HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Ever since Jay Hopson took over the Southern Miss program four seasons ago, his goal has been to re-establish the “Nasty Bunch” identity.
The Golden Eagles are trending in that direction after finishing last season as the No. 3 defense in yards allowed per game.
The other standard Hopson hopes to bring back is defeating SEC opponents. Since the 2016 win over Kentucky in Hopson’s coaching debut, USM is 0-4 against the Southeastern Conference.
Saturday provides another opportunity when the Eagles visit Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. To take down the Bulldogs for the first time since 1988, Southern Miss will need to rely on its stout run defense which hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15 games.
The most recent challenge to Hopson’s “Nasty Bunch” – junior running back Kylin Hill, who opened the season with 197 yards on 27 carries.
"Kylin's got a combination of speed, strength, so he's a complete back,” Hopson said. “Stopping the run is something I think that's fundamental in football. However, you have to be well-rounded and Mississippi State's a team that plays with great balance. So, we understand we have a good challenge."
"[Hill] has great vision, he can really jump-cut,” said USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings. “He's really strong but he's one of those guys that can find a small crease and get through it and before you know it's not four [yards], it's 14."
"I saw a video of [Hill] maxing out on squat, and he squatted like what I’m squatting so that was impressive right there,” said USM senior defensive lineman Demarrio Smith.
“We know Kylin Hill’s a very explosive player,” said USM senior defensive back D.Q. Thomas. “He’s probably the best back we’re going to see all year, so for us we gotta make sure we fly around to the ball and try to contain him the best we can.”