2014 Deep South Rugby Conference Preview

The 2014 season is quickly approaching and this years season is going to feature great rugby from all teams in the Deep South. Last season, University of Louisiana Lafayette took home the conference crown and went on to the national tournament in St. Louis. ULL defeated Troy in the conference championship.

1) University of Louisiana Lafayette

Predicted Finish: 1st Place

ULL dominated the Deep South Conference by going undefeated and ultimately winning the conference championship. ULL does not posses that one star player to carry them through out the games. They have a strong starting fifteen that dominate when they get in tune with each other.  ULL was an overwhelming force last year, despite not having any primary player to carry the team. Their philosophy of team-oriented play made them a relentless opponent. The team will return at least eleven starters from last years squad including Deep South All Star Gerardo Abascal. When asked about this season expectations Abascal stated,

The expectations for this season are to fight for the championship title for the third time in a row and most importantly to grow this young squad full of talent and keep growing the brotherhood and values of the club.”

Photo by Steve Guillory
ULL vs. Tulane; Photo by Steve Guillory

2) Troy University 

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place

Troy came up short last year when they lost to ULL in the conference championship. Despite coming off a 5-2 season and their best season in four years, Troy is looking to end this year with a conference title.  Troy boasts a team that will be favored by a strong Forward pack; a pack that will be lead by senior, James Matthews. The back line will be lead by senior scrum half, Eric Milner, and  junior inside center, Jared Smith. When asked about what is expected from the team this season, Milner responded, ” train the new faces of the club to be not only athletes who played rugby in college, but to be rugby players. We are fixed on returning to the conference championship game and if nothing else, we will hold our title of the hardest hitting team in the DSRC.”

3) Spring Hill College

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Spring Hill is coming off a  strong year, after winning the annual Battleship Tournament last year. The team finished with a 4-2 record last season, with tough losses coming  against ULL and Troy University. Spring Hill lost eight of their starters to graduation and transfers and will have a very young team going into the 2014 season. The team will be looking to their USA Rugby South All Star senior  Mike Short, to lead the Forward pack. Spring Hill can also look to Deep South All Stars, Sophomore Jacob Campos, and Junior Eric Miniclear, Last season, big news came from Spring Hill when former head coach, Mollie McCarthy, announced she was resigning. Her replacement, Justin Goonan, recently left Wake Forest and now is looking to lead the Badgers to a conference championship. He said this about the season and transitioning to life in Mobile “This will be an exciting year for the Badgers and I am really looking forward the Deep South’s high level of competition. The transition into Mobile has been very smooth despite happening in such a short time frame,”

4) Louisiana Tech

Predicted Finish: 4th

Louisiana Tech is coming off a 3-3 season and  is will be looking to bounce back. Tech has been strongly recruiting this offseason and will be looking for the recruits to step up this year.  Some new faces to watch this season will be, Will Crawford and Eric Clark. Senior captain Aaron Gootzeit will be returning to lead Tech. Gootzeit  was confident when he said “I personally am expecting a winning record and chance at a spot in the conference championship.I’m expecting to continue to improve off of last years successes, we are bringing back a lot of starters from last year. That should give us a more experienced core group of guys that should be able to work well together.”

Aaron Gooziet
Aaron Gootzeit

5) Tulane University 

Predicted Finish: 5th

Tulane struggled last year by giving up forfeits to Spring Hill and ULL.and going 2-3 last year. The squad will return twelve starters so they hope last years experience will help the team moving forward into their upcoming season. The team is going to look to their key players, Junior 8-man Billy Stewart; Junior open-side flanker, Jack White; and Senior fly-half and captain, Jesse Sussmane. Tulane coach Dan Sullivan is ready for the season. He had this to say about the 2014 season,

“Two years ago we won the Battleship Tournament in Mobile, AL and the year before we were conference runners-up. Last year was a down year as we only had three seniors. But this year we return almost all of our starters and have more depth than we did in either of the last two seasons. We have a favorable schedule, with home games against our toughest competition. And we have a lot of really experienced players (our starters will have an average of almost 5 years playing experience). We believe that if we play our best rugby, we can do very well in the conference this year.” 

6) University of South Alabama

Predicted Finish: 6th

South has a core group of guys that have played the last two season together. The group will be lead by Deep South All Stars, Daniel Johnson, Brett Halbe, Cameron Douglas, Jordan Johnson, and Martin Zomerschoe. South, like LA Tech, has been busy recruiting this summer. According to coach Wes Darwin the team has had over 150+ students register at various recruiting events hosted by the team during the offseason  With the leadership  of the returning core group plus a ton of young faces, South might be a team to look out for down the road. It will all come down to the meshing of the veterans and the new players and how well they play together.

7) University of Southern Mississippi

Predicted Finish: 7th

Southern Mississippi has struggled in recent years but they have just appointed a new president, Earl Johnson. The team will return ten starters and are busy developing young players in the program. Johnson has high hopes for the upcoming season and sounds quite confident in his team.

” The one strong point I can not say exactly if we are returning people who took the team by the horns and dominated offensively or defensively. The most important aspect of the team is our defense. I believe we could have the best defense in the whole Deep South. I am excited to see our defense dominate. I started to see towards the end of last season we started to glue together offensively and saw potential in how we moved the ball. I believe my coaches Marquiece Cunningham (Backs Coach) and Levi Moore (Forward Coach) can get the team to new heights and build upon what momentum we head at the end of last year” said Johnson.

The returning veterans and the new leadership should help propel Southern Miss to new heights this season.

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