Southern Miss

Highly-touted Paul Gainer seeks role on the Southern Miss O-line

Former Gautier football star Paul Gainer is entering his first fall camp at Southern Miss.
Former Gautier football star Paul Gainer is entering his first fall camp at Southern Miss.

For the last two months, Paul Gainer has done all he can to make a quick acclimation to his new home, Southern Miss.

On Wednesday morning, the former Gautier star offensive lineman will get his introduction to fall camp.

Gainer and the rest of his USM teammates open fall camp with a practice early that morning.

“These two months flew by fast,” Gainer said of his summer spent in Hattiesburg. “I've enjoyed soaking up everything from Jerry Harris, who was the left tackle in the spring. I picked up some of his key points and just focused on that.”

Gainer, who committed to USM on signing day, was one of the Golden Eagles' top signees for the class of 2017. He dropped his commitment to Mississippi State in January and picked USM over Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette.

During Friday's Gulf Coast Beach Bash at the Hard Rock in Biloxi, Gainer wore a broad grin as he signed autographs for fans.

“This summer has been excellent,” he said. “I'm glad I chose Southern Miss.”

Gainer feels like he'll step on the practice field with a good understanding of what's expected of him.

“I wouldn't say I've been catching up. It's just adjusting,” Gainer said. “Coming from high school, I had to learn new things. Learning how to adapt, that's the most important thing. I know half of the stuff we're going through because we ran the same offense (in high school).”

One challenge for the 6-foot-3 Gainer is to pack on the pounds necessary to compete at college football's highest level. He reported to Hattiesburg this summer at 275 pounds and he's already up to 287.

Gainer will be working at left tackle to begin practice, but the versatile lineman is open to contributing wherever he's needed.

“I can be an interior lineman and I can play center so it doesn't matter,” he said. “If I have to move to center or guard, I can.”

Gainer is working under Erik Losey, who takes over as the USM offensive line coach after spending the last three years in the same position at East Tennessee State. Losey worked one season under USM head coach Jay Hopson when both men were at Alcorn State in 2013.

Losey was hired at USM the day after Gainer dropped his commitment to MSU so the two had to get familiar in a hurry less than a month before signing day.

“We have a great relationship,” Gainer said. “Sometimes, we even sit down and break down plays. He wants to make sure I have the right steps and just the little things. That's what he focuses on the most – the little things like steps and hand placement.”

Gainer has much to prove to earn significant playing time this season. He'll start fall camp behind Harris, a redshirt senior, and redshirt freshman Wyatt Richtofen at left tackle.

“I'm just trusting the process,” Gainer said. “If I play, excellent. If I don't, I get to learn the ropes. I just want to learn so I can be the best I can be.”

USM will open the season at 3 p.m. on Sept. 2 against Kentucky in Hattiesburg.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee