The first practice season of the year is now under wraps for Coach Jay Hopson and his Southern Miss Golden Eagle staff. Over the next few weeks we will take a look back at the first few months under Hopson and make some observations about the start. Today, we will take a look at the transition of the new coaching staff.
Coaching transition is never easy. At least, it shouldn't look as easy at it appeared on the outside looking in for Coach Hopson and his staff. In fact, to someone not familiar with the program and watching practice, it would have seemed as if Hopson had been there all along. There are several keys reasons for the ease in transition.
1. Coach Woodfin remaining in place
Coach Hopson and Coach Woodfin hit it off from day one and had the same philosophy and coaching style. That was huge for the program. The players love Coach Woodfin and one doesn't need to search for long to see his fingerprints all over the program. Because of the continuity in the strength program, when the coaching search was in the whirlwind, the players were continuing on as if nothing had ever changed. When the time for spring came around, they were ready and focused and had made tremendous strides in winter work-outs. They didn't have to hit the pause button or have any change in philosophy. There is no way to over state the importance of that time with Woodfin.
2. Coach Hopson's understanding of the culture at Southern Miss
Southern Miss IS a special place. Coach Monken knew that coming in and those were his final words before leaving. He was thankful for the opportunity to be a Golden Eagle. Coach Hopson knows this first hand from his experience before with Southern Miss as a defensive coordinator. He knew what to say to the media and to the team when he first came on board. There was no culture change, and aside from a few tweaks on the defensive side of the ball, he doesn't plan on stubbornly trying to make Southern Miss into something it is not. He kept in place the things that needed to remain, and has made a few tweaks that have already seemed to have a big impact on the defensive side of the ball. Jay Hopson knows toughness, determination, and doing things the hard way. At Alcorn, he was given nothing. Yet, he still turned that program into a championship one under his watch. It is that same drive and determination necessary to keep things moving at USM.
3. Coach Shannon Dawson
Perhaps one of the most important hires that showed Southern Miss fans that Jay Hopson was determined to keep the train moving in the same direction was offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. Formally at Kentucky, ironic because of USM's opener, Dawson is one of the brightest minds offensively in college football. The Golden Eagles have found something that works in the spread attack, and that will not skip a beat under Dawson. With a senior QB in place, three interior linemen, and a handful of talented skill players, USM had no need to try and re haul the offense. Dawson's offense is going to look very similar to the one that Monken ran, and with key seniors in place they should continue to put up really good numbers.
4. Similar Coaching Styles
Say what you want about time with the media after practice. Sure, Coach Monken and Coach Hopson were pretty different when it came to that. However, once you get on the field, where it really matters, Monken and Hopson are very similar. Both had very up tempo practices with a lot of running and a lot of conditioning. Also, Coach Monken started to be more and more physical in practices and that appeared to really benefit the team, and Coach Hopson is certainly a believer of the same. A bit of a throw back, Hopson learned some important lessons back in the day about the very physical nature of the way that USM has always liked to play, and he's tapped into that tradition. Hopson is a player's coach, like Monken is, and the players both like and respect him. His staff is fiery and aggressive, with Coach Nicholson putting on his cleats and running around like he was still a defender at Florida State. Hopson can give some epic pre game speeches too.
5. Head Coaching Experience
Coach Monken had a bit of a learning curve, and he learned a lot during his tenure at Southern Miss. Coach Hopson has had time to iron things out and find out what works for him as a head coach. There is no doubt, a few years under his belt learning to manage the things that a head coach has to manage will serve him well during his time at USM. He's been there. He's won a championship, and knows what it takes to get to that level. This staff has a winning pedigree as well, and you combine that with players that are hungry, and it has been a really nice mix.