WDAM All-Star: USM linebacker Racheem Boothe

WDAM All-Star: USM linebacker Racheem Boothe

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Racheem Boothe sat and watched the Golden Eagles from the sidelines in 2016.

The extra time paid off as the freshman linebacker has proved to be a major key for the Southern Miss defense this season.

"Racheem's special," said USM senior defensive back Jomez Applewhite. "He started coming into his own last year during his redshirt year. Racheem's going to be very special."

Fellow Bassfield alum Applewhite saw Boothe's potential back when the two wore Yellowjacket uniforms. However, Boothe's impact for Southern Miss arrived earlier than expected.

The freshman linebacker ranks second on the team with 70 tackles and first in hits on the quarterback. Boothe is making up for lost time during his 2016 redshirt season.

"It's been feeling great," Boothe said. "Not playing for a whole year, sitting out, I knew that coming back it'd be very exciting for me. Last year, it was a big learning process. It was my first year here, so I had to get to know the system, learn all the plays and everything like that. It was just a big learning stage. Sit back, sitting with the older guys, learning some of their techniques that'll help me in the future."

Whatever Boothe saw from the sidelines last year has helped the Golden Eagles field a top 20 defense in 2017. Boothe's 8.5 tackles for loss is a reason USM ranks top 10 in that category.

It's hard to ignore that Boothe is a big reason the "Nasty Bunch" is so nasty this season.

"I think the difference is more speed," Boothe said. "We have a team full of speed. Everybody can run, [defensive] line to the secondary.There's just a bunch of speed on the whole defense."