Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said after Saturday’s spring game that he’s not ready to name a definitive starter to replace Damien Fletcher at running back, but he feels good about all four of the top competitors.
V.J. Floyd, Kendrick Hardy, Tracy Lampley and Desmond Johnson all have been competing for the starting role. Floyd came into spring football as the leader because of experience and with his performance on Saturday, seemed to tighten his grip on the job.
Floyd led all running backs with 12 rushes for 83 yards and five catches for 112 yards and a 70-yard touchdown reception.
But the biggest surprise of the spring was the emergence of redshirt freshman running back Kendrick Hardy, who led the Gold team in rushing with 10 carries for 32 yards and had a 37-yard touchdown reception. Hardy started to catch on midway through spring practices and has seemingly gotten stronger as the weeks progressed. Hardy is the biggest of the backs and gives the Golden Eagles a different look in their running game.
Many anticipated Hardy being a factor last year after being a highly touted recruit, but he was redshirted and now seems to have matured into the player many thought he could be.
“He’s been doing that all spring," Fedora said. "He runs hard. He adds another dimension to what we do offensively because of his size, his speed and how hard he runs.”
Although Floyd was consistently the best running back throughout spring ball, Fedora wanted to look at film and the rest of spring before he made a final decision. That decision likely will not be set in stone until the first game in September, but with what all four have shown during spring practices and during competition last season, it appears as though Fedora can’t go wrong regardless of who he chooses.
“We’ll see. We’ll have to evaluate it,” Fedora said of naming a starting running back. “I can tell you this: All four of those guys have been working their butts off and have shown a lot of promise through spring in flashes. Even Desmond and [Tracy Lampley] have done some really good things. I think right now, we have four that we can count on. That’s a great thing for us to get through the season.”