Smith, Staggers receive Preseason All-Conference USA accolades
HATTIESBURG, Miss.-- The 2017 Conference USA football season is officially on the horizon with the league's announcement of its preseason all-league team, and Southern Miss seniors Ito Smith and Allenzae Staggers have placed on that list.
Smith (Mobile, Ala.) is a two-time All-Conference selection. Staggers (Woodville, Miss.) had Honorable Mention honors last year in his first as a Golden Eagle, including getting Special Teams Player of the Week following the team's Sept. 10 win over Savannah State and Offensive Player of the Week against Rice (Oct. 1).
The Mobile, Ala., native finished fourth in C-USA last season with 112.2 rush yards per game. His 2016 campaign began with the biggest game of his career, a 36-carry, 173-yard onslaught that helped Southern Miss to a major comeback and 44-35 win at Kentucky.
The following week, Smith bolted for a career-long 86-yard touchdown run against Savannah State that broke the M.M. Roberts Stadium record. He also added a 70-yard score in the rain the next week versus Troy to help him to his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. That pattern remained true in the final three games of the season, as Smith upped his rushing output in each game (113 at North Texas, 127 vs. LA Tech, 138 vs. ULL).
Smith finished the season three touchdowns shy of the Southern Miss single-season record (Sammy Winder's 20 in 1980) and No. 3 in all-time purpose yards (4,629). He has scored either by ground or air in 17 of his last 18 games.
Staggers led the team last year with 63 catches, 1,165 yards, 18.5 yards per catch and seven touchdowns. He also owns two of the five all-time 200-yard receiving games in Southern Miss history and earned an ESPN Helmet Sticker for his All-Star performance against Rice, catching six passes for a program-record 292 yards and three touchdowns as Southern Miss broke its own record with 702 yards of offense.
Staggers was also brilliant in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, shattering its records of 11 catches and 230 yards (the latter also being the most in Southern Miss bowl history). As the team's primary punt returner, he had 21 attempts for 205 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in the home opener.
The Golden Eagles kick off the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Kentucky at 3 p.m. Season tickets can be purchased by visiting SouthernMissTickets.com, the Pat Ferlise Center on campus during normal business hours, or calling 1-800-844-TICK.
Southern Miss Football Preseason honorees
Maxwell Award (most outstanding player) - Ito Smith, Sr.
Lou Groza Award (best kicker) - Parker Shaunfield, RJr.
John Mackey Award (best tight end) - Julian Allen, RSr.
Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player) - Allenzae Staggers, Sr.
All-Conference USA - Ito Smith and Allenzae Staggers