Even though Southern Miss was able to sign all 26 of its verbal commitments, the process wasn't all smooth sailing for head coach Larry Fedora and his staff.
"Over the last week, there was a barrage of schools coming back and trying to get commitments," he told the Hattiesburg American. "Until about 11 last night, we were on the phone with kids. A school can jump in there and start telling them things and the kid gets confused."
The Golden Eagles' class has quantity and quality and includes two Rivals four-star and 19 three-star prospects, most in the league. The group was ranked No. 2 in C-USA by Rivals and No. 3 by Scout.com (59th nationally) and included four JUCO transfers.
Fedora said at least seven or eight players drew interest from larger schools late in the process.
"Fortunately, a bunch of these guys jumped in the boat early," he said. "They believed in what we're doing. I think that says a lot about the character of the class."
Now in his third season at Southern Miss, Fedora said other schools target his commitments because of his program's success.
"We're not sneaking up on anybody," he said. "Everybody knows how we recruit and knows we go after the best. They know they can't take Southern Miss lightly."NOTES, QUOTES
--Southern Miss has been to eight consecutive bowl games and 12 in the past 13 years. The other schools with bowl streaks that long include Boise State, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Texas, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
--The Golden Eagles' nonconference schedule in 2010 includes games at South Carolina (Sept. 2), vs. Kansas (Sept. 18 in Hattiesburg) and at Louisiana Tech (Sept. 25).
--QB Dominque Sullivan, Taylorsville, Miss. -- The Mississippi Class 2A Player of the Year passed for 1,997 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 386 yards and five scores in 2009. He earned a three-star rating and was ranked as the state's No. 23 prospect by Rivals.
--WR Steve McNair Jr., Hattiesburg, Miss. -- The son of the late NFL MVP was named the 12th-best player in the state by Scout.com. He caught 61 passes for 709 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 66 times for 311 yards and four scores in 2009, leading Oak Grove High to the 6A state title game.
--DB Furious Bradley, Gulfport, Miss. -- He had three interceptions and 47 tackles for Harrison Central High last season and also rushed for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was a first-team all-state pick by the Clarion Ledger and a Biloxi Sun-Herald Top 30 selection.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not every kid can come to Hattiesburg, so it's a great deal for us. We get to see, teach and evaluate 700 to 800 kids, and I can tell you 90 percent of the kids in our first three signing classes have been to one of those camps." -- Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora to the Memphis Commercial Appeal on the clinics conducted around the state.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 LOOK AHEAD: The Golden Eagles return 12 starters, including eight on defense. The team should put up a lot of points with two capable quarterbacks, explosive RB Tracey Lampley and a 100 percent healthy WR DeAndre Brown, who has 21 TDs in two years and could be an All-America candidate.
SPRING SNAPSHOT: Spring practice starts March 3 in Hattiesburg and concludes with the spring game on April 10. Quarterback Austin Davis returns from his season-ending foot injury, but Southern Miss needs to replace TBs Damion Fletcher and Tory Harrison, who combined for 1,600 rushing yards and 18 TDs.
--RB Damion Fletcher -- He became just the ninth player in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons. He finished his career with 5,302 yards, eighth-most on the all-time rushing list. He moved past Herschel Walker (5,259) and LaDainian Tomlinson (5,263) with a 78-yard effort in the New Orleans Bowl. His 1,009 career carries are a C-USA record.
--OG Ryan Hebert -- The 6-5, 310-pound senior started at right guard for an offense that scored the most points in school history in 2009 and generated 5,413 yards, eclipsing the 5,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season. Southern Miss allowed just 16 sacks in 13 games.
--FS Eddie Hicks -- With five interceptions in 2009, he finished the season as the active C-USA leader with 13 career picks (tied for sixth in Golden Eagles history). He set the school record with an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown against East Carolina in 2006.
--Head coach Larry Fedora said ATH Jamal Woodyard of Fairhope, Ala., was one of the sleepers in his class. He carried 32 times for 384 yards and six TDs against Foley last season. "I think he played in four games before he broke his ankle and had 1,500 yards," Fedora said. "People slowed down on him (but) they were all over him this week. We had to fight like all get-out to hang on to him."
--The Golden Eagles signed six offensive linemen, but did not sign any interior defensive linemen in the 2010 class. "We didn't target any," Fedora said. "We'll carry seven on scholarship and go after two next year."
Previous Report: 12/21/2009