Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson was at ease Wednesday afternoon while speaking during the 54th annual Gulf Coast Coaching Clinic at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
In front of a room mostly full of Mississippi high school football coaches, Hopson pulled out practice footage from what he describes as the “Old 'Nasty Bunch' days” when he was a defensive assistant on the USM staff.
He went over practice drills, proper technique and what it takes to get players academically eligible to play football on the next level.
“I'm a child of this institution,” Hopson said after his speech. “I was raised by MHSAA coaches. I played at Warren Central. I have just so many friends. I'm blessed to be a part of this fraternity.”
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Following his remarks, it was back to the recruiting trail for Hopson with National Signing Day drawing near on Feb. 1.
“It's a hectic time,” Hopson said with a smile. “It's back to the job now.”
This upcoming Monday will mark a full year on the job for Hopson and he admits he hasn't had much of a chance to take a break.
“It's been nonstop,” he said. “I haven't had a chance to breathe yet. I haven't had a chance to think about it. Come Feb. 1, it will be like Christmas Day. I can sit back and get a little rest and reflect a little bit.”
The Golden Eagles have 21 players currently verbally committed, leaving two or three scholarship offers remaining for the class of 2017.
USM had some scholarships open up through recent departures. Redshirt senior quarterback Parker Adamson, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jauan Collins and redshirt freshman defensive end Lorenzo Dantzler are all players who won't be with the team in 2017.
Collins, a former Pascagoula star who signed with the Golden Eagles in 2015, is expected to enroll at a community college. Adamson has decided to wrap up his college career when he graduates in May and Dantzler has transferred to East Mississippi Community College.
USM is on pace to sign two high school quarterbacks next week with Marcelo Rodriguez of Miami, Fla., and Steven Anderson of Live Oak, Fla., both verbally committed.
With Adamson no longer the mix, the Eagles' depth chart at quarterback will be even more inexperienced following the graduation of Nick Mullens.
Redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs, who sat out last season while he was academically ineligible, and sophomore Keon Howard, who started two games last season while Mullens was injured, will be getting the majority of the snaps this spring.
“I'm really looking forward to watching Keon and Kwadra get after it,” Hopson said.
Hopson expects to have four quarterbacks on scholarship for the 2017 campaign.
“You know I'm all about competition,” he said. “We'll put that ball out there and compete.”
Hopson made one addition to his staff this month with the hiring of Erik Losey as the new offensive line coach.
Losey replaces Jack Wright, who moved on after one season on the USM staff.
Losey worked three seasons as the offensive line coach at East Tennessee State after serving one year on Hopson's staff at Alcorn State in 2013.
“He's a real energetic, emotional coach,” Hopson said. “He has excellent knowledge. Erik is a true player's coach. He attacks every day with zest.”
USM released its football schedule for the 2017 season on Wednesday and it will feature two SEC contests – Kentucky in Hattiesburg for the season opener on Sept. 2 and a game at Tennessee on Nov. 4.
The Sept. 9 home game against Southern and a Sept. 16 trip to Louisiana-Monroe are the two other non-conference contests.
Following the resurrection of the UAB football program, the Blazers return to the schedule for an Oct. 28 game in Hattiesburg.
Due to that scheduling quirk, USM will have to go to UTSA for a second consecutive season on Oct. 7 and Charlotte will again have to travel to Hattiesburg on Nov. 18.
2017 USM schedule
Sept. 2 – Kentucky
Sept. 9 – Southern
Sept. 16 – at La.-Monroe
Sept. 23 – Bye
Sept. 30 – NORTH TEXAS
Oct. 7 – at UTSA
Oct. 14 – UTEP
Oct. 21 – at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 28 – UAB
Nov. 4 – at Tennessee
Nov. 11 – at Rice
Nov. 18 – Charlotte
Nov. 25 – at Marshall