It’s remarkable that Southern Miss was able to win three games last season. Thanks in large part to their defensive, the majority of which are on the list of top 10 returning players, Southern Miss may have a shot in 2022. Led by their stacked secondary, the Golden Eagles also return a pair of offensive playmakers in Frank Gore Jr. and Jason Brownlee.
Top 10 returning players at Southern Miss
The countdown to the regular season continues here during Pro Football Network’s top 10 returning players series. We’ve crossed the country to the Sun Belt and have firmly entrenched ourselves across the southeastern portion of the country with our look into each FBS team.
Looking only at players returning to their same team from a season ago — we’ll deal with transfers later — we’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team. Here are the top returners from Southern Miss.
10) Camron Harrell, STAR
Handling the STAR role at Southern Miss, Camron Harrell finished with four pass breakups last season. Harrell moves well in space, and receivers have trouble finding open lanes underneath due to his presence. He’s also active in run defense, but his best abilities are in coverage, where he really took a turn for the better as the season went on.
9) Jay Stanley, CB
Anchoring what could be one of the top secondaries in the Sun Belt, Jay Stanley joins the list of top returning players. He’s a ballhawk who tied for the team lead in interceptions a season ago. Stanley is a terrific athlete and has a great burst to the football. The former Ole Miss transfer broke out late last year and could be in line for a big move up these rankings following another year like the one he had in 2021.
8) Malik Shorts, S
Leading the team in tackles last season, Malik Shorts was a true safety for Southern Miss in 2021. He was the last line of defense. Shorts played that role very well last year and kept the Golden Eagles in games. He tied for the team lead with two interceptions but was also incredibly active on the back end in other ways. He ripped through for seven pass breakups in addition to his interceptions as he played the center field role in Southern Miss’ defense.
7) Hayes Maple, LB
With terrific instincts, Hayes Maple blew up rushing attacks and ran the alley incredibly well in 2021. This wasn’t his first season doing such a thing — it marked the second year in a row that Maple contributed heavily in every facet for Southern Miss. Maple is a technically-sound tackling machine who presents upside in coverage and run defense. There isn’t much Maple doesn’t do at a high level.
6) Eric Scott Jr., CB
As opposing offenses started looking away from Eric Scott’s counterpart, Scott’s production increased. He recorded two interceptions on the season, both of which came within the final five games. Scott showcased why quarterbacks shouldn’t throw his way either. He’s Southern Miss’ biggest corner at 6’2″ and 202 pounds, and he plays to that size with his terrific speed and burst.
5) Sentrell Latham, LB
With a knack for finding the football, Sentrell Latham forced two fumbles, recorded multiple forced incompletions, and chipped in with seven tackles for loss. He’s a cruise missile toward the football and possesses excellent form. With great size at 6’2″ and 225 pounds, Latham is a tough ask for most linemen to block in space. His size breeds good strength, but it’s his instincts that you’ll immediately notice when flipping on the tape.
4) Josh Carr Jr., JACK
Josh Carr Jr. led the team in sacks last season, recording 4 1/2 sacks for a total of 37 lost yards for the opposing offense. He got home with pressure often, beating tackles left and right. Carr also showed he could drop into coverage underneath, making matters even more concerning for opposing offenses.
He was a formidable foe in all facets, recording an interception and multiple plays on the ball. All-around talents like this are rare, and Carr is one of the more intriguing players to watch anywhere in the nation.
3) Natrone Brooks, CB
One of the reasons the Golden Eagles were able to win games last season was because teams couldn’t throw on them very well. When opponents did throw, Natrone Brooks was to be avoided, as he recorded a team-high eight pass breakups last year.
Quarterbacks started looking the other way as Brooks consistently limited receivers in his coverage. You won’t hear Brooks’ name often called in 2022, but that’s not his fault. It’s because he’ll get the Ahmad Gardner treatment where offenses throw away from him this fall.
2) Frank Gore Jr., RB
The son of an all-time NFL great, Frank Gore Jr. was asked to do a ton last season. His presence in the backfield spurred the notion of running a Wildcat-only offense down the stretch. Gore could throw the ball with enough precision that open rushing lanes started to open up, and he dominated.
On the season, Gore finished with 801 rushing yards and five scores on the ground, with another 189 passing yards and four more touchdowns through the air. However, getting him the ball on the ground is the way to success in 2022.
1) Jason Brownlee, WR
Somehow, despite the quarterback dilemma from last year, Jason Brownlee put up an impressive résumé on film. He recorded 643 of Southern Miss’ 1,746 receiving yards and eight of the team’s 14 receiving touchdowns.
Brownlee was the No. 1 target on offense — defenses knew it, and it didn’t matter. He runs crisp routes and has the speed to burn anyone off the line. Plus, his ability to naturally separate with his size (6’3″) and his elusiveness along his route breaks and after the catch separates him from anyone else in the country.
Honorable mention players returning to Southern Miss in 2022
- Swayze Bozeman, LB
- Lakevias Daniel, CB
- Jakarius Caston, WR
- Demarcus Jones, WR
- Gerquan Scott, OG
- Averie Habas, LB