Tide schedule preview: Southern Miss

Editor's note: We’re taking steps to get you ready for every one of Alabama's regular-season opponents. Every Friday, we'll go through each week of the schedule, starting with the season-opener against West Virginia and closing with the finale against Auburn.

The rundown

2013 overall record: 1-11

2013 Conference USA record: 1-7, tied for last in the East Division

Record all-time against Alabama: 6-2-33

Last meeting: Lost 30-21 in 2005

Starters returning

Offense: 8; Defense: 8; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

WR Tyre’oune Holmes, QB Nick Mullens, LT Rashod Hill, LB Debarriaus Miller, RB Jalen Richard, S Kelsey Douglas, LB Terrick Wright

Key losses

DB Jerrion Johnson, OL Ed Preston, WR Dominique Sullivan, DT Khyri Thornton, DT Octavius Thomas, CB Alexander Walters

2013 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Kendrick Hardy (419 yards)

Passing: Nick Mullens* (1,776 yards, 13 TD, 14 INT)

Receiving: Tyre’oune Holmes* (410 yards)

Tackles: Debarriaus Miller* (92)

Sacks: Adam Williams* (3)

Interceptions: Kelsey Douglas* (1)

What they're saying:

“I really thought throughout the spring that we improved on the things that mattered: attitude, energy and body language. I thought our guys were flying around. There was more energy. It was productive for what we were trying to get accomplished. We’re still a ways away, but today was another day for our guys to get out in The Rock and compete,” said Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken following the USM spring game.

Three things to watch:

1. Started from the bottom: It can’t get much worse for Todd Monken. He left an enviable perch as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State to take over at Southern Miss a year ago, and his first season was a disaster. The Golden Eagles won just one game and lost every contest but two by 19 points or more. His quarterback had more interceptions than touchdowns, his defense surrendered 435.5 yards per game and his overall turnover margin was -21. The good news is he avoided a winless season by beating UAB 62-27. It’s not a lot, but it’s something to build on.

2. Gaining experience: Monken does have one stat to hang his hat on: as many as 14 freshmen and sophomores were listed as starters by the end of last season. A year wiser and a year with more physical maturity could yield better results. His quarterback, Mullens, returns, along with his leading tackler and his leading receiver. Douglas is back at safety and the team’s leading pass-rusher, Williams, returns as well.

3. Which Bama team will show up?: Nick Saban is going to have a hard time getting his team up for this one. Whatever rousing speech he has planned to ignore the scoreboard and focus on the process might work a week earlier against Florida Atlantic, but it could fall on deaf ears for a second week in a row against a Southern Miss squad that’s gone 1-23 the past two seasons. The starters should be out in the blink of an eye, but fans who do venture to Bryant-Denny Stadium should get a glimpse at the future of the program as the second- and third-stringers get in on the action.