HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ University of Southern Mississippi football coach Jay Hopson can make the grueling process of recruiting sound simply … well … simple.
“This class meets a lot of our needs,” Hopson said. “When we looked at our board, and what we needed and where we needed to go, this class hit a lot of those spots. I feel like we got there.
“I just feel like this class has a lot of talented, talented young men.”
USM wound up welcoming 14 players over a two-day period, including 10 Wednesday morning in the opening hour of the December signing period.
The Golden Eagles added three more throughout the rest of Wednesday, then capped the early class with Miami (Fla.) Killian High School running back Frank Gore Jr.
Gore, who was just one of three high school players in USM’s class, is the son of long-time National Football League standout Frank Gore Sr. He played quarterback as a high school senior, but is expected to be a running back for the Golden Eagles.
USM went heavy into the junior college ranks, with 11 of the 14 signees expected to be able to enroll in January and take part in spring football.
“What it does is creates competition right off the get-go when you start spring ball, and I think that’s what football is all about, whether you’re playing, coaching, it’s about opportunity,” Hopson said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of competition this spring, and that’s good.”
Eight signees, including seven junior college players, are projected for the defensive side of the football.
USM signed a trio of defensive linemen, Terence Cherry and Austin Todd from East Mississippi Community College and Dominic Quewon from Iowa Western Community College, as well as three defensive backs, Jones College’s Fred Smith; Copiah Lincoln Community College’s Natrone Brooks and El Dorado (Kan.) Butler Community College’s Eric Scott Jr.
The Golden Eagles bolstered their linebacking corps with Quewon’s Iowa Western teammate, Averie Habas, and freshman Mike Pleas Jr. of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla.
Habas, Todd and Scott have three years eligibility left.
USM signed six players on offense, including four more junior-college players.
“(Junior college players), they’re usually a year or two old, and the older you get, the more savvy you get,” Hopson said. “You’re certainly expecting junior-college to be able to compete right away, so there’s always a push in that regard.”
Like the defensive line and secondary, where the ranks will be thinned over the next few years, USM addressed an upcoming need with the signing of junior-college wideouts Jason Brownlee of East Mississippi and Antoine Robinson of Copiah-Lincoln as well as freshman Brandon Hayes of Oak Grove High School.
After bulking up on the offensive line the past two classes, the Golden Eagles added just one lineman this time, bringing in 348-pound Tykeem Doss of East Central Community College.
Two running backs rounded out the class, including Gore and Don Ragsdale of Hinds Community College.
“We really, really liked both of them,” Hopson said. “Two really good players, and sometimes, you just have to pull the trigger.”
Nine of the signees have Mississippi ties, including state natives, including Todd and Hayes (Hattiesburg); Brownlee and Cherry (West Point); Smith (Hollandale); Ragsdale (Pisgah); Robinson (Canton); and Brooks (Starkville).
The ninth, Doss, hails from Aliceville, Ala., but played JuCo football in Mississippi.
USM also threw a wide net to bring in players from Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida.
“You know us,” Hopson said. “We’re going to go from Florida to California. I’d sign everybody in a two-hour radius if I could, but we’re going to go as far as we’ve got to go. We’ll go to Alaska and do what we’ve got to do to get the best that we can get.”
And USM will return to good places with good players.
For a third consecutive season, USM welcomed a player from Iowa Western, signing safety Ky’el Hemby in 2017 and offensive lineman Tre’ Johnson in 2018. Wednesday, USM added Quewon and Habas.
Hopson said he anticipated signing a "handful” of players in the February period, with those scholarships expected to be concentrated toward defense.