The production that Todd Monken and his staff brought to Southern Miss was unprecedented in 2015. In just three years, his staff took an 1-11 team to a 9-5 team, including a berth in the Heart of Dallas bowl last season.
Monken’s improvement on the program led to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offering him a job as offensive coordinator.
The offer was one Monken could not pass up. When he accepted it, many questions arose about who would replace him and potentially bring equal or greater success than him.
Monken was replaced by Alcorn State’s former head coach, Jay Hopson. Like Monken, coach Hopson brought along an almost entirely different staff with him.
Southern Miss will have 12 seniors this upcoming season and many questions may rise about how they feel learning under a new staff. Defensive tackle Dylan Bradley seemed to be excited about the new coaching staff.
“When I found out [Hopson] was my coach, I was excited.” Bradley said. “He is bringing that Southern Miss tradition back. Play anybody, anytime, anywhere.”
Bradley not only has to adjust his learning curve to a new coach but to a new defensive coordinator as well. Tony Pecoraro came along from Alcorn with Hopson and so far has impressed Bradley.
“We had a lot of success last season, but I feel that we will have even more success with [Pecoraro’s] style of defense,” Bradley said. “His type of defense frees us up more. It’s not a bunch of robots out there, but a bunch of athletes out there making plays.”
Bradley finished last season with 45 tackles and six sacks. From his comments, he looks to improve upon those numbers with the new defensive look coach Pecoraro brings with him to Hattiesburg.
Not only are there different faces on the defensive side, but the offensive side acquired offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. Coach Dawson comes into this job with a résumé full of previous programs that all improved offensively in little to no time when he stepped on campus.
Teams like Stephen F. Austin, West Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico State and Southeastern Louisiana all saw improvement with Dawson on the staff. Bringing in a coach of this caliber is something quarterback Nick Mullens can use to take his game to the next level.
“Working towards a mission with some great teammates and some great coaches is what it’s all about,” Mullens said. “It is all about getting a championship.”
A Dawson and Mullens duo can be something to look forward to. Mullens threw for 4,476 and 38 TD’s, but with Dawson’s background an improvement across the board could be upon Mullens and the Golden Eagles. With difficulties like losing star receivers Mike Thomas and Casey Martin, many think that Mullens will not have a go-to receiver, but Mullens thinks otherwise.
“Shannon Smith and Isaiah Jones are two people that have stuck out to me.” Mullens said. “[Those are] two people we are going to depend on moving forward.”
The new coaching staff still includes coaches John Wozniak and Lytrel Pollard from the Monken era.
The majority of the team feels this season has a different atmosphere. But different could be promising for the Golden Eagles. With the experience of the new coaching staff, Southern Miss’ goals look obtainable as it prepares for the season approaching in September.