With a full year on the job, Jay Hopson will deliver a true recruiting class of his own for the first time as Southern Miss head coach on Wednesday.
When Hopson was hired as the Southern Miss head coach just prior to signing day in 2016, he did what he could to preserve Todd Monken's group of commits and managed to close the deal on Laurel's star quarterback, Keon Howard.
Entering signing day on Wednesday, Hopson and his staff have had a full year under their belt at USM and they're set to close out a class that's proven steady following a rush of summer verbal commitments. For a recruiting class that's largely been devoid of drama, there's the potential for significant additions on national signing day.
USM fans will keep a close eye on Gautier offensive lineman Paul Gainer, who will announce his decision among three options – Southern Miss, Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette. Southern Miss has long been assumed to be the favorite to land Gainer after he dropped his commitment to Mississippi State on Jan. 4, but Tulane has also made a strong push.
LaMarque Davis, a cornerback from Mansfield, Texas, is also set to announce on Wednesday and he plans to choose between USM, Houston and Texas Tech, according to GoldenEaglePride.com.
If Gainer and Davis sign with the Golden Eagles on Wednesday, it would be a significant boost to the class of 2017.
USM is on schedule to sign four players from the Coast in the class of 2017 with the potential of five if Gainer chooses the Golden Eagles. Biloxi receiver Tim Jones, D'Iberville defensive back Tyler Barnes and Pearl River Community College cornerback Tyler Jack, a former George County star, have committed and are expected to sign Wednesday. Jones County Junior College receiver Trevor Terry, a former Long Beach standout, signed with the Golden Eagles in December and will have three years of eligibility remaining.
That is the most signees from the Coast since USM signed four in 2006, including Biloxi's Damion Fletcher and C.J. Bailey of Moss Point.
USM also received a commitment from a preferred walk-on from Biloxi on Monday when offensive tackle Ethan Myers announced that he will attend Southern Miss. Myers certainly has the size to eventually contribute at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds.
While much of the buzz Wednesday will surround the undecideds, USM picked up some quality verbal commitments early in the process.
The first commitment of the year came soon after signing day with Morton linebacker Freddie Hartz pledging to the Golden Eagles. With offers from Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Hartz still stands out as arguably the jewel of the class.
A pair of Jackson area defensive backs, Clinton cornerback Darius Maberry and Callaway's Emanuel Dabney, may be players that hit the field running at USM. Dabney committed to USM on Jan. 22 after receiving offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri.
Players like Meridian linebacker Santrell Latham, who stands 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, fit into the mold of past Golden Eagles who have developed into standouts.
At the end of the day, that's what Hopson wants – players who work well in the system and grow into impact players.