Bill McGillis had an urgency to a head football coaching search that no Athletic Director would want to have.
Just a week and a half before signing day, his head football coach Todd Monken let him know he'd be heading to the NFL. Southern Miss fans are grateful for the things Coach Monken was able to accomplish and the solid ground he left the program on in his departure. For McGillis, there was no time to waste.
Working tirelessly for a week, McGillis was able to return to Hattiesburg having found his man in Jay Hopson, former coach at Alcorn State.
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With deep roots in the state of Mississippi and previous ties to Southern Miss, Hopson had all the qualities McGillis was looking for. A former defensive back himself in college at Ole Miss, Hopson has coached on the defensive side of the football until he took over as the head man at Alcorn State. A job few would have the guts to take on, Hopson not only met the challenge, but he succeded by going 32-17 and ended a losing streak of 6 seasons.
Now that he's ready to take over the job at Southern Miss, just what will the Golden Eagles be getting in their new head man?
Hopson Understands Southern Miss
At Southern Miss, it is not just about understanding how to coach, but it's understanding the culture that it takes to win here. Monken was fond of saying "Southern Miss is a special place." Hopson gets it too. He's been a part of the culture in his time under Coach Bower as a defensive coach. Also important to note too, Hopson knows how to win with limited resources. Alcorn State was a place where he had to be creative because there wasn't much of a money flow to work with, and he made the most of what he was given. That will have to be the case at USM, and Hopson knows that.
As one who has overcome cancer twice and has deep ties in the state being a Vicksburg native, Hopson knows hard work. He knows that Southern Miss is a blue collar school where the players come to work. Nothing is given at Southern Miss. That is his style. He'll work hard, too, as evidenced by what he accomplished at Alcorn State. Those close to him describe him as a "tireless worker" and "a guy that will do whatever it takes to win." Understanding the culture is a huge step toward being successful in Hattiesburg.
A big issue for Bill McGillis in this search was to find someone who would be able to maintain the momentum that Todd Monken had created. Amazingly, Hopson will be the 4th head coach in 6 years at Southern Miss. Stablility was important. We don't know this for sure yet, but we imagine that Hopson will seek to keep most, if not all, of the current staff in place. That staff is the reason this recruiting class was able to hold together. When the coaching search was going on and they weren't even sure if they'd have a job next week, they continued to make visits and lock down commits.
Also, Coach Hopson is not one who comes in with the idea that if he wins big in two years USM will be going through this process again. He wants to be at Southern Miss and he wants to stay at Southern Miss. This is a dream job for him and he's already come out and said as much. Knowing that you will be able to have a coach who won't bolt at the first opportunity will give some stability to the coaching job for the Golden Eagles.
Recruiting is the life blood of a football program, and Hopson has tremendous ties within the state of Mississippi. Having played at Ole Miss, been as assistant at Southern Miss, and coaching at Alcorn State, he is very well connected to high school coaches around the state. He is well respected, too. Instead of having to take years to develop these relationships, they will already be in place when Hopson begins his tenure. Southern Miss did well recruiting in-state this year, but that hasn't always been the case. Expect that success to continue under Hopson's watch.
Head Coaching Experience
Coach Monken and Fedora were hired without any experience as head coaches. Though they both were successful, they both had to learn on the job. Hopson has four years under his belt, and has had time to learn about nuances that come with being a head coach. Southern Miss won't have to worry about him figuring it out as he goes. He knows who he is as a head coach, and he'll continue to work to improve and grow. At Alcorn State, Hopson took over a program that had a losing record for five consecutive seasons before turning it around. He went 4-7 his first year, then really took off and went 9-3 in his second season and never looked back.
His players loved him and he is described as a "player's coach" because of the great relationship he had with them. Prospects have already commented on how much they like him if they were being recruited by him to Alcorn State, where he went 32-17 in four seasons. His experience will allow him to hit the ground running, which he'll have to do with spring practice just around the corner.
The term "player's coach" is thrown around a lot, it simply means that a coach is relateable and understands his players. This is true of Jay Hopson. He is a humble man, a hard worker, and one who loves his players. He's battled cancer so he can relate to the hardships of life. Hopson comes to Southern Miss thankful to be there and the players will respect him and will play hard for him. Relationships are his strength, a key component to fan and community support as well.
In short, Jay Hopson feels like the right fit and a good hire for Southern Miss. Bill McGillis did his due dilligence and ended up with a man that had what he was looking for. Welcome to Southern Miss, Coach Hopson!