Capping off an underwhelming 3-9 campaign with a loss to Troy on Saturday, Southern Miss is making some major coaching changes on the first day of the offseason.
First reported by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, the Golden Eagles have dismissed defensive coordinator Dan O’Brien and defensive line coach Brandon Lacy. The moves come as Southern Miss had the worst scoring defense in the Sun Belt, allowing 35.8 points per game. Over 12 regular season contests, the unit let up 420.8 yards per game, including 178.8 rushing yards per game.
Tight ends coach Cayden Cochran also has been let go by Southern Miss, according to a source.
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 26, 2023
Rittenberg also reported that tight ends coach Cayden Cochran would be hitting the road. With the offense rarely using a tight end this season, Cole Cavallo led the position group with 96 yards on nine receptions. Justyn Reid and Avery White each had one catch, totaling 18 yards.
The decision to release three assistant coaches comes as head coach Will Hall looks to salvage his career in Hattiesburg. Just last week, the university announced Hall would be returning for a fourth season as the former Tulane offensive coordinator has compiled a 13-23 record and one bowl win since taking over the job in 2020.
“I believe I’m the man for Southern Miss. I think Southern Miss has got great days ahead, and I’m going to be in charge of it,” Hall said after Saturday’s loss. “I think I was put here to coach at Southern Miss, but what I think really don’t matter.”
What’s next for Southern Miss?
Assuming no more layoffs take place, Hall and company will look to fill the gaps while also focusing on bringing players to Hattiesburg. While a stealthy recruiting class is set to sign on December 20, there are a handful of guys Hall will need to convince to stay for another season.
One of those is star running back Frank Gore, Jr. Gore, who is set to graduate but still has one more year of eligibility remaining, told reporters that he’s still debating a return to Hattiesburg over hitting the transfer portal or possibly declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft.
“Coming here, I was a good football player but needed to figure many things out in my life, and Coach Hall helped me with that a lot, as well as my other coaches,” Gore said. “I feel like they helped me become a man. This program means everything to me. I am just at a loss for words of how much I have grown as a person, teammate, and leader. I owe this program everything, and I am so thankful that I could come here for all four years.”
Over the course of his career in Hattiesburg, Gore surpassed 4,000 yards, joining Damion Fletcher and Ito Smith as the only Southern Miss players to reach the milestone. He finished the 2023 season with 1,131 rushing yards, 221 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns.
J.T. Mitchell contributed to this report.