Southern Miss

All eyes on Kentucky for Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

New head coach Jay Hopson will lead the Southern Miss football team into Saturday’s season opener at Kentucky.
New head coach Jay Hopson will lead the Southern Miss football team into Saturday’s season opener at Kentucky. ttisbell@sunherald.com

First-year Southern Miss head football coach Jay Hopson went before a room of sports journalists Monday and appeared about as low key as possible despite the first game being only five days away.

And he said to expect that kind of demeanor from him on the sidelines this season, too, starting with Saturday night’s game at Kentucky.

“If you've watched me over the past four years, I'll be consistent to that,” said Hopson, who was head coach at Alcorn State those four years, coming away with an overall 32-17 record, including the past two SWAC championships. “That's who I am on the sidelines. You have to be who you are.”

But then he hedged a bit.

Hopson didn’t say he would turn into a Jim Harbaugh at Michigan with ranting and raving and running up and down the sideline, but he did predict a little emotion.

“I’m sure there's a time or two I might get a little fired up,” Hopson said, “but I'll be pretty calm.”

Still, with the season almost here, Hopson admitted getting to game week is exciting for him.

“I don't think there's any season that I've gone through where you don't have a little bit of jitters for that first game,” he said. “If you don't, I think you're in the wrong place. The first game is the game where the nerves are there, it's a reality of sport, of competition. It's fun to get into game week.”

Certainly, Southern Miss fans and players think so, too. Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game begins a new era of Golden Eagle football, and it’s against an opponent from the prestigious SEC.

“We’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” said Wil Freeman, a redshirt senior who may start at offensive left tackle after playing on the defensive line since the “seventh grade.”

And he says the Eagles are ready, despite all the changes that come from a coaching change.

“It’s my third head coaching change,” he said. “It’s different from the last time (when USM was coming off an 0-12 season). It’s been great.

“The players have bought in to what we’re doing. It’s looking good.”

Two players from the Coast have been penciled in as starters for the Kentucky game.

Jerry McCorvey, a 6-foot-3, 276-pound redshirt senior from Vancleave, has been named a starter at defensive tackle and Stephen Brauchle, a 6-1, 205-pound redshirt senior, will be the placekicker.

McCorvey missed the entire 2015 season due to an injury suffered in preseason. He played in all 12 USM games as a redshirt sophomore.

Brauchle connected on 11 of 14 field goals last season, with a long of 39, and he hit 48 of 52 extra points. He averaged 58.9 yards on 96 kickoffs, with 16 touchbacks.

Brandon Farmer, a Harrison Central graduate, is No. 2 behind Oliver Bates on the depth chart but is sure to see plenty of action.

Hopson said that defensive lineman Draper Riley and running back Patrick Brooks would not play on Saturday due to injuries suffered in fall camp. Brooks' season is likely over following a hip injury.

Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNU (Anish Shroff play by play, Ahmad Brooks analyst).

The Southern Miss IMG Sports Network will carry the game on radio (John Cox play by play, Lee Roberts analyst, Bo Morgan sideline).

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Kentucky

When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: Lexington, Kentucky

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 104.9 FM

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