Southern Miss

Southern Miss hits Coast hard in class of ‘17

Gautier High School offensive lineman Paul Gainer sports a Southern Miss cap after announcing that he will play football there during a ceremony at the school on Wednesday.
Gautier High School offensive lineman Paul Gainer sports a Southern Miss cap after announcing that he will play football there during a ceremony at the school on Wednesday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The Southern Miss football staff closed strong on the recruiting trail and the best news of national signing day came off the Coast Wednesday.

Gautier offensive lineman Paul Gainer, a former Mississippi State commit, made a mid-afternoon announcement that he had decided to sign with the Golden Eagles.

“We're excited about Paul and having him on board,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said. “He's a young man who is very special to me. We spent a lot of time recruiting him. It was great news getting him today. It was a much needed position for us on the offensive line. Paul is a guy who can do anything up front. He can play all three positions. He's just an extremely talented young man.”

It was a big day in general for USM on the Coast with Hopson and staff signing four former Coast high school football stars in addition to Trevor Terry, a Long Beach native who is already enrolled after signing in December out of Jones County Junior College.

The three other Coast players who signed on Wednesday were Biloxi receiver Tim Jones, D'Iberville defensive back Tyler Barnes and Pearl River Community College cornerback Tyler Jack, a former George County standout.

The five Coast players were the most signed by USM since 2006.

“A lot of Coast guys. That's kind of who we are,” Hopson said. “We're the University of Southern Mississippi. So we want to get South Mississippi guys. We want to stay in that footprint in South Mississippi and always pan out into Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. That's who we are and always have been.”

Hopson broke down his entire class of 2017 and had words of praise for the additions from the Coast:

On Jones: “He has unlimited upside. He's a young man who is 6-foot-1, maybe even taller. He runs a 4.4 and can get up and get the ball and catch it. He has great hands. He has tremendous talent and upside. We're certainly excited about Tim.”

On Barnes: “Tyler is a true Southern Miss guy through and through. He's a very, very physical guy. He'll probably be a safety or nickel. We had him at 4.38 in the 40. He's a big, physical guy. It's great to have another Coast player.”

On Jack: “He's a competitor who was committed to Troy. He's a young man that competes. If you see him on film, he's competing and playing hard. He's an outstanding defensive back. He's a guy who has that Southern Miss edge also.”

On Terry: “He's a tall receiver, 6-2, 6-3. He has very good hands. He's a good route runner. We have him on campus and he's doing a great job.”

Gainer wasn't the only standout in the class of 2017 for USM. He just happened to be the last to announce his plans.

Clinton running back Darius Maberry is a player that Hopson said he “fell in love with” during a camp when he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and had a vertical leap of 43 inches. Maberry won a Class 6A state title at Clinton in 2016, playing alongside Florida State star signee Cam Akers.

“We feel like we got a real good one,” Hopson said.

Morton linebacker Freddie Hartz and Jackson-Callaway cornerback Emanuel Dabney joined Gainer as USM signees who also received scholarship offers from SEC schools.

Overall, Hopson feels like this year's group met major needs for the program – offensive line and defensive back.

“It's like NFL draft day. We know what our needs are,” Hopson said. “We knew where we had to have depth for the future. It's a strong high school class. We're building for the future. We're definitely excited about these guys.”

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