Wealth Of Experience

Wealth Of Experience

Southern Miss has started the final week of practice leading up to the Spring Game this Saturday. With a wealth of experience, the running backs have picked up the offense well and are ready to have a big year as a group. We talked with Coach Buckley after practice today, and he gave us some insight into the battle at the running back position.

With some really solid recruiting classes from Fedora and his staff, there is plenty of talent at running back for Southern Miss this season. The good news is, they can throw several different types of backs into the mix, and all should contribute to the offense this season. As they found out last season, you can never have enough backs in an offense like this.

Coach Buckley is pleased with the progress to this point.

"I really am pleased with where they are right now," he said. "We've got some backs with some experience, and because of that you know you feel like you've got plenty of depth at that position. We have backs that are each able to contribute in their own way."

He went on to talk about each of the backs and where they are at this point.

"You've got Desmond Johnson who has been a starter before and the strange thing about it is that all of them have been as well," he said. "Desmond is a complete guy. He does everything well. He protects the passer well, he runs inside and outside and he can catch the ball well out of the backfield."

"Hardy is about 230 right now, and we are going to get him to drop about 10-12 this summer," he added. "He had a really good day today. He has not turned it loose yet because of his shoulder, but today he really put everything together and had a good practice. Once he gets confident again he'll be really hard to handle.

"Jeremy Hester if he had the size of some of these other guys, there is no telling how good he could be. He is a complete back also. He is 175, but he can do the job inside and if he gets the corner he can go all the way."

There is also a surprise who has shown the coaching staff that he can come in and contribute.

"We've moved over Reggie Hunt," he said. "Probably the fastest kid on the football team. He's shown the ability to run the ball and even be able to run inside as well. He's been real good for us especially lately."

"Bruce Johnson is a kid who has been a great special teams player here for a long time," he said. "He is also a deep snapper, and he is a fullback and iso guy. We'll see him in short yardage plays, goal lines, and just when we need some toughness up the middle."

The offensive scheme is similar, but there are some differences that are just enough to make the players really have to work hard to pick them up effectively.

"Really it is a different scheme," he said. "There are similar formations that you've seen over the last 4 years. You'll see 3, 4, and 5 wide, and sometimes we'll motion out of the backfield. Everyone has really done a nice job of picking things up. We've only had two missed assignments out of three scrimmages, and that is a very good plus. At the same time, we've got some work to do as far as completing what we are trying to do.

"I want us to improve our vertical thrust in the running game. It takes time; you can't just snap your finger and make it happen. They have to understand what that vertical punch is about."

Has Tracey Lampley seen any time in the backfield?

"He's not seen any to this point, but I am sure we'll use him there at some point just to get the ball in his hands more. We might have something for him by the end of the week, but we'll use him there a little when we can."

Pass protection is going to be a key for the running backs, especially with the youth of the QB's this season.

"They have thrown the ball so much over the past few years, that they have really grown there and are coming on as far as that goes," he said. "They feel comfortable with that aspect. We like to use two backs at times to give us a max protect, and our QB's had a good day because the backs really picked up the blitzes well today."

"Austin got the ball out of his hands so fast, and that is something these QB's have to work at. As we evolve to that we'll get better, but the backs are doing a much better job of that."

Shifting gears, I had to ask Coach about recruiting. He's was instrumental in closing out the 2012 class, and his connections to the area are already paying dividends in drawing the interest of local players.

"I think a lot of recruiting is knowing where you are going and knowing people and programs," he said. "That is a priority for us. We are not just going to sign a kid because he is from Mississippi. We are going to go after the best, and not be afraid of that. We are excited about the kids we've signed and I think they are going to make a difference in the program."

Coach Buckley is making another appearance at Southern Miss, and he couldn't be happier with where he is now.

"I've been here and I know the kind of tradition that this place has," he said. "I am thankful for this program, what it has stood for, and what it can be. Southern Miss kids are different than any other in the nation. This University always gets a lot out of its program that other programs don't, and it starts with getting the right players here. We are going to continue that."

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