HATTIESBURG, MS - They say that youth will have its day, and for some of the University of Southern Mississippi's untested football players, that day may not be far off.
USM coach Jay Hopson said a number of newcomers have made their presence known quickly and could see playing time in their first seasons with the Golden Eagles
"A lot of them are going to play this year," Hopson said. "That's just the reality."
Hopson said two defensive linemen, early junior college transfer Delmond Landry (Donaldsonville, La.) and true freshman Tajh Sykes (Columbus), "they've had some good days with the newcomers."
In the defensive backfield, freshman signees Tyler Barnes (D'Iberville), WyDale Flott (Saraland, Ala.), Kris Reed (Tallahassee, Fla.) and LaMarque Davis (Arlington, Texas).
Barnes and Flott signed in February as projected safeties, with Reed as a cornerback. Davis was a late addition to the 2017 class, added when Emanuel Dabney (Jackson) opted to play junior college ball closer to his Jackson home.
"They've all done a good job," Hopson said. "That group is coming along nicely."
On offense, freshman signee Marcelo Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) has earned notice at quarterback, while the starting job is being contested between redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs (Greenwood) and sophomore Keon Howard (Laurel).
Junior college transfer T'Rod Daniels (Bassfield) and freshman signee Darius Marberry (Bolton) are getting early reps at running back with redshirt senior George Payne recovering from a hip he injured in the spring.
"Darius had a good (Friday) at running back and I think T'Rod has had an exceptional two days
During the spring, Hopson talked of the progress of true freshman offensive lineman Woodlyson Alcius (Miami, Fla.), who had graduated early and enrolled at USM in January. Last week, he mentioned Alcius again, along with freshman signees Paul Gainer (Gautier) and Bryce Foxworth (Pinellas Park, Fla.).
Hopson also mentioned redshirt freshman guard Arvin Fletcher (Madison), who is running with the starting unit at left guard, and redshirt sophomore Drake Dorbeck (Vicksburg), who is starting at left tackle after the line was shuffled at the start of preseason practice because of an illness to starting center Tyler Stuzman (Smithdale).
"A lot of those young guys, are second-team right now, a lot of those true freshmen are," Hopson said. "Then, you've got guys like Arvin, whose starting right now, and Drake's a redshirt sophomore, but a couple of young guys, who are starting right now.
"I thought Woodlyson was doing a good job, and I think that's carried on. But all those guys, with Paul and Bryce and probably a couple other guys I'm forgetting, I think that's a good group of young linemen for sure."
At receiver, Hopson said he's been impressed with a crop of new faces, including freshman signees Jaylond Adams (Adamsville, Ala.), Bubba Fludd (Okeechobee, Fla.) and Tim Jones (Biloxi) and junior college transfer Trevor Terry (Long Beach). Hopson also included redshirt sophomore Jordan Mitchell (Hattiesburg), who was injured in 2016.
"Jaylond Adams has maybe had the best camp of anybody and he's a young guy," Hopson said. "Tim's doing a good job out wide and Trevor is continuing from the spring and we've got Jordan back.
"I've said this earlier with that receiving corps and running back corps, with guys like Jaylond and T'Rod and Bubba, there's much more top to bottom speed there."
USM will continue with preseason practice, with single sessions scheduled Monday through Saturday.
The Golden Eagles kick off the 2017 season at 3 p.m. Sept. 2 against the University of Kentucky at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.