Year three of the Jay Hopson era begins at Southern Miss and as expected, expectations are high down in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles have increased their win totals over the first two years under Hopson, and the Eagles seem to be long gone from the 2012-2014 “dreadful era” of USM football.
The Eagles will look to find some assemblance of a replacement or replacements for the departed Ito Smith, who takes with him 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. The Eagles will also look to replace leading receiver Korey Robertson who hauled in 76 passes for 1106 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The good thing for the Eagles is quarterback Kwandra Griggs returns, as does a loaded quarterback position group with as many as five other Eagles vying for time. Transfers Neil McLaurin and Jack Abraham and others will look to continue pushing Griggs heading into fall camp. Southern Miss comes into the season with the 27th best quarterback position group in the country.
Overall talent in Hattiesburg is as good as it has been in quiet some time as the Eagles have the fourth best talent roster in CUSA, and when you combine that with experience at quarterback play, that’s a great thing to be had for Hopson, who is rated our 51st best coach in the country, coming in just above our average coaching rating (stamp) at 3.75.
We have USM again bowling in 2018, but if the Eagles are going to be in the conversation of a divisional crown and CUSA Championship birth come November, Hopson has to get his defense to continue to trend in the positive direction.
In Hopson’s first two years his defense gave up 30 and 25 points per ball game. The Eagles need to see that number trend towards 20 points per game in 2018 as they will find themselves in a handful of ball games that will be one possession games or games they need to make a stop.
The Eagles also need to see their sack total increase from a year ago, which was at a season total of 24.