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Peavey provides USM football news

Tucker Peavey appeared to be in good shape, just like the Southern Miss football team. The Golden Eagles’ new offensive line coach returned home Thursday to share some gridiron news from Hattiesburg with the Southern Miss Southwest Mississippi Alumni Chapter.

     “I’m very excited about our season ahead,” said Peavey. “Our coaching staff has a goal of taking this program to a higher level. We want a BCS Bowl.”

     Southern Miss, a longtime member of Conference USA, has established a tradition of going to a bowl game every year. However, the Holy Grail, aka BCS Bowl, has eluded them. Playing on Jan. 1, in a major bowl equals major bucks, millions of additional dollars for a struggling athletic program.

     However, the term “struggling” ruffles the feathers of Southern Miss fans and alumni. For sure, the athletic program is successful and highly respected by opponents outside C-USA. But the financial base lacks the big bankroll enjoyed by many big time athletic programs and is less than golden.

     Dick Vogel, Southern Miss associate athletic director and executive director of the Eagle Club, explained. “Ole Miss and Mississippi State have an athletic budget in the 47-48 million dollar range. We have 20 million to work with at USM. State and Ole Miss pay for their scholarships.”

     Recognizing the 100th anniversary of USM athletics, Vogel recommended giving $100 to the Eagle Club. Local alum Bobby Britt bid $150 for a USM football autographed by head football coach Ellis Johnson. Britt cradled the ball with pride.

     Peavey, a 1980 Brookhaven High School graduate and a USM alum, served as head coach and athletic director at BHS for nine seasons. The Panthers realized some of their greatest campaigns, including a state championship in 2004. For sure, he ran a tight ship with a college-level efficiency. He let the coaches coach. He hired solid people who were dedicated to their task.

     When Larry Fedora left USM after four successful seasons for the head job at North Carolina, 60-year-old Ellis Johnson was hired. A seasoned coach with a strong reputation for playing stout defense, Johnson quickly assembled a staff of quality assistant coaches.

     Peavey welcomed the opportunity to join Johnson’s staff. “I have known Ellis since the mid 1980s when he was coaching at Southern. He’s an outstanding coach and person.”

     According to Peavey, USM’s offensive line should be a strength this season. Four or five of the players started in 2011 when the Eagles finished 12-2, winning the Hawaii Bowl 24-17 against Nevada. He said redshirt senior center Austin Quattrochi (6-3, 295) is an outstanding lineman.

     Now the Eagles must focus on a Sept. 1 season opener at Nebraska. They actually beat the Cornhuskers on their home turf a few years ago.

     “We expect to win at Nebraska,” said Peavey. “We wouldn’t bother getting on the plane if we didn’t feel that way.”

     The Eagles have six home games this fall, including an Oct. 6 date against Boise State, a nationally-recognized powerhouse. The defending C-USA champions also have home games against East Carolina, Sept. 15; Louisville, Sept. 29; Marshall, Oct. 20; UAB, Nov.3;  and UTEP, Nov. 17.

     Season ticket prices begin at $210 on the sideline, all the way up to the premium suites and clubs at $260. It’s a bargain.


     Peavey said USM would continue running a spread offense and a fast-paced no-huddle game plan. However, the Eagles will be minus 4-year starter Austin Davis at quarterback, leaving some giant-sized shoes to fill.

     “Our offense won’t be dull,” Peavey predicted. “We want to be a more physical, rushing team this year.”

     Peavey said the linemen he inherited were more comfortable pass blocking in a spread offense. Spring practice was a major adjustment for them. When the Eagles get inside the red zone, they need to score touchdowns instead of field goals. Peavey wants the linemen to put defenders on their backsides.

     “We went back to the basics in the spring,” said Peavey. “We would put two of them on a board and let ’em get after it. They had to learn to stick their heads in there and fight.”

     He said quarterback Chris Campbell (6-4, 215, jr.) a redshirt from Collierville, Tenn., is “older, studious and very consistent. He’s an accurate passer.”

     Ricky Lloyd (6-2, 198, fr.), a redshirt from Concord, Calif., has a cannon for an arm but no varsity experience. “I call him Sunshine because he’s from California.”

     The Eagles are expected to be much stronger, tougher and aggressive on defense. Peavey said senior lineman Jamie Collins (6-5, 239, sr.) from Meadville, has awesome talent. Collins has worked at safety, linebacker and end during his career.

     “We are fast on defense and our defensive line is as good as anybody in our league,” said Peavey. “That Nasty Bunch pride is back.”

     Asked about running back Kendrick Hardy (6-0, 222, jr.), Peavey said the Lawrence County product wasn’t at his best during spring drills because of a lingering shoulder injury. “The more he heals and gets stronger, the more confident he’ll become.”

      The Eagles are confident they can have another great season.


     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com