Last season's 12-2 record got Larry Fedora a ticket to Chapel Hill and brought change to Hattiesburg for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.
Finalists for the job included Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Southern Miss offensive coordinator Blake Anderson and South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Most people thought that all four of those guys would be successful at Southern Miss. Johnson got the call and there was considerable excitement in Hattiesburg.
Fast forward 10 months and it's hard to believe what has transpired. The team is 0-9 and is in Dallas to play SMU (4-5) this weekend. They close out their home schedule with UTEP (2-7) and then finish the year at Memphis (1-8).
I haven't seen them play enough to truly opine on what has gone wrong but a quick look at the stats reveals a number of issues. In scoring offense, Southern Miss, which was 14th in the country last season averaging nearly 37 points per game, has dropped all the way down to 112th averaging 19 points per game. On the other side of the ball, they are allowing 38 points per game (115th) whereas last season they only allowed 21 points per game (25th in the country). There are plenty more stats we could look at but that paints the picture...and it's not a good one.
In all our years of doing this we can't recall meeting any coach who has had anything negative to say about Ellis. He's a great guy and has had tremendous success as a defensive coordinator. For whatever reason, that success simply hasn't found it's way to Hattiesburg yet. Perhaps with more time it will, however we are hearing that there is serious consideration being given to making a change after the season. In fact, sources tell us that if the administration chooses to make a change, the total buyout for Ellis and his staff would be in the range of $2.5 million and we are told the funds are available from outside sources to make this happen if the administration chooses to make a change.
While 3-9 wouldn't in any way be considered a successful season, pulling off three straight wins would at least give the program some positive momentum. On paper, none of their final trio of games seems unwinnable. Flipped around, losses in all three would in most people's eyes be considered unacceptable. When the season ends, just like with every staff in the country, the head coach will sit down with the administration and decisions will be made. Let's all hope Ellis and his guys can turn this around.