Are you a leader or a follower? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this question…For the sake of this post let’s assume that I’m a follower. So, I’ll join my fellow media hacks and write a prediction piece. Here are my best guesses on what happens in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Turnover margin will determine the game’s winner
– QB Stephen Johnson has not registered a turnover in fall camp, 11-on-11 scrimmage action. Ball security has been priority one for Eddie Gran’s offense. The chances for a Wildcat victory is high if it doesn’t continue last season’s trend of self-inflicting adversity through turnovers.
– Kentucky and Southern Miss finished 2016 tied at 123rd in the nation for most lost fumbles. UK coughed up the football 23 times, lost 16. USM lost 16 fumbles after putting it on the turf on 28 occasions. Furthermore, the Golden Eagles produced an extremely low number of turnovers a year ago by recording just 5 forced fumbles and 10 interceptions. Something’s gotta give here.
– Rain could possibly support this prognostication if the leftovers of a pending storm remain in the Gulf Coast area. Mark Stoops and Jay Hopson will join Nick Saban in closely monitoring the Weather Channel next week.
T’Rod Daniels and Sihiem King will shock and awe
– T’Rod Daniels is Really, Really Fast. He’ll be playing in his first game action for the Golden Eagles and has impressed during fall camp. He recently had a 99-yard touchdown reception in a scrimmage.
– Sihiem King is also fast and has solidified his spot as Benny Snell’s primary backup. USM frequents the run/pass blitz which is intended to force “Havoc.” This can lead to a plethora of one-on-one, open-field matchups. King could pop one next Saturday.
A newcomer’s star will shine
– There will be four rookie receivers on the field: Josh Ali, Clevan Thomas, Isaiah Epps, and Lynn Bowden. Throw in running back AJ Rose and the odds are in my favor for this to become a reality.
– Bowden and Rose may be included in Eddie Gran’s “Wildcat” package. Bowden might also return kicks and punts.
– OLB Josh Paschal, DL Phil Hoskins, and NT Quinten Bohanna will factor in the front seven. All three have received positive reviews during fall camp. Offensive tackle Naasir Watkins may see action in his first game as well.
– USM QB Kwadra Griggs, RB T’Rod Daniels and WR Quez Watkins are three names to be familiar with when scouting the Wildcat’s week one opponent. You can read about Daniels in the above link. Watkins is a redshirt freshman that has wowed coaches and fellow players alike. Griggs missed practice time with an injured finger but still appears to be the team’s starter. If not, Keon Howard will lead Shannon Dawson’s offense.
UK will total three or more QB sacks
– Southern Miss will be breaking in three new offensive line starters and will be forced to rely upon up to three true freshmen in its two-deep lineup. Kentucky’s defensive strengths lie within its edge pass rushers: Josh Allen, Denzil Ware, Josh Paschal, and Boogie Watson. Safety/Nickel Mike Edwards could join the action from the secondary as well as inside linebacker Jordan Jones.
– Cat coaches will jump up and down if a QB sack originates from the defensive line. DE TJ Carter is coming off a promising Taxslayer Bowl and will be matched up against a fellow first-time starter. DT Adrian Middleton has enjoyed a strong offseason.
Mark Stoops will strain the new coach-on-field rule
– This will not come as a surprise and will be fun to watch. The head Wildcat has been known to be colorful on game day. “Get-back” coaches will have their hands full.
Stay tuned for a ton of scouting information. We’ll do our best to have you ready for kickoff.