Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles rising junior running back George Payne suffered a non-contact knee injury and could miss most if not all of the upcoming season. Head coach Todd Monken broke the news to Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American.
Payne rushed for 271 yards and six touchdowns on 86 carries last season, and also caught eight passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Were it not for incoming graduate transfer and former Michigan Wolverine Justice Hayes, the team’s running game would not be in a good place at the start of the 2015 season.
Besides Hayes, the only running backs on Southern Miss’ roster would be rising senior Jalen Richard, who missed spring camp with academic issues, and rising sophomores Ito Smith and Dez Parks. Smith managed 536 rush yards and two touchdowns last season, but did so on 136 carries and only averaged 3.9 yards per touch. Simply put, though Payne could be out for a while, the addition of Hayes could end up being a godsend for a team that went 3-9 (1-7 C-USA) last season and is looking to improve its overall record once again in Monken’s third season.
Southern Mississippi opens the 2015 season at home against Mississippi State on September 5.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports