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Plenty of changes at USM

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Aug. 11, 2003
HATTIESBURG Times are a changing for the Southern Miss football team.
Along with the NCAA mandate of new recruits and returning players reporting together and two-a-day workouts not being allowed to be held on consecutive days, the Golden Eagles have experienced plenty of internal changes from last season.
Southern Miss has a new offensive coordinator, is searching for a new running back to fill the gaping hole left by Derrick Nix, plans to use one quarterback this season, has a special teams coordinator who wants to bring back the image of the "Wild Eagles," and the squad needs to replace punter Mark Haulman.
Head coach Jeff Bower said he believes the program struck the right cord in handling the new rule of players reporting together.
The Golden Eagles' first-year players practiced alone in the morning, while returning players attended weight lifting sessions.
In the afternoons, varsity players went through specialty workouts, and first-year players had orientation meetings during the first four days of last week.
The team didn't practice together as one unit until last Friday.
The players also seemed to like the change in set up for practices.
Along with the new start of the season routine, the offense got more acquainted with its new offensive coordinator Rip Scherer.
The 27-year coaching veteran said he did not change a lot of schemes and has produced an amalgam system.
James Walley appears to be the player to take over the role of tailback for the departed Nix, who rushed for 1,230 yards last season before a kidney ailment ended his playing career.
Walley, a junior, rushed for 256 yards last year and gained 74 yards on 21 carriers against Oklahoma State in the Houston Bowl.
Southern Miss running backs coach Shelton Gandy of Waynesboro also has plenty of other backs in his arsenal in junior Tim Blackwell, sophomore Anthony Harris, freshman Wayne Hardy and junior Ryan Earnst.
Gandy will not have the services of fullback Steel Adams. Bower announced that Adams has left the team.
Southern Miss is leaning towards using one quarterback this season.
Bower said Micky D'Angelo, who shared signal calling duties with Dustin Almond last season, has made strides to take over the quarterback role as a solo act.
On special teams, outside linebackers coach Lytrel Pollard has taken over the coordinating duties.
The fourth-year assistant said he wants the Golden Eagles to go back to the days when their special teams unit was a major force.
One major piece that will need to be replaced on the unit is Haulman.
The punter kicked for an average of 41.8 yards, and Luke Johnson of Laurel and Neal Schmidt will be looking to fill the punting role.
The Golden Eagles will begin their season on the road against against California on Aug. 30.
The season opener in Berkeley, Calif., is part of the program's plan to play high profile games and become a major player in Division I football.
Southern Miss will also host Nebraska on Sept. 25 in a game that will be televised on ESPN.