Patrick Magee

Grading the Southern Miss recruiting class of 2017

Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson put together a 2017 class of signees that should be a strong indicator of future groups he'll be bringing to Hattiesburg.

He and his staff hit all the traditional recruiting grounds for USM – Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

Of the 25 players USM signed for 2017, 11 hale from the state of Mississippi (including five from the state's southernmost six continues). The state that provided the second-most signees is Florida with eight. Louisiana and Alabama both had two.

After inheriting Todd Monken's class in 2016, USM football is back to recruiting Jeff Bower's old stomping grounds. The only difference is maybe a bigger focus on South Florida.

Grading the class

The class of 2017 won't be properly judged until about 2021. Many of the players will hang around Hattiesburg for 4 or 5 years while others will leave or simply fade from the picture.

I'll give Hopson's first true class of signees as head coach at USM a B+.

While there are players in this class who had multiple major programs on their trail, there are a handful who only had one Division I offer – Southern Miss.

Hopson has always been good at talent evaluation so most of the more unheralded signees should pan out, but you just won't know how much of an impact they'll make until they hit the field.

This year's USM recruiting class is ranked second in Conference USA by Rivals with nine three-stars, third by 247 Sports with 12 three-stars and and third by Scout with 11 three-stars.

New FAU head coach Lane Kiffin landed the conference's best class according to Scout and 247 Sports while UTSA earned the top spot according to Rivals.

For those of you who like use the star system to judge recruits, Jackson-Callaway cornerback Emanuel Dabney was the top rated prospect in the Golden Eagles' class thanks to a four-star ranking by All other services had him as a three-star recruit.

Top signee

It's difficult to choose one standout in this year's group of signees, but Gautier offensive lineman Paul Gainer deserves to be labeled the top signee in this year's class.

Time will tell whether Gainer fulfills his potential at USM, but the former Mississippi State commit meets a major need that the USM staff set out to find with this class.

Hopson feels like the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Gainer can play any position along the offensive line.

Most likely to succeed in '17

Of the players who signed on Wednesday, here are some of the new Eagles most likely to contribute in 2017:

Tyler (Texas) Junior College OL Jimmie Terry: The former Minnesota commit will bring some experience and size to the USM offensive line at 6-foot-3, 330 pounds.

Biloxi WR Tim Jones: The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jones is certainly big and strong enough to take the field early. He was already a polished receiver a freshman at Biloxi. He played his first two seasons of high school football in a pass-heavy offense and had 100 catches for 1,364 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. The Indians operated a run-first offense the last two seasons and he had a combined 82 catches for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns in his junior and senior years.

Miami, Fla., QB Marcelo Rodriguez: If either Keon Howard or Kwadra Griggs struggle in the spring at quarterback, Rodriguez could jump into the mix in the fall. He's a strong passer, a good athlete and seems to have the maturity necessary to play early.

Morton LB Freddie Hartz: At 6-2, 230 pounds, Hartz brings badly needed size to the linebacking corps. He will be interesting to watch in the fall to see how quickly he adjusts to the system.

Pearl River Community College CB Tyler Jack: The former George County star should provide depth at the corner position.

The class of 2017 is in the books and we'll see if it stands up to the test of time.