Southern Miss and coach Jay Hopson reached a mutual agreement on Monday, Sept. 7, and the fifth-year coach will step down. Co-offensive coordinator Scotty Walden will work as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the 2020 season. Southern Miss is the first vacancy for college football’s 2020 coaching carousel. The Golden Eagles are off to an 0-1 start after losing to South Alabama on Thursday night.
Hopson — a native of Mississippi — came to Southern Miss after spending four years at Alcorn State. The Braves went 32-17 from 2012-15 and won at least nine games in each of Hopson’s last three seasons. The Golden Eagles went 28-23 and did not record a losing mark under Hopson’s direction.
Who could replace Hopson at Southern Miss? Here are 10 names to watch in the coaching search:
10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jay Hopson at Southern Miss
Larry Fedora, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Could Southern Miss lure Fedora back to Hattiesburg? Fedora went 34-19 as the head coach for the Golden Eagles from 2008-11 and guided the program to a No. 20 finish in the final Associated Press poll in his last season. Fedora went 45-43 at North Carolina before his dismissal after the 2018 season and did not coach in an on-field role in ’19. He’s slated to work in 2020 as the play-caller for Baylor.
Pete Golding, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Golding has previous ties to the program from a stint in Hattiesburg from 2014-15 as the defensive backs coach. The Louisiana native started his career as a graduate assistant at Delta State and later worked there as an assistant from 2010-11 and made other stops at Tusculum College (2007-09) and Southeastern Louisiana (2012-13). After his two-year run at Southern Miss, Golding spent two seasons at UTSA (2016-17) as the program’s defensive coordinator and joined Alabama’s staff in 2018. He’s slated to work as the team’s play-caller on defense once again in 2020.
John Grass, Head Coach, Jacksonville State
Grass could be a name from the FCS ranks to watch in this search. The Alabama native was promoted to head coach in 2014 and went 58-18 over the last six years. Under Grass’ direction, the Gamecocks have lost only six OVC games since 2014 — with five coming in the 2019 season. Additionally, Jacksonville State has missed just one FCS playoff (2019) under Grass.
Will Hall, Offensive Coordinator, Tulane
Hall is a rising star in the assistant ranks. The Mississippi native is entering his second year as Tulane’s offensive coordinator and his impact on this group was noticeable in 2019. The Green Wave averaged 33.1 points a contest — up from 26.8 the previous year. Prior to working at Tulane, Hall had two stints as a head coach (West Alabama and West Georgia) and also spent time at Louisiana (2017) and Memphis (2018).
Kevin Johns, Offensive Coordinator, Memphis
With Mike Norvell taking over at Florida State, Johns remained on staff at Memphis and will shift into the play-caller role under new coach Ryan Silverfield. He’s accumulated a wealth of experience as an assistant, spending time at Richmond (2002-03), Northwestern (2004-11), Indiana (2011-16), Western Michigan (2017), and Texas Tech (2018). Johns does not have any previous experience as a head coach at the FBS level.
Rhett Lashlee, Offensive Coordinator, Miami
Lashlee is one of the offseason’s top assistant hires and should have an impact on Miami’s offense this fall. The Arkansas native spent time on coaching staffs at Samford (2011), Arkansas State (2012), Auburn (2013-16), and UConn (2017) before joining SMU in 2018. The Mustangs averaged 30.4 points a game that season but upped that total to 41.8 last fall before he moved on to Miami. Lashlee doesn’t have any experience as a head coach, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to run his own program.
Pete Lembo, Special Teams Coordinator, Memphis
Lembo has won at three different programs and should get another look to run an FBS team in the future. He went 44-14 at Lehigh from 2001-05 and finished 35-22 at Elon from 2006-10. Lembo spent five years at Ball State (2011-15) and won 33 games during that span, including 19 over two seasons (2012-13). After departing Ball State, Lembo worked at Maryland (2016-17) and Rice (2018) before landing at Memphis to coach special teams in 2019.
Doug Meacham, Assistant Coach, TCU
Meacham returned to TCU this offseason after previously departing the program in 2016. The Texas native has never been a head coach at the FBS level but has a strong background on offense and has a wealth of experience from a handful of stops, including Oklahoma State (2005-12), Houston (2013), TCU (2014-16), and Kansas (2017-18).
Tyrone Nix, Defensive Coordinator, UTSA
Nix certainly doesn’t need a lot of introduction to the Southern Miss fan base from his days as a linebacker from 1990-93 and stint as an assistant from 1995-2004. The Alabama native has spent time at South Carolina (2005-07), Ole Miss (2008-11), MTSU (2012-16), Texas A&M (2017), and Virginia Tech (2018) before taking over as UTSA’s defensive coordinator in 2020.
Scotty Walden, Interim Coach, Southern Miss
Walden was promoted to the interim role after Jay Hopson decided to step down on Monday. Walden got his start in the coaching ranks at Division III Sul Ross State in 2012. He later worked as the offensive coordinator at East Texas Baptist from 2013-15 before taking over as head coach in ’16. At the age of 26, Walden guided East Texas Baptist to a 7-3 record in his only year in charge. He was hired at Southern Miss in 2017 and has worked with receivers in each of the last four years.