Southern Miss Athletics

Taking a look at 10 questions we'll be watching as USM heads towards spring practice

The next question we'll be looking for Southern Miss heads for spring practice is how will the team adjust to the new coaching staff?

The start of spring practice is now just a few days away, and has been taking a look at some on the field battles to watch as the time draws near.  In questions 1-3 we've taken a look at some position battles that could be intriguing on the offensive side of the ball.  

Perhaps though, the biggest question mark coming in is going to be the Golden Eagles taking the field with an almost entirely new coaching staff.  

Todd Monken's exit just before signing day came as a surprise to just about everyone associated with the program.  It is unlikely that anyone had the expectation of Monken sticking around for the long haul at Southern Miss, but the belief was that 2016 would likely be his swan song in Hattiesburg.  When Monken bolted to the NFL, there were certainly some question marks as to the direction Bill McGillis would go in finding the new head man to lead the program.  

The decision was made to go with Alcorn St and former Southern Miss defensive coordinator Jay Hopson.  

Time will tell, of course, on the success of this hire, but all indications are that things are starting off on the right foot.  Today, we want to take a look at the offensive coordinator and what he will bring to the table...

(In case you want a look back, here is Question 1, Question 2, and Question 3.)

Though Jay Hopson is a defensive guy, he made it clear that he didn't want to do anything to change up the success that Southern Miss had going on the offensive side of the ball.  And why would he?  With a senior quarterback, starting interior line, and deep and talented RB core, USM has a lot of pieces in place to be really good again offensively.  

Enter the hire that helped everyone know Hopson meant it.  

Shannon Dawson.

Dawson was the former OC at Kentucky and is without question one of the brighter minds on the offensive side of the ball.  Ask his former quarterback, Patrick Towles, who called Dawson “one of the greatest offensive minds I’ve ever been around. Would love to sit in the same meeting room with him again!”

He has been one who has been sought out with his experience with the "air raid" offenses, including some amazing years at West Virginia working under Head Coach Dana Holgerson.  Dawson spent four seasons at WVU, including the last three as offensive coordinator.  West Virginia ranked 12th in the nation in total offense, averaging 499.8 yards per game, and was ninth nationally in passing offense with 317 yards per contest. The Mountaineers tallied 33.5 points per game and set a school record by scoring at least 30 points in eight consecutive games. WVU also averaged more than 182 rushing yards per game.

He'll also assume the duties of coaching the QB's, where he held that same position in '13-'14 at WVU and they accumulated over 3,000 yards of offense during that time.  

He's not just a passing OC either.  Very similar to the Monken approach, the spread offense that he runs is predicated upon the ability to run the football.  In fact, Kentucky averaged more last year on the ground than they did before his year there.  In short, the style of offense that Southern Miss fans have grown to see and love over the past few years has no intention of changing under Hopson.  

Going all the way back, Coach Dawson is a native of Clinton, Louisiana.  He then played college at Wingate (NC) university as a QB and WR.  Dawson got his start with the spread offense when he connected with Hal Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana, and then went with him to New Mexico State.  

He also coached offensively at Milsaps and Stephen F. Austin, where he saw major turnarounds and big numbers at both.  Then, he connected with Holgerson at West Virginia where he really began to take off.  He served as the OC for three years with the Mountaineers.  

Make no mistake about it, this is a big time hire for Coach Hopson.  He's not only getting a great offensive mind, but one who has been successful everywhere he has been.  He's also a very good recruiter, and is already in on several talented QB's and Louisiana prospects.  Also, there is that little bit of an edge to the game for Southern Miss to start to the season next year, you know, the team that just let him go after the season.  

It will be fun to watch this offense in the spring.  Stay tuned...

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