Seven Golden Eagles named to Athlon Sports Preseason C-USA Teams
Staggers receives honors for wide receiver and punt returner spots
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The preseason football speculation is underway for the 2017 season, and Southern Miss landed seven of its players (covering eight positions) on Athlon Sports' preseason All-Conference USA squads.
Running back Ito Smith (Mobile, Ala.) and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers (Woodville, Miss.) made the first-team, with Staggers also claiming a fourth-team spot at punt returner. Smith is a two-time All-Conference USA performer and will enter his senior season No. 3 on Southern Miss' all-time, all-purpose yards leaderboard (4,629). His eight, 100-yard rushing games last year tied for the most in the conference, kicked off by his 173-yard game in the season-opening win at Kentucky.
Staggers posted a team-best 1,165 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his first season in Hattiesburg. The senior by way of East Mississippi CC shattered Southern Miss' single-game receiving record with 292 yards on just six catches against Rice on Oct. 1. He capped the year with a 230-yard performance that broke the New Orleans Bowl and Golden Eagle bowl records on 11 receptions. Staggers also posted a 75-yard punt return touchdown in his home debut.
Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen (Hebron, Miss.) earned second-team nods after finishing No. 3 in C-USA for forced fumbles (three) and No. 5 in tackles for loss (13 1/2). His four TFL against Troy were the most by a Golden Eagle since Jamie Collins in 2012. The senior also blocked a punt on the first defensive series of the year.
Third-team honorees include senior defensive backs Cornell Armstrong (Bassfield, Miss.) and Picasso Nelson Jr. (Mendenhall, Miss.), redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Ty Pollard (Hattiesburg, Miss.) and redshirt-junior kicker Parker Shaunfield (Aledo, Texas). Armstrong started all 13 games last year and had 35 solo tackles, second on the team, with an interception against Louisiana Tech. Nelson was third on the squad with 48 tackles and also had a pair of pickoffs in the win over LA Tech.
Pollard was a regular starter on the line who helped Southern Miss to break several single-game team and individual records throughout the year. Shaunfield's stellar year, and first as a starter, helped him to second-team All-Conference honors after going 12-for-14 on field goals and perfect on 40 PAT attempts.
Southern Miss begins its season inside The Rock on Sept. 2 against Kentucky. Tickets for the upcoming season can be acquired by visiting SouthernMissTickets.com, calling 1-800-844-TICK, or visiting the Pat Ferlise Center from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. during weekdays.