Jay Hopson started his first full day on the job as the Southern Miss football coach with plenty to accomplish.
Hopson, who was announced as the new USM coach late Saturday, began making contact with Southern Miss recruits on Sunday. He and the rest of the USM staff will be challenged to keep this year's group of commits together for National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Hopson met with the Southern Miss football team for the first time on Sunday afternoon. USM athletic director Bill McGillis described it as a "special moment" for the players and coach.
USM sent out a brief video statement from Hopson Sunday afternoon.
"I'm excited to be head football coach at Southern Miss, very humbled," Hopson said in the video. "It's truly an honor. You have dream jobs in your coaching career and this was certainly a dream job of mine. I'm glad to be home and glad to be a Golden Eagle. We're doing everything we can do to make you proud for the next many years, we hope. It's good to be here."
Hopson, 47, will be introduced to fans and and media in a Monday afternoon press conference at 1 p.m. in Hattiesburg at the Trent Lott Center.
Hopson moves to USM after a successful four-year stint as the head coach at Alcorn State. He was 32-17 there, claiming the SWAC championship in the last two seasons.
This will be his third stint at USM after serving as defensive backs coach in 2001-03 and defensive coordinator in 2005-07. He worked under former head coach Jeff Bower in both times.
Bower is glad to see his former assistant return to USM as head coach.
"I'm just excited for him
and his family and I'm excited for the football program," Bower said. "It was a great hire by Bill McGillis. Jay is an outstanding coach. He's done a remarkable job at Alcorn State. He coached here with me for a while. He did an outstanding job while he was here."
Hopson replaces former USM head coach Todd Monken, who stepped down to become the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week ago.
Bower believes Hopson will have an immediate impact as a recruiter and a coach at USM.
"That's the No. 1 thing about Jay is the players will really want to play hard for him and win for him," Bower said. "That's as good a compliment as I can give you."
One recruit that Hopson will likely be talking to soon is D'Iberville defensive lineman Jacques Turner, one of the Golden Eagles' top verbal commitments for the class of 20l6.
Turner made a visit to Texas-San Antonio over the weekend, but the trip did not change his standing.
"I'm still committed to Southern Miss and I plan on signing with them Wednesday," Turner said Sunday.
Turner said he followed the coaching search closely but hadn't formed an opinion yet on Hopson.
"I really don't know much about him," he said. "I'll have the chance to talk to him real soon."
Hopson will also have to meet with current staff members at USM and decide if they are good fits for his program. Defensive coordinator David Duggan also interviewed for the job opening and offensive coordinator John Wozniak has one game under his belt in the position after he replaced Chip Lindsey, who left for Arizona State.
Hopson inherits a team at USM that most expect to compete for a Conference USA championship this season. The Eagles went 9-5 in 2015 with trips to the Conference USA title game and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
USM returns senior quarterback Nick Mullens, junior running back Ito Smith and senior receiver D.J. Thompson from an offense that broke nearly every single-season record in the program.
Mullens is considered one of the top returning quarterbacks in the nation. He threw for 4,476 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his third year as a starter last year.
USM also returns six starters on defense, including senior safety D'Nerius Antoine and senior defensive end Dylan Bradley.