New coach starts to settle in some
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2005
Updated: Sunday, May 17, 2009 19:05
When former Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix took a position in South Carolina under Steve Spurrier, the Golden Eagles knew just where to look for a replacement.
Their man was Jay Hopson, a member of Coach Jeff Bower's defensive staff from 2001 through 2003. Under Hopson in 2003, the Golden Eagles defensive backfield helped carry the team to its fourth Conference USA championship while ranking among the top five passing defenses in the nation. In 2004, Hopson became the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss, but when the chance came to return to Southern Miss, Hopson took it.
"I love being down here," he said after directing his defense through practice under the late afternoon sun on Tuesday. "I love working with Coach Bower."
And the Golden Eagles are undoubtedly happy to have him. The 2004 season was something of a down year for the Southern Miss defense, as it was beaten for several big plays and had a good deal of trouble stopping the run. But under Hopson's previous tenure, the Golden Eagles defense was, at times, dominant. Hopson coached all-conference and all-American performers like former safeties Etric Pruitt and Chad Williams, and former cornerback Greg Brooks, all of whom are currently in the NFL. In 2002, the Southern Miss pass defense was ranked in the top ten nationally. Will the Golden Eagles return to that form this season?
"I just want to see us play hard every week," Hopson said. "Play as close to assignment and as perfect as we can. I think the rest will fall into place if we do that."
Some Southern Miss students look at things in a slightly different way. Freshman Derik Wood from Hamilton, in the northern half of the state, thought the very fact that Hopson returned from Ole Miss was interesting." We always hear about how Ole Miss is better, but here you have one of their coaches leaving to come to USM," he said. "That's pretty cool."