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Prospects on the Rise

Hunt Mercier
Players scrimmage against one another at practice on August 20, 2015

Southern Miss signees who will make an impact

Through the first two years of the Monken era, Southern Miss has won a total of four games. However, this has not stopped Southern Miss from recruiting well. This past recruiting period, USM recruited 11 junior college and FBS graduate transfer players. That sense of immediate help will propel the Golden Eagles to the next level.

For the signing period, Southern Miss made a valiant effort to address several needs on the roster for their depth along the defensive line and the offensive line. They also secured several commitments to fill out the holes in the defensive backfield.

Monken secured commitments from players who can step in and play immediately. Twenty players on the roster came from the JUCO ranks, all hoping to secure playing time; but, only a certain number will get on the field consistently.

Julian Allen, TE

Allen comes to Southern Miss as one of only two tight ends on the roster. Allen last played at Lackawanna College where he racked up 14 receptions for 191 yards and four touchdowns in the two years he played at Lackawanna.

Allen will be competing for playing time with fellow signee Taylor Marini. In the spring, Marini held the edge, but Allen has worked in with the first team as well in fall camp. Allen will have to showcase his athleticism and reliable hands to uplift that position group, as he is a vital cog to the Golden Eagle offense.

Allen held offers from Central Arkansas, Buffalo, Akron and Florida Atlantic. He also visited Mississippi State and was visited by Ohio State.

D’Nerius Antoine, DB

D’Nerius Antoine played at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, as a safety. He was a First-Team National Junior College All-American as he recorded 69 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and eight broken passes. When Antoine came to Southern Miss, he made the transition to linebacker, proving some challenges. After seeing the depth at linebacker on the team, Antoine was moved back to his natural position at safety.

Watching Antoine on the field, one would see why the coaches are very excited about the 231-pound safety from New Iberia, Louisiana. Antoine is usually the fastest one to the ball and is big enough to withstand a collision. During the spring, Antoine played with the first-team defense on every down and rarely took a break.

Antoine held offers from Oklahoma State, Troy and South Alabama before committing to the Golden Eagles.

Taylor Marini, TE

Taylor Marini comes to Southern Miss after spending one year at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Fulton, Mississippi. Marini saw action at both tight end and halfback, grabbing nine receptions for 96 yards in his lone season at Copiah-Lincoln.

With Marini on the roster, the Golden Eagle offense becomes that much more versatile by having a target that can catch and block. Last year, there were no tight ends on the roster, which opens up playing time for Marini right out of the gate. A short-to-intermediate target for the Golden Eagles, he will open up the field in ways that traditional receivers cannot.

Marini was originally a member of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln in 2014. Marini redshirted for the Scarlet Knights in the ’13-’14 season.

Ricky Parks, DL

Parks, who is also the brother of RB Tez Parks, is no stranger to Division I football, having two separate stints with Auburn. He was later dismissed after just a year on campus for violating team rules. He was a highly sought-after tight end recruit and was used as an H-Back in the Tiger offense.

Ricky comes from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he made the transition to the defensive line. Parks was the seventh-rated JUCO prospect in the country by, recording 25 tackles and nine sacks in his lone season.

Parks will be able to contribute immediately on the defensive line, filling in at defensive end when his number is called. Parks will be able to fill running lanes in his six-feet, three-inch frame, weighing just under 300 pounds. The pass rush will not be Parks’ main duty, as edge linebackers will fill the stat sheet in that category. With all of the hype of his past accomplishments, Parks will be expected to fill in his role adequately, showcasing his NFL-caliber potential.

Devonta Foster, DB

Foster is also from Coffeyville Community College. As a junior, Foster has two years left on campus to make his mark. At Coffeyville, he played in ten games, tallying 59 tackles on the year. He also added three interceptions and three pass breakups.

Recently named the starting safety opposite Antoine, Foster will have his hands full protecting the back side of Southern Miss’ defense. According to CBS Sports, Southern Miss ranked 102nd nationally in defense in the FBS.

Foster received offers from Arkansas State, Bowling Green, California and Georgia State.

Naim Mustafaa, Bandit

Mustafaa is a football enigma since coming out of Alpharetta, Georgia. Ranked a four-star recruit by ESPN, Mustafaa came into the collegiate ranks with all of the hype in the world. In high school, he was named All-State, All-District, All-Region and All-Metro in Georgia. Rather than play for a Power 5 university, he’s taken his talents to Southern Miss.

As of Aug. 31, Mustafaa is listed as the back-up “bandit” linebacker behind junior Dylan Bradley. Mustafaa arrived in the spring, already becoming the eight-ball in terms of grasping the defense.

In 2013, Mustafaa held offers from Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee and a host of other national powers. Mustafaa committed to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2013, then transferred to Miami. He had to sit out in 2014, due to NCAA transfer rules.

He has an exceptional burst off the edge and could be a force on passing downs.

Justice Hayes, RB

Jalen Richard and Ito Smith are returning Eagle vets, so the running back rotation could be by committee. Even though Smith may get the start in the opening weekend, do not expect Hayes to stay on the sideline for long.

Hayes is a fifth-year transfer coming from Michigan as a graduate transfer. At Michigan, he only had 302 yards on 68 carries. The optimism around Hayes is warranted, but there are the worries surrounding his arrival. Did Michigan not use him enough because he could not burst through the Michigan lineup in four years? Or does he have fresh legs coming down to Hattiesburg? Hayes’ potential will be put into the spotlight this season.

Andrew Bolton, DL

Andrew Bolton comes to Southern Miss after playing in 11 games for Kansas. He finished the year with 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks to his name.

Bolton is able to immediately jump into the defensive line rotation among Parks, Dylan Bradley, Michael Smith and Wil Freeman, among others. The defensive line will be a strength this year, behind the whole defensive line rotation. No matter who starts, Bolton will have an immediate impact on this team.

Bolton is an original Mississippian, hailing from Clinton, just outside of Jackson. His return to Mississippi will be heartwarming, but he will only have one year to prove his worth to his home state.


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Prospects on the Rise