October 3, 2013
Southern Miss Backups Thrust In To Starting Roles
Southern Miss has played eleven true freshmen already this season and a host of backups who have been thrust into a starting role due to injuries. You could almost call this team the The Replacements, although I don't expect to see Keanu Reaves walk through the door any time soon.
One of the many players who's been forced to step up for the Golden Eagles has been linebacker Terrick Wright, who is finally getting acclimated to playing a majority of snaps after Dylan Reda went down with an unknown injury. Wright has made his presence known early this season and has impressed the coaching staff with his maturity and commitment.
"He's done real well. He's a good football player. He spent the off-season and put on weight (and) got a lot stronger," head coach Todd Monken said. "I see a difference just in terms of his commitment, his body language, his energy toward football. "
The redshirt sophomore from Gadsden, Ala. played in all 12 games last season but has already started more games in 2013 than he had in his entire career in Hattiesburg. Wright's attacking style of play has already paid dividends, as he is averaging 8 tackles a game and is third on the team in total tackles with 21.
Things didn't start out great for him early on but the more experience he's gotten, the better he has become. It's helped that he's had great linebackers like Reda and Alan Howze help coach him through his first consecutive starts.
"Every time I get on the field, every extra play it just starts to get easier and the plays start to slow down," Wright said. "Dylan has been giving me excellent encouragement just telling me what he sees when he's on the sidelines and Alan Howze has guided me on the way because he's an excellent player."
Wright hasn't been the only one pushed into the spotlight. There have been many others -- most notably defensive lineman Adam Williams, who is tasked with replacing pre-season All Conference USA defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Williams was sidelined for a short time due to an ankle injury but he is back and "playable" for Saturday's game with FIU. When discussing how difficult it is to jump in for such a talented player, Williams takes on a "next man up' mentality that has come to define USM's season.
"Rakeem's a good player but we all practice the same. It's been kind of on and off because I hurt my ankle so we've kind of been rotating," he said. "It's been good though. The rotation is still the same. We believe in the younger guys (and) we believe in the older guys."
As Southern Miss prepares for its first home game in over a month against one of the worst teams in college football, it would be easy to say the team has lost a lot of its hope for this season. But that wouldn't be true. Every player in the lineup is hungry for that first win, especially guys like Terrick Wright and Adam Williams - both of whom did not play the last time USM won a game. The so-called replacements are longing to replace something even more important than their predecessors.
They're trying to replace a zero in the win column.
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