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Southern Miss Signs Sun Belt’s Top Recruiting Class, Fueling Optimism for a Strong 2024 Season

Southern+Miss+Signs+Sun+Belts+Top+Recruiting+Class%2C+Fueling+Optimism+for+a+Strong+2024+Season
Jackson Kennedy

Despite a 3-9 season, Southern Miss signed the Sun Belt’s top recruiting class per 247 Sports on National Signing Day. The big day for USM generates momentum into the offseason that seemed non-existent by not playing for a bowl and ending the season with a loss.

A complete list of the signees who signed their LOI (Letters of intent) can be found here.

“To be able to sign a class like this again, under the circumstances we were under, just speaks volumes of our coaching staff and also how we built this place up.” Southern Miss head coach Will Hall said.

Now Southern Miss, heading into next season, looks extremely promising, given all the returning talent they will have on the roster, not to mention this recruiting class they have coming in right behind them.

Here are three big takeaways from today’s major step in the construction of the entire 2024 recruiting class:

  1. QB room gets a lot more interesting with the addition of John White.

The QB room just got bigger with the addition of John White from Madison-Ridgeland Academy. The six-foot, 200-pound freshman holds the Mississippi high school all-time passing yards record with 15,259 passing yards, 177 total touchdowns, and a 70.2% completion percentage.

Adding White to the room with Ethan Crawford, Billy Wiles and Holman Edwards already in the QB room proves to be yet another significant quarterback competition going all the way into the fall. Surely, USM might lose one or two of those players to the portal if and when Hall decides to go with a QB to lead the team, but all five have a decent shot at starting next season for Southern Miss.

“Getting John White in here, he’s a mid-year enrollee at quarterback is obviously huge,” Hall said. “When you add him and Ethan Crawford together, you’re talking about two young guys that are unbelievably highly rated recruits that every group of five and America wanted.”

USM did not only add talent in the QB room, but the Golden Eagles also got a massive lift in their offensive line room.

  1. Southern Miss’s future offensive constructed in critical areas for Chip Long

The Golden Eagles picked up five offensive line commitments, including two transfers.

Hastings Carruth and Zack Conti highlight the offensive line recruits. Carruth is a 6-6, 300-pound workforce coming from Southwest Mississippi Community College. Carruth first went to Mississippi State in 2022, then last year spent the season starting at SMCC and looks to be a starter on the 2024 Southern Miss offensive line. He has three years left at college but brings in some experience, having already played in college for two years.

Conti, the 6-6 325-pound lineman from Eastern Michigan, has one year left but has tremendous experience with the Eagles. He earned a starting position last season and a scholarship with the Eagles.

“From the moment I got here, we talked about, you know, o-line is a developmental position, and y’all know we have signed highly recruited o-linemen in our first two classes,” Hall said. “We’ve been able to redshirt for the most part and develop and grow and those young guys man in that room can really play. But we are young there. We felt like we did need to get a little bit older.”

Next for the offense, the tight end room got a huge boost by adding Reed Jesiolowski. He is listed at 6-3, 200 pounds, but Hall says they can add more. He is a freshman from Hartfield Academy who looks to be a dynamic force for the offense.

“He will eventually grow into that 230 to 235 range as he matures into a man,” Hall said. “He will start off in more of a skilled tight role as a tight end and progressed to being a complete tight end and we think he can be a group of five Brock Bowers; we really do. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

With the additions of several wide receivers in the class, headed by TK Keyes out of Taylorsville High School, Long will have many weapons that he can craft into one of the better offenses, not just in the Sun Belt but in the group of five.

“You know, Chip is coming in and we have we want to be more explosive,” Hall said. “We also want to create more loose plays on the perimeter. And I know that Chip is excited about our talent and what we can do with it moving forward.”

  1. The defensive line is in good shape for whoever the new DL coach is.

Hall announced that they had decided on who would be Southern Miss’s defensive line coach in 2024 but wanted to wait to announce it in respect of the program that this individual is coaching. One would assume this prospect is coaching an eligible bowl team, prepping for a bowl game.

Hall called his program “DLU of the group of five,” he is not wrong in making that claim. With four spectacular additions to the already heavily stacked defensive line, this team will be hard to win in the trenches against for years to come.

With the additions today of five new defensive linemen, Mi,les Adams, Zay Lowery, Caleb Moore, Jalen Owens, and Aaron Travis, all spectacular in their respective high schools, this room is stacked. Not to mention the additions of Jameer Lewis and Ryan Johnson off the edge.

“I don’t see how you’d sign a better group of five D-line class,” Hall said. “Several of them are mid-year enrollees. And then to add Jameer Lewis and Ryan Johnson off the edge, because we’re going to a four-man front defensive scheme which I love. It’s what I’ve done in my past when we were so successful at my other stops,”

Now, just how ready those guys will be in August of 2024 remains to be seen, with some of them dealing with a few injuries, but Hall also touted his defensive line that is coming back with the new additions.

Defensively, USM is in great shape.

  1. The secondary picked up some much-needed depth.

In 2023, one of the major problems was the injury bugs in the secondary. Today, Hall signed five new additional defensive backs in the room. All five of them can play immediately at Southern Miss, including the guys they should get back from injury next season.

Will James is a transfer from Mississippi State, continuing the pattern of having a player from one of the SEC schools in the state in the secondary. Last year, a couple were back there, MJ: Daniels and Dylan Lawrence.

Three of the five defensive back signees are transfers. Adding not only depth but much-needed experience.

“We had to sign some midyear enrollees to be able to have competition in the spring,” Hall said. “And then you look at in the summer when all these injured guys are back and are cleared in the summer. We’re going to be super deep and super competitive once the summer hits,”

He went on to say:

“And y’all know we finished the year playing well back there. And then we got four guys coming back from seasoning and injuries in the summer, so we’ll be extremely deep right there.”

The complete list of mid-year enrollees are as follows:

John White

Caleb Moore

Jalen Owens

Jalen Washington

Damion Miller

Hall said that Zay Lowery is “planning to be” but has not finalized it yet.

At the end of the day, Southern Miss signed a top-tier class that Hall and company should be celebrating. Now, it is time to go and put that product on the field, and Hall understands this.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but I’m proud of what we’ve done from a foundational standpoint,” Hall said.

“But we’ve got to win. We know that and it’s time to do that.”

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    Ryan | Dec 20, 2023 at 9:35 pm

    Hall better win immediately next season. The fan base and alumni are not sold by his big talk and good memory of high schools and their coaches anymore. His new car shine is gone and it is time to see if he can get down the highway. Or Will he continue to be road kill.

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