Jay Hopson is all smiles when you ask him about the 2003 football
With 12 games
ahead for his team - one a much-anticipated home game meeting with
national power Nebraska - The University of Southern Mississippi
defensive backs coach is ready to watch his crew fly around and
make things happen.
trade these guys for anything in the world," said Hopson, who
is starting his third season with the Southern Miss coaching staff.
to the wealth of talent he has making up the Golden Eagles' defensive
secondary, Hopson has one player who is considered one of the top
defensive backs in the country. With the preseason notoriety that
Etric Pruitt has received, his presence alone is generating smiles
from Hopson and the rest of the defensive coaching staff. Through
August practices, Hopson said the senior from Theodore, Ala., has
not let up in his desire to be one of the best to wear the black
so extremely hard," Hopson said.
Hopson is expecting to help the Nasty Bunch defense remain nasty
include Greg Brooks, who was All-Conference USA last year; Alex
Ray; Corey Yates; Trevis Cooley; John Eubanks; and newcomer James
Nelson, among others.
the season opener against the University of California of the Pac-10
Conference, Hopson says he's been pleased with his players' efforts
to get ready for a demanding schedule and to challenge for a Conference
Miss has always had a tough schedule, but we're up to the challenge,"
why he's been a highly regarded coach wherever he's been in his
first season at Southern Miss, when the Golden Eagles secondary
led Conference USA in pass efficiency defense and finished the season
rated No. 12 in the nation. One of Hopsons' players, Chad Williams,
was selected by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round last
successful high school career at Vicksburg's Warren Central High
School, Hopson was a standout defensive back at Ole Miss from 1988-1991.
He continued to make his mark on the gridiron after his playing
days ended with the Rebels, joining the college coaching ranks.
Prior to coming to Southern Miss, he was on the staff at Marshall
defensive backs for the Thundering Herd, Marshall won a national
championship in its last year of 1-AA competition and was ranked
in the top 15 from 1997-99 in pass efficiency. Hopson was also on
the staff at Louisiana State University and the University of Florida.
While he was at Florida, the Gators played for the national title
and during his stint at LSU helped the Tigers lead the Southeastern
Conference in defense. He began his coaching career as a graduate
assistant at Tulane University.
he's grateful for the chance to do what he loves - coaching. "It's
hard to get these jobs (in coaching)," he said. "I was
just blessed with an opportunity."
There are so
many things he loves about the game, Hopson said, but it's his motivation
to bring out the best in his players, and not just showing them
how to become all-stars on the gridiron, that drives his passion
for his job.
It comes across.
Hopson is like a father figure to me," Pruitt said. "I
can go and talk to him anytime about anything."
accepts the responsibilities and challenges of the job, which to
the casual observer may seem to be only about being an expert on
Xs and Os.
coaching staff) are in it for the kids," he said, "helping
them develop as people."