struggling even through this year’s spring sessions, but Young’s speed will add that extra variable that, through the clever play-calling of coordinator Jay Johnson, should open up the entire offense. Johnson is in just his second year as OC, so all are hoping his potential is realized at the same time as the offense’s full ability. Marginal results in their total offensive effort (ranked 70th) still meant almost 30 points per game (40th), so Johnson knows how to produce even when they struggle somewhat.

Defense is where USM has usually been at its best, and 2006 should return them to being the most feared D in the conference and one of the most respected in the country. Marginal run-stopping (73rd ranked) is the main focus, and the new line along with an approach at LB to create parity amongst the two-deep should get the front seven back on its usual track. The LBs are also exceptional in coverage, so seeing the starting DBs return with experience will round out well the stopping efforts. DC Jay Hopson probably never should have left in 2004, for he had Southern Miss in a real defensive groove before putting a year in at Ole Miss. Still, similar to the character on offense, even when the Golden Eagles were allowing yards in ’05 (73rd also in total D), Hopson had their scoring allowed stay strong, only giving up 22 points per game to rank 33rd in that category. 4+3+4 always equals more than 11 under Hopson’s guidance.

As you can see, Bower knows how to get both sides of the ball make the most of their opportunities. Just think of how good they can be when these team numbers get better.

Southern Miss continues to slate tough non-cons in hopes of having the competition take his players to their top performance levels. This campaign sees a challenging trip to Gainesville, Florida to start things off, and the N.C. State Wolfpack come into Hattiesburg two weeks later for a battle that lovers of defense should not miss. Another rough road game, this time with Virginia Tech, is injected into the middle of a tough Conference USA run. USM is one of those teams you know will be a headache for the bigger opponents, and winning even two against those big three they will face is never out of the question. But then the Golden Eagles will also struggle against conference teams it seems they are definitely better than, so it is hard to either vault them very high in the polls or promise they will win their division half knowing this track record. But if Bower can produce like he did in ’05 after hurricane Katrina affected the team’s scheduling, think of how much that adversity should pay off in the character of this year’s squad.

Projected 2006 record: 9-3
K Darren McCaleb
QB - 3 DL - 2
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Jeremy Young, 9-5-0, 0 TD

Rushing: Larry Thomas, 167 att., 647 yds., 4 TD

Receiving: Shawn Nelson, 35 rec., 540 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Darren McCaleb, 23-28 FG, 38-39 PAT, 107 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: Darren McCaleb, 23-28 FG, 38-39 PAT, 107 pts.

Tackles: Brandon Sumrall, 88 tot., 59 solo

Sacks: Robert Henderson, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Brandon Sumrall, 4 for 43 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Jasper Faulk, 7 ret., 15.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Jasper Faulk, 22 ret., 7.5 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Dustin Almond-QB, Pedi Causey-TE, Neal Mead-OT, Ricardo Clark-C, Antwon Courington-WR
DEFENSE: Tom Johnson-NT, Terrance Ford-DT, Akeem Lockett-BAN, Kevis Coley-MLB, Trevis Coley-FS, John Eubanks-CB. Luke Johnson-P

Jeremy Young has the lead in the race to replace three-year starter Dustin Almond (now a Cleveland Brown). This locally-based junior (Provine) changes the offensive scheme with speed (4.6 in the 40) to go with his strong arm, stature (6’4”) and improvising skills. But with only mop-up duty to prove his worth, Young entering the fall as the starter makes no promises for USM’s offense. Michigan State-transfer Stephen Reaves had knee surgery last fall, but his health and eligibility have him primed to see reps in 2006. Another junior, Reaves is a drop-back passer who has picked his game back up after a strong spring showing, though he still has to build himself further physically. Young will help foster the Golden Eagles’ abysmal ground game (as Almond never could), so all he has to do is continue his trend of improvement so the entire offense can take the next step.

Running Back
Junior Cody Hull, after a great spring, has spring-boarded past classmate Larry Thomas for the start at TB (though they are listed as “co-starters”). Both are around six-foot and just under 200lbs, but Hull has proven to be both more physical and more explosive, though Thomas is a bigger factor in the passing game. Like last year, expect both to average over 10 carries per game, so fresh legs will be churning out of the USM backfield for the entire game. QB Young, with his speedy presence, should help both have better showings. Senior FB Bobby Weakly needs to improve two dimensions – his lead blocking and his amount of carries. Weakly getting the rock more would add that third ground dimension if developed, though the development of smaller backup Cole Mason late last season proved to be just that (lost only four yards on his 41 carries). Southern Miss averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in ’05 while ranking 93rd nationally and gaining a modest 111 yards per game, but these numbers should improve for this team if they continue to mix up the run with the same amount of passing, which will keep foes guessing.

Three seniors anchor the receiving corps well so that whichever new QB is hurling the rock can likely find a few of them open as needed. Anthony Perine and Josh Barnes are both sub-6’, but are proven commodities and will be go-to guys right away, especially underneath with Nelson clearing LBs out. Damion Carter is a deep threat with his size advantage, and makes the WRs formidable when all three are lined up. Junior Tavarres Williams tore his MCL in ’05, but has returned strong, and the guy who took his place in many situations, Joe Singleton, had the most improved spring of any WR (many on the coaching staff feel sophomore Singleton has the best hands on the team). Even more experienced depth exists, so consider this area, along with the line, their offenses’ strongest unit.

Tight End
Sophomore Shawn Nelson was the team’s top receiver in ’05, and his prowess over the deep middle (15.4 yards per catch) opens up so much for the other snarlers. He set basically every record in the school’s books for TE production, and did such as a freshman, so expectations are high. A bit small to handle big DLmen, they have senior Jonathan Palmer for blocking downs, though foes can likely see which of them is in and know what kind of play it will be. Coaches need to get Palmer more involved as a pass catcher, for the Dean’s Lister has the hands to expand his role, and also because little of the depth here can do what Nelson does to break down opposing coverage schemes.

Offensive Line
Four returning starters in this group give hope to the running game, though two of the three seniors inside were still banged up after spring and have to return in full force before the chemistry here leads to improvements. Travis Cooley’s knee problem kept him out of the last three ’05 tilts, but he expected back by fall. Cooley is a second-team all-conference player at left guard, so his return is needed. Center Robby DeAngelo’s knee went out half way through spring ball, but the prognosis looks good for him to also be back at 100% by fall. Classmate George Batiste garnered first team all-Conference USA as he, like DeAngelo, didn’t allow a sack in ’05 from his right guard slot (Cooley let in just one). Left tackle Chris Clark led the way for a line that allowed only 15 sacks last year, and they had five games in which none were seen. The only new starter is sophomore right tackle Ryan McKee, but he saw some action as a true frosh and looks good so far. McKee uses his smarts and athleticism well to make up for size/strength issues, shortcomings that should go away as he bulks up. The only problem here is depth – further injuries would really impact what the OL can deliver.

Last campaign was marginally better for the offensive efforts than was 2004 (went from ranking 95th to 70th), but the unpredictability of what new QB Jeremy Young brings to the table is just what the doctor ordered for real improvements to take place. With a strong line in place to up production from the ground game, Young’s speed here will keep LBs honest to then soften up underneath coverage(s) and running lanes for optimal effect. The receivers go three-deep with experience, and the presence of TE Shawn Nelson will just make everything work better. Concerns could arise if the depth (on the OL and at RBs) is tested, and a switch to drop-back QB Reaves would change/limit the play-calling significantly. This is the second year as coordinator for Jay Johnson (fourth total here), and his expertise with QBs and RBs should pay off to vault the offense in its needed direction(s).


OG George Batiste


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Jeremy Young-Jr (6-3, 210) Stephen Reaves-Jr (6-1, 206)
FB Bobby Weakley-Sr (5-10, 241) Cole Mason-So (6-2, 232)
RB Cody Hull-Jr (5-11, 195) Larry Thomas-Jr (6-0, 197)
WR Anthony Perine-Sr (5-11, 174) Damion Carter-Sr (6-2, 193)
WR Tavarres Williams-Jr (6-0, 182) Chris Johnson-Jr (6-0, 172)
TE Shawn Nelson-So (6-5, 230) Jonathan Palmer-Sr (6-3, 248)
OT Chris Clark-Jr (6-4, 280) Jacquine Wrice-Fr (6-5, 277)
OG Travis Cooley-Sr (6-2, 285) Wesley Housley-So (6-2, 283)
C Robby D'Angelo-Sr (6-1, 277) Rick Thompson-Jr (6-0, 281)
OG George Batiste-Sr (6-5, 309) Jimmy Driskell-So (6-2, 306)
OT Ryan McKee-So (6-5, 265) Ryan Hebert-Fr (6-6, 305)
K Darren McCaleb-Sr (5-11, 165) Britt Barefoot-So (6-0, 174)



Defensive Line
New line coach Bill Wilt has a situation that could be seen as having his glass either half-empty or half-full. After allowing much by way of ground gains from a DL that has lost three starters, he can rebuild things and make improvements simultaneously. Senior Matt Chatelain is the only returning starter, and he moves to “bandit end”. Extremely mobile, this former walk-on has been a factor in all facets of line play. He will anchor his end while new starter Ken Griffith will prove worthy from his side. Griffith, a junior, has little experience, but if his statistical line can continue (after fighting injury in ’05, his one tackle last year was for loss), this quick-footed end’s promise means good things. USC-transfer Ryan Watson looks strong in the nose tackle slot to make the most of his two years now left. Coming out of Louisiana originally (powerhouse John Curtis HS), Watson’s upside looks huge with his nose for the ball. Classmate Martavius Prince has more experience than Watson (proven his wares as a backup) and is now their other inside starter. Both tackles are small for inside play and rely on athleticism to overcome such, but that factor should prove tough to overcome against their major opponents like Florida and Virginia Tech. For being somewhat rebuilt, this line has depth and potential to do what USM traditionally does so well – rotate fresh guys in early and often so as to capitalize on a gelled chemistry that allows them to play extremely well as a unit.

There are many changes here, even with two returning starters back, though they seem to be relegated to backup status heading into the fall. But, more specifically, “We want to get to the point where there isn’t any difference between the starters and backups at both outside linebacker positions”, says OLB coach Fred Tate. James Denley has been displaced by the guy who he replaced – soph Gerald McRath broke his leg in the second game of ’05, and junior Denley held down the strongside position the rest of the way out. McRath is back and looking like his same speedy self. Wayne Hardy was great on the weakside, but the senior lost his job to then-true frosh Tokumbo Abanikanda. Hardy, USM’s fifth leading tackler in ’05, seems faster and is over 20 pounds bigger, but Abanikanda is considered the team’s best LB in coverage. It all bodes well for optimal results, but replacing all-American Kevis Coley in the middle will mean a step back from his stellar results. Marcus Raines is a junior JUCO-transfer who gives the corps needed girth and strong run-stopping skills, whereas sophomore ex-QB Mitch Craft has more experience and a sharp nose for reading where/how a play develops. Southern Miss has a reputation for producing the conferences’ best LBs, and the new-look set we have listed here is sure to play better as a unit than many will expect.

Defensive Back
Like the DL, results here can improve just due to the turnover providing a boost to last year’s marginal results (ranked 78th and 75th for pass efficiency and overall pass defense, respectively). Calib Hendrix provides senior leadership from his “boundary” corner. A starter for the past two years, Hendrix has the size and intuition needed to be effective. Jasper Faulk has started at both corner and safety (tied Hendrix for team lead in passes broken up with six), and the senior is also really strong in the box. Experienced depth on the outside is there, too (Willingham and McGee). Ex-RB Brandon Sumrall returns as the starter at “rover” safety after finishing third on the team for tackles and tied for the lead in INTs. Just as much of a ball-hawk is free safety LeVance Richmond, a junior former-JUCO all-American who is the fastest of the DB starters, but still unproven at the I-A level. Less depth in the deep middle means injuries there would be impacting. Early chemistry in this group will be lacking, but once they learn to work together, this unit should improve on what the secondary delivered in ’05.

With only five starters back (two of them not even slated as such any longer), there is much that has to develop for the Golden Eagles to reclaim their traditional ball-stopping prowess that seems to have been lost over the past few years. The LBs and secondary look to be a bit stronger and more experienced than the new-look line, but talent across the board is there for all areas of this D to have strong showings. Areas where this year’s defense can improve from last year’s efforts are on third-downs (allowed foes a 39% conversion rate) and in allowing less points as games progress. Whereas USM let in a mere 24 points combined in all the first quarters added together, then allowing 75, 73 and 100 in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters, respectively, lost them quite a few games in ’05 that they should have won (three of their last five regular season contests were losses, and by a grand total of nine points – these tilts cost them their division half). The last two recruiting classes have been heavily weighted with quality defenders, so it looks like old times and having a bad-ass D can again be true in Hattiesburg.


DB Brandon Sumrall


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Ken Griffith-Jr (6-3, 275) Don Loehr-Jr (6-0, 227)
NT Ryan Watson-Jr (6-2, 271) Man Nyang-Fr (6-3, 260)
DT Martavius Prince-Jr (6-3, 278) Eric Phillips-So (6-7, 271)
BAN Matthew Chatelain-Sr (6-2, 245) Shadler Manning-Sr (6-3, 251)
Robert Henderson-Jr (6-3, 266)
SLB Gerald McRath-So (6-2, 212) James Denley-Jr (6-2, 223)
MLB Mitch Craft-So (6-1, 224) Marcus Raines-Jr (6-3, 240)
WLB Tokumbo Abanikanda-So (6-2, 200) Wayne Hardy-Sr (6-0, 223)
CB Jasper Faulk-Sr (5-10, 183) Eddie Willingham-So (5-10, 172)
CB Caleb Hendrix-Sr (5-10, 185) Cornelus McGee-So (5-10, 165)
ROV Brandon Sumrall-Jr (5-11, 185) Ladarius Webb-So (5-10, 164)
FS LeVance Richmond-Jr (5-11, 193) Eddie Hicks-Fr (6-1, 170)
P Britt Barefoot-So (6-0, 174) ..




Senior Darren McCaleb, fourth in the nation in FGs per game in ’05, will continue to be gold from inside the 40 and rather consistent even from longer range (10-for-15 from beyond the 40 in ’05). He set the school’s record for most FGs in a season (23) and in a career (53), and he will again be maxed out for production in all situations. Return coverage needs to be stepped up on KOs, and new blood in the defensive back seven looking to prove itself will surely help.

Appropriately named sophomore Britt Barefoot (though he does wear shoes to perform) has the booming leg needed as he takes over for all-conference Luke Johnson (also inherits the KO duties, where his average as a freshman was better than Johnson’s). Barefoot has to work on his consistency, but “…is one of the best athletes at the specialist position that I have seen since I have been here” according to special teams coordinator Lytrel Pollard. Net results should continue to be strong after ranking 15th nationally in ’05.

Return Game
Senior Jasper Faulk has the trust of coaches to handle both return jobs. Not spectacular yet at either (though competent), the staff thinks other speedsters Tavarres Williams and Anthony Perine can be given chances on PRs and Brandon Sumrall a few KOs to see if someone can break out to show more natural ability for field position gains.