USM running back Ito Smith a veteran in 2017

USM running back Ito Smith a veteran in 2017

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It's tough to write about Southern Miss football without mentioning Ito Smith's name.

After last season's 1,459 rushing yards, Smith is honing in on Damion Fletcher's school record 5,302 career rushing yards - 2,179 yards away entering his senior season.

With the youth on offense in 2017, Smith becomes even more of an X-factor for the Golden Eagles. USM replaces its all-time leading passer Nick Mullens, as quarterbacks Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs continue to battle for the starting job. Three starting offensive lineman are gone from 2016's club.

Senior Devin Farrior - who replaces current New Orleans Saint Cameron Tom at center - realizes how vital a veteran back like Smith will prove to be for Southern Miss.

"[Smith] definitely makes things easier," said Farrior, a Wayne County grad. "He'll press the O-line and then he'll cut and it just makes things really easier. And then also having a dual-threat quarterback, that makes it easier on the O-line - pass blocking and run blocking - because it keeps the defense true and honest."