Hopson hits the ground running at USM

Published 8:26 am Monday, February 1, 2016

Jay Hopson kept the gold, traded the purple for black, and got to work Sunday as Southern Miss’ new head football coach.

The Vicksburg native and Warren Central graduate met Southern Miss’ players and hit the recruiting trail on his first full day of work Sunday, less than 24 hours after he was hired away from Alcorn State.

“I’m excited to be the head football coach at Southern Miss. I’m very humbled,” Hopson said in a short video posted on USM’s athletics web site. “It’s truly an honor. There are dream jobs in people’s coaching careers, and this was certainly a dream job of mine. So I’m glad to be home. Glad to be a Golden Eagle, and we’re going to do everything we can do to make you proud over the next many years, we hope.”

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Hopson will be formally introduced as Southern Miss’ 21st head coach at a news conference Monday afternoon in Hattiesburg, but the school was quick to announce and promote his hire via social media.

Jay Hopson

Jay Hopson

Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis used Twitter to announce the hire on Saturday night. His account had pictures of Hopson being picked up at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport, on a private plane to Hattiesburg, and of his signed contract.

A new Twitter account for Hopson was also set up — @CoachHopson — with its first tweet reading, “Golden Eagle Fans — I’m excited to be HOME and to be your head football coach! Let’s do this together! #SMTTT”

By Monday morning, the account already had more than 1,400 followers.

Hopson is replacing Todd Monken, who left after three seasons to become the offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Monken had a 13-25 record at Southern Miss, but also inherited the program at one of the lowest points in its history.

Southern Miss went winless in 2012, the year before Monken arrived, and then went 9-5 and won the Conference USA West Division championship in 2015. The Golden Eagles will return a number of starters, including senior quarterback Nick Mullens, meaning Hopson will have plenty to work with as he steps into his new job.

Hopson previously served as Southern Miss’ defensive backs coach from 2001-03, and its defensive coordinator from 2005-07.

Hopson is also leaving Alcorn State in a much better place than he found it. Mirroring Monken’s turnaround in Hattiesburg, Alcorn went from a 2-8 record the year before Hopson arrived to back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in 2014 and 2015. Alcorn was 32-17 in four seasons under Hopson, won its first conference titles since 1994, and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in the program’s history.

Fred McNair

Fred McNair

Alcorn athletic director Derek Horne said in a release Sunday that a national search to find Hopson’s replacement would begin immediately. Assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Fred McNair was promoted to interim head coach, likely through national signing day on Wednesday.

McNair, who is the brother of Alcorn legend Steve McNair and himself a member of the school’s athletics hall of fame, has been on the Braves’ coaching staff since 2013.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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