Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora took two players off suspension on Monday, but the verdict is still very much out on his two top running backs for Saturday's game against East Carolina.
Offensive tackle Calvin Wilson and defensive back Jamison Hughes will be available on Saturday after sitting out the last two weeks for an undisclosed violation of team rules, Fedora announced at his weekly news conference.
"They've taken care of their business," Fedora said. "I guess anytime you get suspended if you go the other way you sure as heck won't get back. They didn't have to prove anything. They just had to take care of their business."
The players practiced with the team but did not play in USM's victories over UAB and Central Florida. Kyle Burkhart appears to have taken Wilson's starting left tackle spot, while Hughes must now work his way back into the nickelback situation for the Golden Eagles.
Meanwhile, running backs Damion Fletcher and Tory Harrison continue to battle hamstring injuries. Fletcher, the team's leading rusher, missed last Saturday's 17-6 victory over UCF and Harrison went down late in the first half against the Knights.
Fedora said he won't be able to say much about their availability for Saturday's game until after practice today.
Fedora tempered his praise in recapping Saturday's win.
"Obviously, we're happy with the win last week and we're very happy to win a game on the road in conference play," Fedora said. "We're not happy with how we started the game defensively. We had them pinned down, but they took it 91 yards on eight plays. They made it look easy.
"Offensively, we slopped around a little and didn't move the ball. We ended up punting, but we regrouped on the sideline and made changes. From that point on, UCF had only 117 yards the entire game and offensively, we got things rolling a little better."
With Fletcher and Harrison out, quarterback Austin Davis took on more of the load than usual. The redshirt freshman responded by throwing for 188 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 73 yards and another TD.
He was sacked five times, which made Sunday's practice a difficult one.
"I was pretty bad," Davis said. "If I had to rank it, it was probably second-worst to Boise State. It was rough. I had to run the ball a little bit and I took a few hits. But that's what we had to do."
Fedora credits much of the recent running game success to the offensive line, which dominated UAB and helped the Eagles grind out a win against UCF.
"I can't say enough about those five up front," Fedora said. "They are not like defensive linemen, who roll in every three or four plays so they can stay fresh, get off the edge and pin their ears back.
"Those offensive linemen, if we play 88 snaps, they are playing 88 snaps, if we play 93 snaps, they are playing 93 snaps. There is no taking a break, no let's get some rest. It's we have to go, we have to have our intensity rate up on every play, every series, ready to go, have to make the adjustments. I am going to have to say I am very pleased with where those guys are."
USM is one of six Division I-A schools averaging at least 200 yards rushing and 200 passing.
USM, which ranks 16th in total offense with 447 yards per game, is averaging 206 on the ground and 241 through the air.