HATTIESBURG -- Yeah, there's a new sheriff in town.
Sure, the coaching staff is made up of almost entirely new faces.
But, as the new head football coach at Southern Miss, Jay Hopson said after the Golden Eagles' first spring practice on Tuesday afternoon, "It's football. Every year is a different journey."
Tuesday's practice was the first of 14 heading into USM's April 23 spring game. Scrimmages are scheduled on April 2, 9 and 16, all Saturday mornings. Normal practices will be on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
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Tuesday's first practice was scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m., but it actually ended at 5:57. Hopson talked with his players, then had his quarterbacks go through another brief passing drill.
Hopson did not give the Golden Eagles a glowing review, but a realistic one.
"It's good," he said, then followed that with, "It's the good, bad and ugly the first day of spring. I thought there was good effort. Certainly, there is always a lot to correct on the first day of practice."
To sum it up, the new coach -- who previously was the head coach at Alcorn State, where he went 32-17 before taking over for Todd Monken on Feb. 1 -- said, "It was a normal first day of spring."
"You got to crawl before you walk," said Hopson, whose last two Alcorn State teams won SWAC championships. "We're putting in the basics. I thought the guys had good retention. They're getting it."
Senior offensive lineman Brandon Farmer, a former Harrison Central High School player, was glad to get on the practice field again.
"It was awesome to come out my last first practice of the spring," Farmer said. "It's kind of sad, but also a good thing to come out here and get better with my team."
Farmer, who admitted he liked last season's USM coaches, said there will be an adjustment to go through with the new coaching staff.
"With the coaches, it will be different, but we're still playing football," he said. "They're trying to keep everything similar to last year. It's not a big change, but I'm excited."
Farmer said the similarities to Monken's system will make it easier on the players.
"The way we call plays, the way we do the snap count, the number system is basically all the same," he said. "That's real good."
Last season, Southern Miss went 9-3 in the regular season and won the West Division championship in Conference USA. The Eagles fell to Western Kentucky in the C-USA title game and lost to Washington in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Reality slowly sets in
Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens, who was the league Offensive Player of the Year last season, will be a senior this year. Even he couldn't believe it.
"I don't think it's set in to the fullest of me being a senior yet," Mullens said. "So every day I've got to remember that it is our last, our last (season) to be a Southern Miss Golden Eagle."
Mullens seemed to have bought in to the coaching change.
"Coach Hop says all the time, '11 brothers are hard to beat,' and that's what we're going to stick to," Mullens said about the offense. "Moving forward, everybody's got to do their job, and that's how we view it. Get better and embrace the new coaching we have here."
Mullens said he was impressed with new wide receivers Shannon Smith (6-foot-3, 205-pound junior from Northeastern Oklahoma Community College), Isaiah Jones (6-4, 195 junior from East Mississippi C.C.) and Allenzae Staggers (6-1, 190 junior from East Mississippi C.C.).
The Golden Eagles will open the season on Sept. 3 at Kentucky.