Jay Hopson's second year as the defensive coordinator at Southern Miss last year was a good oneas the Golden Eagles led Conference USA in scoring defense for the second-straight year and set a school-record with seven scores.
The Golden Eagles also led the conference in pass efficiency defense, opponent's 3rd down conversions and red zone defense. In addition, he tutored middle linebacker Gerald McRath to freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News, CollegeFootballNews.com and the Football Writers Association of America/Scripps. Four of Hopson's defensive players were named to the All-Conference USA teams and two more were named to the allfreshman team.
The team's success last fall followed a year in which the Golden Eagles led Conference USA in scoring defense, quarterback sacks and most turnovers forced per game. Hopson's hope is that his third year will be even better. He also will coach the middle linebackers for the second-straight year, after coaching the defensive backs in 2005.
In 2005, Hopson's defense led the nation in fumbles gained, No. 5 in turnovers gained per game, No. 23 in interceptions, No. 33 in scoring defense and No. 34 in sacks. He coached a pair of All-Conference USA defensive backs, including Trevis Coley, now with the New York Giants and current senior Brandon Sumrall, named a sophomore All-American by collegefootballnews.com. Both players recorded career-highs in tackles, as Coley posted 109 and Sumrall 88. As a whole, the secondary posted 15 interceptions and 40 pass breakups.
He returned to Southern Miss in January 2005, for his second stint, after serving for one year as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, Ole Miss. Hopson previously spent three years at Southern Miss as the defensive backs coach from 2001-03.
In 2003, his group of defensive backs helped the Golden Eagles win their fourth Conference USA championship and make a third trip to the Liberty Bowl. They were tied for second in the national lead in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (9) and earned a No. 5 national ranking in pass defense, No. 13 ranking in pass efficiency defense and helped maintain and even improve on the successes the defense had enjoyed the previous two seasons.
Safety Etric Pruitt had another banner season, earning All-America honors for the second-straight year. He finished third on the tackle list with 132 stops. He also had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, 10 pass breakups and four tackles for loss, and was named C-USA defensive player of the week following the UAB game.
Three of Hopson's defensive backs gained allconference honors, including first-teamers Pruitt and Greg Brooks. Senior safety Alex Ray was selected to the league's third team. Pruitt also was named a semifinalist for the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the nation. Brooks and Pruitt both were drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.
While the 2001 season was a success against the pass, the 2002 defense was even better. It led the nation in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (6) and finished as the No. 4 team in pass efficiency defense and was No. 10 in pass defense.
One of Hopson's players, Pruitt, was honored for his performance when he was named an All-Conference USA first team selection, as well as being named to several All-America teams. Pruitt was third on the team in tackles and led Southern Miss with six interceptions. That total was good enough to rank him No. 21 in the nation. Another of Hopson's defenders, Brooks, finished with 14 pass breakups and set the school's career mark with 35.
Two of the players Hopson coached in 2001, Brooks and Chad Williams, both were selected firstteam All-Conference USA following the season. Brooks finished the 2001 season ranked No. 6 in the nation in pass breakups, and Brooks and Leroy Johnson were ranked by the NCAA in interceptions. Williams was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Hopson joined the Southern Miss staff following the 2000 season, after spending five years at Marshall University as the defensive backs coach. The Thundering Herd won four-straight Mid-American Conference championships and made fourstraight appearances in the Motor City Bowl, winning three of those. Marshall also won a national championship in its last year of NCAA I-AA competition in 1996.
Marshall also led the Mid-American Conference in interceptions for two of his seasons there, ranking No. 1 in the nation in 1999. The defense also ranked in the top 15 nationally in pass efficiency defense from 1997- 99. He coached 10 all-conference selections, two players named to Sports Illustrated's All-Bowl Team, three All-Americans and two Jim Thorpe Award candidates, honoring the nation's top defensive back.
Hopson's coaching career started as a graduate assistant at Tulane and has included stops at LSU, Florida and Marshall before coming to Southern Miss.
While at Florida, the Gators won the Southeastern Conference championship and played for the national championship. While at LSU, the Tigers led the Southeastern Conference in total defense.
Hopson was a four-year letterwinner as a defensive back at Ole Miss from 1988-91, playing free safety for one season before moving to strong safety for his final three years. He was a four-time Academic All-SEC honor roll selection and was named to the CoSIDA District VI Academic All-America team as a senior in 1991.
He also was a member of the student athletic advisory committee and was the recipient of the John Howard Vaught Award in 1991. Hopson was a speaker at the American Football Coaches Association Convention in January 2000. He enjoyed a successful playing career at Warren Central High School in Vicksburg, Miss., where he earned allcounty, all-district and all-state honors.
He received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Ole Miss in 1992 and his master's degree in health, physical education and recreation from Delta State in 1994.
Hopson is married to the former Michelle Russell of Vicksburg, Miss. The couple has two daughters, Virginia Hyde and Hannah Renee.
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