Head Coach
Jay Hopson

Jay Hopson, a 25-year coaching veteran on the collegiate level and twice previously a member of the Golden Eagle coaching staff.
Hopson became the school's 21st head football coach as the program embarks on its 101st playing season this fall.

"Coach Hopson brings some very special qualities and key assets to our program," said Southern Miss Director of Athletics Bill McGillis. "In addition to the integrity, core values and leadership skills he will bring to Southern Miss, Coach Hopson's extraordinary experience and the success he achieved while transforming the Alcorn State football program; his deep Mississippi roots; and his pedigree, which includes having served six terrific years as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Southern Miss, made him the right MATCH to lead our storied program. His passion for, and commitment to, the Golden Eagle program is beyond question. Jay Hopson is ALL about the Black and Gold."

A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Hopson returns to Southern Miss after a successful four-year stint as the head coach at Alcorn State. During his tenure there, Hopson led the Braves to a 32-17 record and consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championships the last two seasons. Alcorn State also recorded at least nine victories in each of the last three seasons, including a 10-3 mark in 2014 and following this season, Hopson led the Braves to the inaugural Celebration Bowl, a postseason football bowl featuring two standout programs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

His team also captured the SBN Black College Championship in 2014.

Prior to his arrival at Lorman, Hopson worked as linebackers coach for two seasons at Michigan (2008-09) and worked as defensive coordinator at Memphis during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns.

"It truly is a special honor and privilege to be the head coach at Southern Miss," said Hopson. "This is a dream job for me, a destination job for me. I have spent six wonderful years here and hope to spend the rest of my coaching career here at Southern Miss and I am blessed as this is a University that I love from the bottom of my heart. I'm just ready to get to work."

Hopson returns to Southern Miss after working as an assistant coach for the Golden Eagles from 2001-03 (defensive backs) and then again from 2005-07 (linebackers, defensive coordinator).

Hopson's defensive units led Conference USA in scoring defense each of his three seasons as defensive coordinator. In 2006, the Golden Eagles led C-USA in third down defense and red zone defense while his 2005 unit led the league in turnovers forced per game as well as led the nation in fumbles gained.

During his first stint with the Golden Eagles, the defensive unit led the nation in fewest passing touchdowns allowed and finished fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense in 2002. Southern Miss led C-USA and finished fifth nationally in pass defense during the 2003 season and each year during that stretch, Southern Miss ranked in the Top 15 nationally in scoring defense.

Hopson spent 2004 at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, as defensive backs coach and was the program's recruiting coordinator. The Rebels' pass defense improved from 109th nationally in 2003 to 49th during the 2004 campaign.

Hopson's coaching experience also includes positions at Marshall (1996-2000) and Delta State (1993) as defensive backs coach. He was a member of the Herds' 1996 NCAA I-AA National Championship staff and coached the team to four straight Mid-American Conference championships. Hopson also held defensive graduate assistant positions at the 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.

He earned four-year letters and received the 1991 John Howard Vaught Award as a player at Ole Miss. A CoSIDA Academic All-American, 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.

Executive Assistant to the Head Coach
William Prince

“We are thrilled to have William Prince as a part of our staff,” Hopson said. “He is a former Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi, and that will be a valuable asset as a part of our football and support staff. His career as a player and other valuable experience in all phases of football operations will help our player development program.”

Prince will oversee the athletic, educational and social development of the squad.

He comes to Hattiesburg by way of Alcorn State, where he was an assistant strength and conditioning coach and equipment manager from 2012-2016. Some of his achievements include decreasing team injuries by 72 percent and preparing the athletic equipment budget.

Prince previously held three jobs in the private sector, most recently working from 2011-12 as the Assistant General Manager/Director of Sales at the Fayetteville Athletic Club (Arkansas). He managed 160 employees in that role while also implementing the Fast Trac sales system and increasing bottom-line sales by $8,000 over a month-long period.

Other positions include serving as the General Manager at Beaumont Health and Fitness in Beaumont, Texas (2003-11), and Bally Total Fitness in Kansas City and Dallas (1997-03). Prince oversaw all daily operations, including staff and profits while also auditing systems and managing department heads.

Prince was an All-American by three different publications, including Parade Magazine, at Warren Central High School. He then headed to Mississippi State in 1988, where he started all four years and scored 15 rushing touchdowns. He obtained a Fitness Management degree from the university.

Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks
Shannon Dawson

Dawson comes to Southern Miss after spending one season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kentucky. He also helped build some of the nation's most prolific offenses at West Virginia, where he spent four seasons, including his last three as offensive coordinator. In his last season there, WVU ranked 12th in the nation in total offense, averaging 499.8 yards per game, and was ninth nationally in passing offense with 317 yards per contest. The Mountaineers tallied 33.5 points per game and set a school record by scoring at least 30 points in eight consecutive games. WVU also averaged more than 182 rushing yards per game.
A native of Clinton, La., Dawson played his college football at Wingate (N.C.) University as a quarterback and wide receiver. He began his coaching career as receivers coach at his alma mater in 2002.

Dawson helped revive a program at Southeastern Louisiana in 2003-04 that had been dormant for 17 years before moving to New Mexico State in 2005. He then went to Millsaps College as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2006-07. The Majors won the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship both years, the first back-to-back titles in school history, and played in the NCAA Division III playoffs in 2006.

Dawson moved to Stephen F. Austin University as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2008-10. Dawson and his wife, Chelsea, have a daughter, Acelyn.

Assistant Head Coach / Safeties
Tim Billings

Billings joins the Golden Eagle staff after serving as the athletic director/football coach at North Lamar High School in Paris, Texas, since April of 2014. Prior to coming to North Lamar he spent 34 years in the college ranks as a head coach, coordinator and position coach on both sides of the ball.
Billings joined the University of Memphis defensive staff in 2012. In his first season at Memphis, Billings coached the defensive line. In 2012, Memphis led the league in total defense in conference games and in 2013 Memphis was ranked in the top 20 conference defensive rush. Prior to Memphis, Billings oversaw the Wake Forest wide receivers during the 2006 and 2007 seasons and then supervised the secondary in 2008 and 2009. He worked with the defensive ends in 2010 and coached the outside linebackers while being co-defensive coordinator in 2011.

Billings was head coach at Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau, Mo., for six years (2000-05). He was named the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Coach of the Year and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region 3 Coach of the Year.

Before taking over at Southeast Missouri, Billings spend 10 years as an assistant coach at Marshall from 1990-99. During his tenure, Marshall was the winningest program in college football, compiling a 114-25 record. Billings served as the Thundering Herd's defensive coordinator during his final season in 1999. That year, Marshall completed a perfect 13-0 campaign and was ranked No. 10 in the final national polls. The Herd won-Mid American Conference (MAC) titles in each of Billings' final three seasons at Marshall.

Prior to taking the defensive coordinator role, Billings worked primarily with the Thundering Herd special teams.

Billings began his collegiate coaching career as a Missouri graduate assistant under Warren Powers in 1983-84. The 1984 Tigers played in the Holiday Bowl. He moved on to Oklahoma as a graduate assistant coach under Barry Switzer for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. The Sooners played in the 1985 and 1986 Orange Bowls, winning the 1985 national championship. Billings returned to Missouri for the 1987-89 seasons.

A native of Honey Grove, Texas, Billings began his coaching career as a secondary coach in Duncan (Okla.) High School in 1980. He served as head coach at Prairieland High School in Pattonville, Texas, in 1981 and was secondary coach at Norman (Okla.) High School in 1982 and 1983.

A 1980 Southeastern Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in physical education, Billings was an all-conference defensive back for the Savage Storm. Billings also played basketball for one season at Grayson County Junior College in Sherman, Texas. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Taylor Kay and Trenton Wade.

Offensive Line
Erik Losey

Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson announced the hiring of Erik Losey, Thursday, as an assistant coach to oversee the offensive line.

Losey comes to Southern Miss after spending the last three seasons as offensive line coach at ETSU, helping to resurrect a program which he played for before it was dropped following his second season with the program in 2003. The Buccaneers, which restarted football for the 2015 campaign, improved their victory total from year one to the second year by three victories and ended the season by defeating NCAA Playoff team, Samford, in its final game of the campaign. One of his players, Ben Blackmon, earned All-Southern Conference honors

"I am looking forward to coming into a system that was built on toughness," said Losey about accepting the job at Southern Miss. "If you ever look back into the program's history, everything was built off of toughness. That is something that we will have a big emphasis on in our (meeting) room. We are going to play fast and we are going to be physical and that is what we are going to be known for. We are going to do our best to make those on previous Southern Miss teams proud with the way that we go out and play the game."

Prior to ETSU, Losey worked for Hopson for one season at Alcorn State as offensive line coach and helped the offense finish first in the least sacks allowed, second in total offense and third in rushing yards in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He coached one All-American that season with the Braves as well as a total of three all-league performers.

The 2012 season saw Losey coaching first the tight ends and then the running backs at Campbell University, where he tutored a freshman running back to All-Pioneer League honors. In 2011, he coached at Webber International, overseeing the offensive lineman while directing the team's run game. He had two lineman that year nominated for All-American honors.

During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Losey served as the offensive line quality control coach at Florida State. As a member of the FSU staff, Losey aided assistant coach Rick Trickett and served under coaches Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher. During his two seasons there, the Seminoles collected two bowl victories -- winning the 2010 Gator Bowl and the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The Hixson, Tenn., native started his coaching career as the offensive graduate assistant at WKU during the Hilltoppers transition from FCS to FBS status, working there for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Losey also enjoyed a standout collegiate playing career at both ETSU and at WKU, where he played his final two seasons, starting all 47 games of his career.

As a freshman at ETSU, he was a nominee for the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year. Following the 2003 campaign in which ETSU dropped their program, Losey transferred to WKU where he was selected to the All-Gateway Conference second team and a first-team newcomer selection in 2004. As a senior, Losey earned first-team American Football Coaches Association All-America honors and named a third-team selection by the Associated Press.

In addition to his All-America accolades, Losey garnered All-Gateway Conference first-team honors, while also winning national Lineman of the Week honors for his play against Auburn, while collecting the league's weekly award twice.

Losey received his undergraduate degree from WKU with a double major in History and Social Studies in 2006.

Defensive Line
Derek Nicholson

Nicholson comes to Southern Miss after working last season for Hopson at Alcorn State.
Nicholson spent the 2014 season at the University of Louisville coaching outside linebackers/defensive ends and was part of a defensive staff that ranked 5th in the country in total defense, lead the nation in interceptions, were 9th in total sacks, and 4th in rush defense.

During the 2013 campaign, Nicholson worked at Akron coaching linebackers. Nicholson developed a group of linebackers that included a first and third team Mid-American Conference honorees. It was the first time since 2010 that Akron placed a first-team linebacker and the first time since 2001 that Akron Football had multiple linebackers on the All-Conference team. He began his coaching career in 2011, coaching high school football in both North Carolina and Florida.

Nicholson played at Florida State and finished his career with 207 tackles, 25.5 TFL, three sacks and two defensive TDs. He was the Seminoles' leading tackler for two consecutive season. He recorded 15.5 TFL in one season in 2008 which ranked him tied for 10th in FSU history. He also scored two defensive touchdowns in one season and finished ranked fourth best all time in one season at FSU as a defender. In 2008, he garnered All-ACC honors and was a member of the All-ACC academic team during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

He earned his undergraduate degree in sport management in December of 2008 in three years. He was an undrafted free agent signee by the Atlanta Falcons and played for them in 2009 before a career-ending knee injury. He is married to the former Onnie Trusty and the couple have one daughter, Alana Nicholson.

Inside Receiver / Tight Ends
Scotty Walden

Walden comes to Southern Miss after spending a season as the head football coach at Division III East Texas Baptist University. He had the distinction of being the youngest head coach at a NCAA school. The Tigers finished at 7-3 a season ago. ETBU also led the country in scoring offense at 49.9 points per game, while finishing second in total offense (564.3 yards per game) and sixth in passing offense (365.3 yards per game).

“We are pleased to have Scotty join our staff and become a Golden Eagle,” said Hopson. “He comes highly recommended for this position and his accomplishments over his career have been very impressive. He will be a great addition to our staff.”

Walden took as head coach at ETBU after serving three years as the school’s offensive coordinator. As an assistant, the Tigers won the 2015 American Southwest Conference championship. It was the first ASC championship for ETBU since 2003. His offense produced four players that were named All-ASC first-team and a pair went on to earn All-Region awards. In addition, he produced two All-Americans who were named to the USA Football Network All-American team.

Having a large presence in the offensive world, Walden has been able to speak to other coaches about his offense. In summer 2015, he was a special speaker at the Spread Offense Football Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. His first national speaking engagement came in 2012 when he was a special speaker at the Nike Coach of the Year clinic in Dallas, Texas.

In his first three years as the offensive coordinator Walden’s offense had re-written ETBU’s record book for individual, single game, and season records while being nationally known for passing and scoring. In his time as an assistant, a total of 26 combined individual and team records were broken. He produced four 1,000 yard receivers, two 1,000 yard rusher and one Gagliardi Trophy semi-finalist in Josh Warbington. His offense was consistently been one of the top offenses in NCAA Division III in and in 2014 finished ranked first in total passing offense (368.1 ypg), second in total offense (566.1 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (42.3 ppg).

Walden came to ETBU after being the offensive coordinator at Sul Ross State in 2012. It was Walden’s first year as a coach and offensive coordinator and his offense led all of NCAA averaging 581.9 yards per game and 48.8 points per game. His offense produced two All-Americans and six All-ASC products. Sul Ross State broke 16 overall offensive school records with two of them being most offensive yards in a game (800) and points in a game (75).

Because of his success in his first year as an offensive coordinator, Walden had the chance to coach the quarterbacks at the National Bowl in December 2012 in which two of his players played in. He has also coached at the Air It Out Passing Camp from 2009 to 2011.

A NCAA Division III product, Walden was the starting quarterback at Dordt College (2008) and Sul Ross State University (2011). In his senior season (2011) he was the team captain and was given the Leadership award. He was awarded All-ASC academic awards twice and started his freshman season at Dordt College. During his time at Hardin-Simmons (2009-10), he played both as a quarterback and defensive back.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Sul Ross State in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He made the dean’s list in 2011 and 2012 along with being inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society. He, and wife, Callie, were married in July 2014.

Director of Player Personnel
Wes Turner

Wes Turner comes to Southern Miss after spending four years with Jay Hopson at Alcorn State.
During his tenure with Alcorn State, he helped Hopson lead the Braves to a 32-17 record and consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in 2014 and 2015. Alcorn State also recorded at least nine victories in each of his last three seasons, including a 10-3 mark in 2014 and following this season, the Braves played in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, a postseason football bowl featuring two standout programs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Turner served in multiple capacities, including linebackers coach, nickels coach, director of operations, videographer, and recruiting coordinator at Alcorn State.

Prior to joining the Braves staff, he worked with the University of Memphis football staff as a defensive graduate assistant after spending the previous three years on the coaching staff at Georgia Southern.

At Georgia Southern, Turner served as a defensive assistant coach working with the defensive backs. In 2009, the Eagles' defense averaged 6.2 TFL and 1.9 sacks per game. The defense had two players named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team and one to the All-Conference first team. In 2008, Turner worked on a defensive staff that, playing as many as nine true-freshmen on a consistent basis, saved its best performance for last in a 17-10 win at No. 14 Furman to close out the season with a winning record. The 10 points allowed were the fewest by an opponent since October 2005. The defense saw a league-best four rookies named to the inaugural SoCon All-Freshman Team in 2008. As a defensive unit, the Eagles ranked 22nd in TFL per game (7.0) and 26th in sacks per game (2.4) in the nation.

During the 2007 season, the Eagles' defense ranked 14th nationally in turnover margin, a +1.09 per game average. That impressive average was a result of the team's rank of 56th in passes intercepted, 17th in fumbles recovered, and 37th in turnovers gained. Overall, the defensive unit recorded 65 TFL, 19 sacks, 11 interceptions and 56 pass break ups.

Turner lettered three years and spent five years in all with the Georgia Southern football program. The one-time walk-on joined the team in the fall of 2002. He redshirted that year and then saw action in six games his redshirt-freshman year. As a sophomore in 2004, he played in nine games, becoming a valuable member of the special teams unit and helping the Eagles qualify for the playoffs. He recorded three tackles on special teams that season. After missing the 2005 campaign, Turner returned the following season and played in eight games. Again, he provided senior leadership on special teams, ranking among the leaders in tackles in 2006 and earning the Special Teams Captain Award.

Turner joined the Eagles after a standout career at Collins Hill High School. He earned Gwinnett County Player of the Month honors during his junior year. He also lettered three times in baseball, being named to the All-Atlanta team and played with Team Georgia.

Turner graduated in December 2006 with a bachelor's degree in general studies from Georgia Southern. He is married to Stephanie Turner. The couple have two daughters, Taylor and Peyton.

Strength & Conditioning Coordinator
Sajason Finley

SaJason Finley serves as the Assistant Director of Athletic Performance for Southern Miss football. Prior to his current position, Finley served as an Assistant Director of Athletic Performance for football at UAB during the 2014 season. Finley filled the role of Assistant Director of Athletic Performance for football at Washington State during their winter workouts (Jan. 2014 -- Feb. 2014).
From 2013-2014, Finley served as one of the 5 Strength and Conditioning Coaches for football at Auburn during their BCS National Championship appearance. While at Auburn he also served as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the equestrian team when they won the 2013 national championship. He also served as the assistant strength coach to the softball team.

Finley was a Graduate Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Arkansas State during the 2012 season when they won the Sun Belt Conference Championship. He also served as the primary coach for men's and women's track & field and bowling while at Arkansas State. While assisting with women's soccer.

Finley served as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and Running Backs Coach for Opelika High School in Opelika, Alabama during the 2012 season.

He graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor's of Arts in History and a minor in Physical Education in 2007. Finley was a four year starter at Tuskegee helping them to 2 conference championships. In May 2014 he earned his Master's in Sports Administration from Arkansas State University.

He is engaged to Earlshawna Frye. Their family includes one daughter Mya Harper Finley.

Football Video Coordinator
Chase Bitowf

Chase Bitowf was hired in 2015 as the Video Coordinator for the Southern Miss football team. He oversees the daily video operations of the team, supervises a crew of students and provides technical support for the football coaching staff and players.

Bitowf spent 2014 as a video assistant for the Mississippi State football team. While with the Bulldogs, Chase provided video support for the team during their historic run to the 2015 Orange Bowl and school's first-ever number one ranking.

Prior to MSU, Bitowf worked at his alma mater, the University of West Alabama, as football video coordinator. He was responsible for handling all the technical aspects of UWA's football team and was part of a staff that helped the Tigers to the 2013 Gulf South Conference Championship.

Before UWA, he spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons as a video assistant for the Cincinnati Bengals. Bitowf was responsible for all video pertaining to special teams. He also provided assistance in meetings, filmed free agent workouts and built edits for college scouting purposes.

Bitowf graduated from West Alabama in May 2011 with a degree in sports management. While at UWA, he played linebacker for the Tigers and was named to the Gulf South Conference Academic Honor Roll in 2008.

Chase is also an active member in the Collegiate Sports Video Association (CSVA), an organization devoted to promoting the Video Coordinator in the sports industry. In 2014 he was awarded the groups Billy Vizzini Scholarship.

Paul Gonnella

Paul Gonnella was hired on April 1, 2017 as the Executive to The Head Coach. In September Coach Gonnella added the title of Assistant Coach. Gonnella brings a wealth of experience in coaching and recruiting to the USM staff.

During the 2015 and the 2016 seasons, Gonnella went to the private sector to be a CEO of a recruiting company. In March of 2017 he resigned as CEO, which prompted the move to Southern Miss.

During the 2014 and 2015 classes, Gonnella helped guide the USF Bulls, under Willie Taggart, to two top-40 recruiting classes as the Director of Player Personnel, which has propelled USF to being a national contender. Taggart has since been named head coach at the University of Oregon. Both classes at USF were ranked in the top-five classes in school history. Thus far, the classes produced RB Marlon Mack, 4th round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts. Marlon made the jump to the NFL after three years.

In the 2012 season, Gonnella was the Director of Player Personnel at the University of Alabama under Nick Saban. The 2012 campaign saw the Tide not only win the national championship but also collect the No. 1 recruiting class in the country (2013) in all the major recruiting service rankings. The 2012 class produced NFL players, A'Shawn Robinson, Alvin Kamara, Reuben Foster, Eddie Jackson, Tim Williams, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Allen, and O.J Howard.

Gonnella was the director of Player Personnel for the class of 2012 at Purdue University under Danny Hope. In the class of 2012 Purdue ranked No. 33 in the nation. The second best ranking in school history. They also ranked fourth in the Big Ten, beating out Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and others. That class produced NFL players, Jordan Roos, Anthony Brown, Cameron Posey and Jason King. The 26 signed recruits came from an impressive 17 states.

For the class of 2011, Gonnella was the Director of Player Personnel under Larry Porter. The team suffered through a 1-11 season but posted the No. 65 ranked recruiting class. That class produced NFL players Bobby McCain and Jordan Devey. The class also anchored the turnaround for Memphis and Justin Fuentes, as fifth-year seniors.

Making the jump to The University of Miami, under Randy Shannon, Gonnella assisted Miami with producing the 16th-ranked class in the nation. The class included NFL players Asante Cleveland, Brandon Linder, Chase Ford, Storm Johnson, Malcom Bunche, Clive Walford, Johnathan Feleciano, and Shane McDermott.

For the class of 2009, Gonnella had his fingerprint on two top-10 classes. When taking over at UNC as the Director of Player Personnel in March of 2008, UNC was ranked in the 50s. Nine months later, UNC held the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation. In January of 2009 Paul Gonnella was hired at the University of Tennessee as the Director of Player Personnel under Lane Kiffin. When it was all said and done, Tennessee jumped from No. 32 in the rankings to No. 9 in one month. Both classes produced multiple NFL football players including, Travis Bond, Brennan Williams, A.J Blue, Kevin Reddick, and Bryce Brown.

From 2005-2007, Gonnella was the head coach at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in Cambridge, Mass. In the 2004-2005 season, he was a Graduate Assistant at Mississippi State under Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom. Prior to Mississippi State, Gonnella was a high school coach at Lovejoy High School (GA) and Somerville High School (MA). Lovejoy produced a ton of college football players during his time there, including NFL football players Tashard Choice, Chris Scott and Mario Fannin.

Gonnella played football at Springfield College (MA) and earned degrees from Salem State College (MA) and Mississippi State University. He attended Wakefield High School (MA) where he earned all-state as a football player and was a 2 time All-League selection on the basketball court, earning him Wakefield High School Athletic Hall of Fame honors in 2002.

Gonnella is married to Amanda Gonnella, and they have a three-year-old child named Michael Peter Gonnella. Gonnella also has a son named Pau Angelo Gonnella who is 23-years-old.