HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - For a second consecutive day, University of Southern Mississippi football coaches put the Golden Eagles through their paces for 2 ½ hours Wednesday afternoon at the Joe P. Park Football Practice Fields.
Then, they hit the recruiting trail.
With the Dec. 20 signing date looming and a Dec. 27 Independence Bowl date drawing closer with Florida State University, USM's coaches have one eye on the future and the other focused on the present.
"We'll be recruiting (Wednesday) night," Hopson said after practice ended at 5 o'clock. "We'll be hitting the road here shortly, and it's all just part of the journey.
"The earlier signing date is right around the corner, so we have to get after it."
According to 24/7sports.com, USM has received 18, non-binding verbal commitments, including eight commitments from junior college players.
With only nine rising juniors currently on scholarship, the heavy JuCo group will help correct the current imbalance spread over USM's freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes.
The two most recent commitments were split between a junior college outside linebacker and a high school offensive guard.
TyRee Evans, who starred at Wayne County High School, collected more than 100 tackles this season at East Mississippi Community College. He was named Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Lions' 31-28 victory over Western Arizona College in Mississippi Bowl X.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Evans is the second Lion to commit to USM, joining teammate Travion Williams, a 5-11, 170-pound cornerback from Charleston.
Kameron King, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior at Marshall (Texas) High School, had decommitted from North Texas University in November before pledging with the Golden Eagles.
After an unexpectedly heavy snow wiped out two practices at the end of last week, the Golden Eagles returned to postseason preparations with this week.
Hopson said he was much more pleased with Wednesday's work than Tuesday's.
"We had a good day (Wednesday)," Hopson said. "(Tuesday), we didn't have a very good day. We just did a better than we did (Tuesday)."
USM will continue practice this week, with sessions scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
2018 SOUTHERN MISS FOOTBALL COMMITMENTS (18)
- Jack Abraham, QB, 6-0, 198, Northwest Miss. Community College/Louisiana Tech/Oxford HS (Oxford)
- Jason Bedell, DT, 6-2-290, Greenwood HS (Greenwood)
- Curry Benn, CB, 6-0, 170, Landry-Walker HS (New Orleans)
- Shannon Carswell, DL, 6-4, 285, Freeport Senior HS (Freeport, Fla.)
- Trace Clopton, C, 6-2, 292, Brookhaven HS (Brookhaven)
- Christopher DeLoach, TE, 6-5, 250, East Central Community College/Columbus HS (Columbus)
- TyRee Evans, OLB, 6-2, 210, East Miss. Community College/Wayne County HS (Waynesboro)
- Von’Darius Freeman, DT, 6-3, 320, Southwest Miss. Community College/Ville Platte HS (Ville Platte, La.)
- DeMichael Harris, WR, 5-10, 175, Hinds Community College/St. Aloysius HS (Vicksburg)
- Tairek Johnson, OT, 6-4, 300, Northeast Miss. Community College/Corinth HS (Corinth)
- Jemaurian Jones, CB, 6-1, 170, Brookhaven HS (Brookhaven)
- Kameron King, OG, 6-2, 275, Marshall (Texas) HS (Marshall, Texas)
- Hayes Maples, ILB, 6-2, 220, Oak Grove HS (Hattiesburg)
- William Robinson, OLB, 6-3, 210, Hattiesburg HS (Hattiesburg)
- Malik Shorts, DB, 5-11, 180, Jefferson Davis County HS (Bassfield)
- Denzel Washington, S, 6-1, 208, Tyler (Texas) Junior College/West Monroe (La.) HS (Monroe, La.)
- Tate Whatley, QB, 6-1, 190, Lakeland (Fla.) Christian School (Lakeland, Fla.)
- Travion Williams, CB, 5-11, 170 East Miss. Community College/Charleston HS (Charleston)