Skip to content
What we learned from Southern Miss at...

What we learned from Southern Miss at 2023 Sun Belt Media Days

By: James Bryan Harrell - July 26, 2023

Southern Miss Head Coach Will Hall at SunBelt Media Days. (Photo from SouthernMissFB Twitter)

Head Coach Will Hall credits the culture of continuity in Hattiesburg for the turnaround happening at Southern Miss. Hopes are high from the Golden Eagles in 2023.

As the college football season continues to ramp up, we are still in the midst of preseason media days across the country.

This week, the Sun Belt Conference is having their media day in New Orleans, Louisiana. Head Coach Will Hall, Safety Jay Stanley, and Tight End Cole Cavallo were the representatives for Southern Miss.

Heading into Hall’s third season, Southern Miss is coming off of their first bowl win since 2016 with a 7-6 record last season.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the Golden Eagles heading into 2023. 

The rebuild is over

To start with some good news for Southern Miss supporters, it seems as if the rebuilding years are over. The team finished with a winning record and bowl win last season, marking a return to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt Conference.

Coach Will Hall took over in 2020 following a 3-7 year. Since then, Hall has established his own culture of winning in Hattiesburg, and now, heading into year three, he will have the most talented roster of his tenure. Part of this is due to the culture of continuity Hall has been building, which he discussed at media days. He said many of the team’s coaches and players are staying in Hattiesburg, allowing the organization to build off of previous successes.  

Specifically, lots of Southern Mississippi’s starters will be returning, including new father and standout Running Back Frank Gore Jr.

The Golden Eagles acquired multiple players in the transfer portal who Hall expects to contribute immediately. Going even further, Hall’s recruiting rankings for next year’s squad have surpassed expectations for Southern Miss.

Hall said it is easy to sell Southern Miss when you can show the culture and vision for the football program. As of now, it seems as if the rebuilding years are over for the Golden Eagles. 

Southern Miss is heading in the right direction, but this year’s schedule is tough

Last year’s 7-6 record may not be where Hall and many USM fans wanted to finish, but the Golden Eagles were just a few plays away from a drastically different season. Four of the team’s six losses were by one possession or less. As Coach Hall and his players mentioned to the media, this is something they have taken pride in, realizing that with a full game of execution, they can turn these losses into wins.

It seems as if the USM team this year has learned from last year’s close losses, and figures to be better prepared to handle the pressure of close games.

Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, this season’s schedule contains many daunting challenges. With non-conference games against Tulane, Florida State, and Mississippi State, it will take near perfect efforts from Southern Miss to come away with wins.

Despite facing the tough schedule, Coach Hall is looking forward to the experience for his players and coaching staff. As he discussed, it will be good to get more attention on the football program, showing what he and his staff have been hard at work building. Hopefully for the Golden Eagles, this exposure will pay off. 

Experience will play a big factor

Experience will be a key factor in Southern Miss continuing to grow in the right direction. Senior Safety Jay Stanley, who appeared at the media day, mentioned that this year’s team seems to be more bought in to building success in Hattiesburg. Tight end Cole Cavallo talked about how success this season comes down to execution. As he said, the margin of error for Southern Miss is low in the Sun Belt, as “every play matters, and execution will help us win ball games.”

Ultimately, with the tough schedule the Golden Eagles face in 2023, it will be up to the players to play to the full potential of their talent week in and week out. 

Luckily, Coach Hall’s roster is not only the best in his tenure but also one of the deepest in the league. Through returning on-field producers and key transfer portal additions, Southern Miss now has the talent up and down the roster to stack up well with anyone in the Sun Belt.

Three Golden Eagles appeared on the preseason All-SBC roster, with Stanley and Gore making the conference first team.

While they finished third in their division last season, the Golden Eagles are aiming higher this season. It will be up to Coach Hall and his retooled roster to make this happen as they reach the top of the league. 

Expect more from the offensive side of the ball

Another positive note from Southern Mississippi’s media day was that the offense looks to be much more productive than last season.

For the last two season, the offensive unit has been plagued by inconsistency at the quarterback position, leading to inconsistent play on the field. However, this offseason, the Golden Eagles landed two transfer quarterbacks. Billy Wiles, a transfer from Clemson, and Holman Edwards, a transfer from Houston. The two will be competing for the job this year in fall camp.

Coach Hall mentioned on Tuesday that the Golden Eagles will pick a starter and roll with them throughout the season as they try to build consistency at the position.

These new additions on the offensive side of the ball are having impacts on the entire team. The competition at the position seems to have elevated the play of the surrounding players, Cavallo mentioned. As Stanley put it, practicing against the new quarterbacks has made the defensive unit work harder, in turn leading to faster development for the new guys.

It seems as if the team is full of talent and leadership, which Southern Miss fans hope will translate into success in 2023.

About the Author(s)
author profile image

James Bryan Harrell

James Bryan Harrell writes about Mississippi sports and culture for Magnolia Tribune. JB is a native of West Point and is a senior at Vanderbilt University, where he is majoring in communications.