Behind Enemy Lines: The Student Printz’s Makayla Puckett previews Southern Miss

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Behind Enemy Lines: The Student Printz’s Makayla Puckett previews Southern Miss

Photo courtesy of Makayla Puckett

Photo courtesy of Makayla Puckett

Photo courtesy of Makayla Puckett

Photo courtesy of Makayla Puckett

James Ogletree, Sports Editor

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The Crimson White caught up with Makayla Puckett, the sports editor of Southern Miss’ student newspaper, The Student Printz. Here’s all you need to know about Alabama’s fourth opponent of the season.

Editor’s note: Some questions or answers have been edited due to space constraints or for clarity.

Q: We’ve heard a lot about this fearsome Southern Miss passing game. What makes it so good, and who are the main players fans should keep an eye on?

[The] majority of the credit for the Golden Eagles’ successful passing game is owed to quarterback Jack Abraham. The redshirt junior’s stats speak for themselves. A total of 463 passing yards in one game is impressive for any quarterback, but even more so when it surpasses Tua Tagovailoa’s 444 yards the week before the two meet. Abraham has a good head on his shoulders, so I think his performance at Troy will give him just enough confidence going into Bryant-Denny Stadium. His releases are fast and clean, he can read the field well, and his offense respects him as a leader. All of those factors make Abraham a total-package quarterback. As far as receivers go, Jordan Mitchell and Quez Watkins are key to the success of the Southern Miss passing game. Mitchell leads the wide receivers with 295 yards, including two touchdowns. Watkins has only appeared in one game so far this season; however, in that one game, he was responsible for 209 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him Conference-USA offensive player of the week. The issue isn’t whether or not these players can perform; it is whether or not Southern Miss can get them the ball.

Are Alabama fans in for a show when Jaylond Adams touches the ball on a return? How scared should they be?

Adams is fast, there is no doubt about that. If he gets the ball and sees an opening, he is difficult to stop. He has 100 yards and one touchdown from punt returns and 237 yards and two touchdowns from kickoff returns. He also has 257 receiving yards, including one touchdown. Adams is entertaining to watch, especially since he is such a utility player, so you never know what he will do next. Alabama fans are used to seeing talent every time they walk through the gate or sit in front of the TV, so there is no need to be scared. The difference in what they will see on Saturday is seeing this kind of talent from a small C-USA school in south Mississippi.

How can Southern Miss’ defense get pressure on Tua Tagovailoa and keep Alabama’s receivers in check? Who are the big names on defense?

The fixes for the Golden Eagle defense are simple: be fast, be aggressive, make better tackles. Defensive coordinator Tim Billings considers Alabama’s four receivers the best in the NCAA right now and understands the challenge before his squad. Last season, Southern Miss’ defense was ranked third in the country; however, that defense has yet to show up on game day. There are several “big names” to know, but the top three for me would be (defensive back) D.Q. Thomas, (defensive lineman) Jacques Turner and (defensive back) Ty Williams. So far Thomas has led the Golden Eagles with one interception, two sacks and four tackles for loss. Turner has two tackles for loss, and Williams has three tackles for loss as well as two sacks.

What are the keys for Southern Miss to keep this game competitive?

Part of the battle for Southern Miss is preparing mentally. Going into an environment like Bryant-Denny Stadium can be overwhelming. There is a lot of hype and energy going into this game, which often throws the team off. With this much pressure, Southern Miss starts to make careless mistakes such as turnovers, fumbles and missed field goals. I think it is important for the team to stay focused and to be confident. Another way for the Golden Eagles to stay in the game is to play smarter. Film study is important for every game; however, even when facing a top-10 team it is necessary. The ability to anticipate the opponent’s next move or to be creative with play-calling is crucial. Overall Alabama is bigger, faster and stronger than any other team Southern Miss has faced this year, which poses a major challenge.

What is your official score prediction, and why?

I predict a 45-10 Alabama win. While Southern Miss will not go down without a fight, they are no match for the Crimson Tide’s physicality. There will also not be a huge Southern Miss fan base in Tuscaloosa, which I believe plays a factor in the team’s performance. I anticipate an entertaining game with lots of learning moments for the Golden Eagles.