CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Southern Mississippi quarterback Anthony Alford is a season removed from an eye-opening senior campaign at Petal High in Mississippi.
The four-star recruit, ranked the state's No. 2 overall prospect by Rivals.com, won a Class 6A state title and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
His short college career has been a seismic shift the other way.
The Golden Eagles (0-6, 0-2 Conference USA) remain winless and while Alford has played in five of those games, it's been a mixture of starting and coming off the bench. Yet the 6-foot, 205-pound signal-caller has grown a lot in Coach Ellis Johnson's eyes and is the man to lead the offense as Southern Miss hosts Marshall (2-4, 1-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network).
It's not the physical side of college football that has vexed Alford, Johnson said. It's the increased speed and intricacy of the defenses he's faced.
Johnson figures Alford has seen in one typical game the number of different defensive packages he'd have seen in six high school games.
"Athletically, Anthony was better than a lot of the players we've got before he ever walked in the door," Johnson said.
"But there are so many things you see in coverages and pressures and it's a little bit faster. So it's an adjustment for any quarterback in college coming out of high school. What I've seen is a steady improvement. He seems to get more and more comfortable."
Alford is one of three quarterbacks to start two games this year along with redshirt freshman Ricky Lloyd and redshirt junior Chris Campbell, none of whom had taken a collegiate snap before this year. He started against East Carolina and the University of Central Florida and came off the bench against Nebraska, Western Kentucky and Boise State.