HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After a week without a football game, the University of Southern Mississippi may be getting some of their walking wounded back as the Golden Eagles prepare to open Conference USA play Saturday with a visit from the University of North Texas.
But USM will be down an assistant football coach.
USM coach Jay Hopson confirmed Monday that running backs coach Lytrel Pollard was "not with us right now."
It had been reported that Pollard was taking an indefinite leave of absence for undisclosed health concerns. Monday, Hopson declined to provide any details on Pollard's absence, including any timeline for the long-time USM fixture's return.
"I'm not going to comment on any of that," Hopson said during his weekly news conference.
Pollard, a former standout linebacker from 1994-97 for the Golden Eagles from Stringer High School, is in his second go-round as a Golden Eagles' assistant under his third head coach.
Pollard started as graduate assistant in 1999 before being promoted to a full-time position in 2000 on the staff of the man he played for, Coach Jeff Bower.
From 2000-04, Pollard coached USM's linebackers before adding special teams' duties in 2005. From 2006-07, he oversaw the Golden Eagles' secondary and special teams.
Pollard spent the next two seasons at the University of Memphis (cornerbacks, 2008-09), then had single-season stints at Mississippi College (defensive coordinator, 2010), University of Tennessee-Martin (defensive coordinator, 2011) and Marshall University (cornerbacks, 2012) before returning to Hattiesburg to coach cornerbacks on the staff of Coach Todd Monken from 2013-15.
Pollard has spent the past two seasons coaching running backs on Hopson's staff. His son, Ty Pollard, is the Golden Eagles' starting right tackle.
Hopson said that he felt optimistic that some injured Golden Eagles might be available to play when the Golden Eagles (2-1) host the Mean Green (2-2, 1-0 C-USA) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Among those Hopson said he hoped to have on hand were senior tight end Julian Allen, junior running back Tez Parks and junior nose tackle Delmond Landry.
"I'm hoping we're going to get about three or four back," Hopson said. "Right now, I think we'll get some them back to practice this week, let 'em go and see how they feel. I'm optimistic on three or four guys.
"I think there's an excellent chance we might be getting Tez, Julian, Delmond and some of those guys back. Again, we'll just have to see how it goes (Monday) night and Tuesday. We're hoping to get guys back and the break did kind of hit us at a good time just because we were pretty banged up. So, I'm think we'll get four or five guys back."
Two injured players might be done for the season: senior safety Picasso Nelson Jr. and senior running back George Payne.
Neither has played in USM's first three games.
"I would say probably so," Hopson said. "I hate saying it officially, but Picasso probably is for sure. I don't know about George yet. There's a good chance of that."
USM's players of the week for USM's 28-17 victory at the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 16, include:
Offense: Senior running back Ito Smith, who turned in the first, 200-yard rushing game of his career. Smith ran for 219 yards on 27 carries, averaging 8.1 yards a carry. Smith ranks third among C-USA rushers, averaging 111 yards rushing a game.
Defense: Senior linebacker Sherrod Ruff, who had four tackles, including two tackles for loss, and broke up a pair of passes.
Special teams: Freshman kickoff specialist Briggs Bourgeois, who put four of his fiev kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.