Nelson Jr., Armstrong ready to lead USM secondary

Nelson Jr., Armstrong ready to lead USM secondary
Bryant Bowen was the hero on this night with his walk-off single, giving the Golden Eagles a 9-8 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo source: USM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - With a name like Picasso, one probably would think Picasso Nelson Jr. is gifted with a paint brush and canvas.

But in this case for The University of Southern Mississippi defensive back, the football field counts as his canvas. The hope is that Nelson Jr. paints the field with big plays in 2016.

Fellow junior defensive back Cornell Armstrong is also looking to make good on his last name.  A strong performance is surely a desire for the young man from Bassfield.

"I'm just hungry, man," Armstrong said Saturday during USM's media day. "I'm ready to get the season kicked off. I'm ready to show that I'm a great player and just want to be a lock down cornerback."

Both Nelson Jr. (Oak Grove High) and Armstrong stepped onto the field in 2014 as true freshman. It has been hard to get them off the field since then, combining for 50 games played.

Much like his secondary counterpart, Nelson Jr. had a confident aura during media day as well. But with a new defensive staff, led by coordinator Tony Pecoraro, he said there is still much to learn.

"The adjustment has definitely been a learning curve," Nelson Jr. said. "We've learned a totally new defense. Different schemes. Right now we're in camp. We're basically in like grind mode. We're just trying to learn what we can learn."

Nelson made 10 starts in 2015, collecting 59 tackles, good for third on the team. He added five pass breakups and five deflections.

Armstrong made 12 starts, putting up 47 tackles along with two interceptions, 10 break ups and 12 deflections.

The loss of defensive back Kalan Reed, who led team with four picks, now in camp with the Tennessee Titans, certainly leaves big shoes to fill.

Both Nelson Jr. and Armstrong feel the defense as a collective is ready to step up. They added that one can expect more aggression and an aim to make plays.

"The biggest change, I feel like our defense will be more aggressive and we'll definitely create more turnovers," Nelson Jr. said.

Armstrong said, "Everybody wants it. Everybody has the right mindset. To win games and get shut outs. All of that."