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Local linemen hold key for USM

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
April 15, 2002
HATTIESBURG For Southern Mississippi to have success in the 2002 football campaign, the Golden Eagles will need a big contribution from the offensive line.
Anchoring the unit will be two players from the Meridian Star's coverage area in right guard Torrin Tucker of Meridian and center Jim Hicks of Philadelphia.
Both started last season and helped the Golden Eagles to a 6-5 season. On Saturday afternoon before 4,500 USM fans at M.M. Roberts Stadium, Tucker and Hicks were side-by-side leading the Black team to a 14-7 win over the Golds.
Tucker, a 6-foot-3, 316-pound rising senior from Southeast Lauderdale, says the Golden Eagles have the talent necessary to win the Conference-USA title this fall.
One of the big mysteries this spring was the quarterback situation where a replacement is needed to be found for departing three-year starter Jeff Kelly.
Long Beach product Micky D'Angelo had a fine day passing the ball going 8-for-10 for 154 yards and led the Blacks to their second touchdown. Zac White threw for 165 yards on 14 completions while getting snaps for the Blacks in the first half and the Golds in the second. Dustin Almond started for the Golds but was hampered by a strong Black pass rush.
Tucker says the Golden Eagle offense can be good with any one of the three as the starter.
USM head coach Jeff Bower said he wants Tucker to play more to his potential.
The veteran Golden Eagle coach did praise the efforts of Hicks, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound rising junior who played at Philadelphia High School.
Tucker enjoys having Hicks by his side at center.
Besides the two big linemen, the Golden Eagles have three players with ties to East Mississippi Community College.
One is a red-shirt kicker from Meridian in Jacob Matlock. The junior kicker prepped at Clarkdale High School. He is currently listed tied for second on the USM depth chart.
The other two former Lions are defensive ends Carlos Crusoe and Rayshun Jones.
Jones was projected to be a starter last season and played in couple of games before suffering an arm injury. He played for the Golds.
Crusoe is something of portrait of courage. The Columbus red-shirt senior is trying to come back from a devastating leg injury.
USM will open the 2002 season under the rarest of occasions the Golden Eagles will have three straight home games.
The opener is set for Aug. 31 against Jackson State. Defending Big-10 champion Illinois visits on Sept. 7. Then on Sept. 14, USM opens C-USA play against Memphis.