Newcomers fill out lineup as Southern Miss starts practice

Published 7:55 am Monday, August 6, 2018

HATTIESBURG — One came in the spring, the other in July. But both Trace Clopton and Nick Dawson have the same mission: to make themselves and their Southern Miss teammates better each and every day of fall camp.

“I think that leaving early and coming in the spring was the best decision I could have made,” said Clopton, a freshman center from Brookhaven. “My family helped me with it. We knew the center was graduating and that I would have a shot, as opposed to if I came now or in the summer and didn’t have those connections.”

Head coach Jay Hopson is entering his third season with the program and is seeing the fruits of he and his staff’s labor with their recruiting classes coming along.

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“With the newcomers, you have to keep watching and see their development,” said Hopson, a Vicksburg native. “Of course, Trace is a guy that is making a statement early as a newcomer and is already starting.”

Defensive lineman Dawson echoed a similar sentiment of Clopton’s regarding the adjustments to summer workouts, including the 110-yard runs on the turf in the heat of the day and lifting at 6 a.m.

“Summer workouts were really good, attacking every day and seeing what the mindset would need to be like,” Dawson said. “It’s about getting a step up on the competition and making myself as good as I can be for the rest of the season.”

Dawson hails from Georgia but played junior college ball at Northeast Oklahoma A&M. While he has experienced college life before, a new state and a new level of competition is just another step for him in learning the ropes.

“Ky’el (Hemby) is who I talk to the most, and while we didn’t come in at the same time, he came in June and I was in July, that’s my roommate too,” he said. “I’ve made sure I’ve been around LaDarius (Harris) too to see how things were on the defensive line. It’s been smooth. It took me a minute to get acclimated. I talked to and got around more people the second and third week of July.”

Clopton and Dawson aren’t the only newcomers or young players trying to make an impression. At quarterback, redshirt freshman Marcelo Rodriguez and junior college transfer Jack Abraham are both battling for the starting job.

Senior Kwadra Griggs is the incumbent, but is being pushed by both players.

Rodriguez redshirted last season. Abraham played at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he threw for 2,949 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“It will be a fun battle,” Hopson said after Friday’s first practice. “Kwadra was looking good today as he has gotten healthy and he made some good throws, and Jack made some good throws where he delivered the ball well. And Marcelo made some nice chunks. That is a position that keeps battling it out every day.”

Abraham said the Golden Eagles’ receiving corps is helping all of the quarterbacks to look good.
The unit is seeking to replace top receiver Korey Robertson (76 receptions, 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017), along with big-play threat Allenzae Staggers and several others, but appears to be progressing nicely in camp.

Among those vying for playing time are former St. Aloysius star DeMichael Harris, sophomore Tim Jones and junior Trevor Terry.

Harris transferred to Southern Miss after spending the last two years at Hinds Community College. He was a state track champion in high school and is part of a speedy stable of receivers.

“We are stacked with speed,” Abraham said. “With guys like Tim Jones, Quez Watkins, Trevor Terry, we are loaded everywhere. It makes our jobs a lot easier.”