First-year Southern Miss football coach Will Hall closed out his spring football with his annual spring game program.
While the spring game was more of a typical practice that included regular drills and some scrimmage play, according to Hall, he learned several things about its 2021 team.
"I've learned what our kids can do and what they can't do," Hall said. "We want to be schematically a group that can open up the fridge and see what's in there before we decide what's cooking for dinner. We know what kind of ingredients we have now. We know what we can do and what we can't do and what pieces we may want to add this offseason."
Quarterback Trey Lowe was the presumptive starter heading into spring practice, especially with former backup Tate Whatley choosing to graduate.
"I thought it was a good spring overall," Lowe said. "I wish I would have made a few more passes here and there, but I'm a little hard on myself.
For Lowe, who is a transfer from West Virginia, it's the first time in his career that he participated in spring practice since he had previously played on the Mountaineer baseball team.
"I think (a big difference) is putting in the time and effort and everything, having extra time to be up here, being with Coach Hall, and getting extra film study," Lowe said. "All of the little things help instead of being on the road for baseball."
According to running back Frank Gore Jr., Lowe has made significant progress at the quarterback position.
"He made a big jump from last year," Gore said. "This spring, he showed a lot of progressions, and he is going to keep getting better. I believe in Trey."
Behind Lowe is Louisville transfer Tee Webb, who had a few reps with the first-string offense on Saturday. Of course, Southern Miss is also waiting for the arrival of Taylorsville recruit Ty Keyes, but barring any significant changes in the fall, the job seems to be Lowe's.
"We have two really talented guys," Hall said. "They can really throw. They are smart. I think Trey Lowe really came on as the leader. His attention to detail is unbelievable. He had a great spring throughout.
"Tee really got better every day. You can see the touch that he has on his passes. He has a smooth delivery. He is only going to get better and better as he grows. Obviously, we're excited to get Ty Keyes here. We are going to evaluate all 15 practices and make a decision based on data. I feel really good about both of them."
Confidence In The Backfield
Gore and Darius Maberry look to be the Golden Eagles' main two threats in the backfield. Hall has also focused on developing Dee Baker as well as Antavious Willis.
"Frank is an established guy in this league and has made a lot of plays," Hall said. "Dee Baker, (Willis) and Maberry are coming along. Maberry has played a lot of football here and has a chance to do some things. (Willis) and Dee are learning every day. Every day they are doing something a little bit better. (Willis) probably had his best three days of practice last week."
For Gore, who ran for 27 yards on four attempts in scrimmage play, said his main concentration heading into the offseason is to become an every down running back and becoming a leader.
"I want to be a leader on this team," Gore said. "Give and project positive energy like Coach Hall always says and to just help my team in any way I can.
"I'm looking to be faster, stronger and more explosive. I want to be able to take more hits and be an every-down running back."
Maberry ran for 19 yards on four carries and had a catch for 11 yards, while Willis rushed for 20 yards on four attempts.
"All of them can go," Lowe said. "They all give something a little different. They are all versatile and they all do everything the right way. They had a great spring; Maberry, Frank, (Willis) and Dee have gelled together, and all cheer each other on. It's a good group."
A Deep Defensive Line
Southern Miss brought back tremendous depth, and with the readdition of defensive lineman Jacques Turner, who opted out last season due to COVID-19 concerns, the group adds significant experience.
"Those guys have gotten so much better," Gore said. "Ever since Jacques came back, he's made a big difference. I'm excited to see what those guys do in a game.
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles' defense came up with four sacks. Turner, who had one of the sacks, credited defensive line coach Brandon Lacy for the group's success throughout the spring.
"Coach Lacey focuses on the small details that we really haven't worked on in the past," Turner said. "You can tell that the production from the guys who haven't really played to now is a huge jump.
"We have some dogs. We have some guys that have really stepped up this spring. I give my hats off to Coach Lacey. He has done a great job with us. This is the best that I have ever seen my d-line production-wise."
Southern Miss had several players missing from Saturday's spring game.
Linebacker Swayze Bozeman had an ankle injury last weekend. Oak Grove alum Hayes Maples also missed the game as he had his right knee in a brace and on crutches, but Hall stated that he would be cleared to play by September.
Another notable loss was wide receiver Da'Quan Bailey-Brown who had the most talked-about spring. Brown was out with what Hall called "a bad injury."
"He is an unbelievable human being," Hall said. "Right when he got hurt, he was texting me saying, 'Tell the guys that God has a plan, and I believe in that plan. I'll be better because of this.' That's the type of mentality that we are trying to build with these kids. No matter what circumstance is happening in your life, you get to choose your attitude and how you are going to move on from it. He's got the right attitude, and he will be back."