Jay Hopson enters his second season as the Tigers' defensive coordinator. In his role, he will also guide the safeties.
Hopson's defense showed marked improvement in the final four games of the 2010 season, holding opponents to around 125 rushing yards a game. In the four games prior to that stretch, the defense had yielded double that yardage on the ground. Two of Hopson's most consistent safeties, Darius Davis and Marcus Ball, helped power the Tiger defense. Ball led the secondary and was ranked third on the team in tackles with 66, while also recording two interceptions and two pass breakups.
In addition, Hopson helped guide linebacker Jamon Hughes to first team All-Conference USA honors in 2010. Hughes ranked third nationally with 147 tackles.
In 2009, Hopson completed his second season at Michigan, where he served as the linebackers coach. Under Hopson, three of the top five tacklers for the 2009 season were linebackers Stevie Brown, Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton. Ezeh was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award that season.
No stranger to Conference USA, Hopson has had two stints with the defense at Southern Miss. Prior to Michigan, he spent three seasons as defensive coordinator, defensive backs and middle linebackers coach at Southern Miss from 2005-07. In 2007, he was named the All-American Football Foundation Top Assistant Coach.
As a coordinator, Hopson's defensive units led Conference USA in scoring defense each of his three seasons. The Golden Eagles participated in three bowl games while Hopson was the defensive coordinator: the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, the 2006 GMAC Bowl and the 2007 Papajohns.com Bowl. In 2005, Southern Miss captured the C-USA East title.
In 2005, Hopson's defense led the nation in fumble recoveries and led C-USA in scoring defense. He coached a pair of All-Conference USA defensive backs, including Trevis Coley and Brandon Sumrall. Both players recorded career highs in tackles, as Coley posted 109 and Sumrall 88. In addition, Kevis Coley was named the 2005 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. As a whole, the secondary posted 15 interceptions and 40 pass breakups.
In 2006, the Golden Eagles led Conference USA in scoring defense for the second-straight year and set a school record with seven scores. USM also led the conference in pass efficiency defense, opponent's third-down conversions and redzone 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 C-USA All-Freshman team.
In his final season with USM, the Golden Eagles had four players named to the All-C-USA defensive first team, including McRath, who was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year after posting 131 tackles. Southern Miss led the conference in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and redzone defense in 2007.
Prior to his appointment as defensive coordinator, Hopson coached the defensive backs for the Golden Eagles from 2001-03. In each year of his tenure, USM ranked in the top-15 nationally in scoring defense. The Golden Eagles participated in the Houston Bowl in 2002 and won Conference USA in 2003, which sent Southern Miss to Memphis, Tenn., for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Two of the players Hopson coached in 2001, Greg Brooks and Chad Williams, both were selected first team 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 selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
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 ranked No. 10 in pass defense. That season, safety Etric Pruitt was honored for his efforts 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, Greg Brooks, finished with 14 pass breakups and set the school's career mark with 35.
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. Southern Miss was tied for second nationally in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (9) and earned a No. 5 national ranking in pass defense and a No. 13 ranking in pass efficiency defense.
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 TFL and was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week following the UAB game.
Three of Hopson's defensive backs gained all-conference honors, including first teamers Pruitt and 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.
A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Hopson worked the 2004 campaign at his alma mater, Ole Miss, as the defensive backs coach and was the program's recruiting coordinator before returning to Hattiesburg for his second stint at USM - his first as a coordinator. The Rebels' pass defense improved from 109th nationally in 2003 to 49th during the 2004 campaign.
Hopson's coaching resume also includes positions at Marshall (1996-2000) and Delta State (1993) as defensive backs coach. He was a member of the Herd's 1996 NCAA I-AA National Championship staff and coached the team to four-straight Mid-American Conference championships. In 1996, Marshall led the Southern Conference in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. In 1999, the Herd secondary led the nation in interceptions. Additionally, from 1997-99, Marshall's defense led the MAC in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
Hopson also held defensive graduate assistant positions at Florida (1995), LSU (1994) and Tulane (1992). He helped the Gators to the Southeastern Conference championship and played for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.
During his career, Hopson has coached numerous all-conference players and three All-Americans. Two of his players have been nominated for the Jim Thorpe Award and two of his players were named to Sports Illustrated's All-Bowl Team.
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.
Hopson graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor's degree in business administration (1992), and received a master's of health in physical education and recreation from Delta State (1994).
Hopson and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters, Virginia and Hannah.