Golden Eagles begin march to season opener with first practice - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Golden Eagles begin march to season opener with first practice

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

A new head coach, new coaching staff, new quarterback and a new day for Southern Miss football began on Friday morning with the team's first practice. Hitting the practice field just after 8:00 am, the Golden Eagles officially began the countdown to Sept. 1 kickoff when they broke huddle with a "1-2-3. Hard work!" chant at midfield.

Scanning over both practice fields, and sporting the same giant, sun-blocking hat he wore at South Carolina, Ellis Johnson didn't like everything he saw. Then again, how much can you see on the first day?

"I guess it went fine. First day is the first day," said the Golden Eagles' first-year head coach, "A lot of mistakes, little things that we got to get ironed out, but that's what it's all about; getting that first one under your belt."

If there was one thing Jamie Collins didn't like, it was the energy to start things. "(We) started off kind of slow, and got to get back used to it," said the senior defensive lineman, "It packed up as practice went along, but we'll come along."

 That's not to say there weren't a few things to like about the first day of practice, which was conducted with only shorts, jerseys and helmets. "I thought the kids were in pretty good condition," said Johnson, "(they) picked up a lot of the new things we did, and we got a lot of repetition."

Very soon, if it hasn't already, the attention will turn toward the depth chart; specifically at the guy under center. Technically, five quarterbacks are still in the running, but redshirt sophomore Arsenio Favor still cannot cut or redirect on his surgically repaired knee and is still listed as day to day.

He may not know who will start after day one, but one thing he does know...it's anybody, and he mean's anybody's, job to win. "The quarterback position is going to be a mad scramble with four guys, five guys fighting for it.

"A freshman could easily win that job."

Other positions of interest will definitely be at linebacker and in the secondary, which Johnson referred to as "thin."  

Over the next few days, before the team dawns pads for the first time Tuesday Aug. 7, the challenge, says Johnson will be solidifying some changes to the playbook, and finding leadership. From an X's and O's standpoint, the Johnson and his coaches have slightly tweaked the running game from the Spring.

"So they're some schemes that the offensive line, running backs and quarterbacks have got to execute, but other than that, it really hasn't been much of an adjustment for them.

"The biggest goal for this team is we got to find some leadership. We've got to get some guys to step up. We've got a very tough first five games. Players are going to be tested. This team's going to get a very severe test. We're probably going to play three teams the first five games better than anybody they played last year, and I think the key to whether we're successful in that run is going to be what kind of leadership we got."

Nebraska awaits the Black and Gold for their season-opening showdown in Lincoln on Sept. 1. In the meantime, the team will practice Saturday morning, then conduct its annual media day around noon.

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