Jay Hopson announces eight Southern Miss assistants - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jay Hopson announces eight Southern Miss assistants

HATTIESBURG (SouthernMiss.com) Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson announced eight members of his full-time coaching staff Wednesday for the 2016 season. Those staff members include:

Tim Billings, Assistant Coach

Shannon Dawson, Offensive Coordinator

Dan Disch, Secondary Coach

Derek Nicholson, Defensive Line

Tony Pecoraro, Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers

Lytrel Pollard, Assistant Coach

John Wozniak, Wide Receivers / Special Teams Coordinator

Jack Wright, Offensive Line

Southern Miss assistant coaches Lytrel Pollard and John Wozniak remained on staff. Pollard is set to serve as an assistant, while Wozniak assumes his former role of wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator. Pollard returns in 2016 for his 13th season on the Golden Eagle staff, while Wozniak begins his fourth season on the football staff.

“We have put together a quality staff and I am extremely pleased of the individuals that will help lead our young men for the 2016 season and beyond,” said Hopson. “Although there is still one staff member to add, there remains a lot of hard work ahead of us to get ready for next season.

“I also want to express my appreciation to members of the former coaching staff who did a terrific job in advancing the program over the last three years.  Those men are good people and coaches who obviously made a positive impact on our football program.”

Here is a look at the new members of the Golden Eagle football coaching staff:


Shannon Dawson, Offensive Coordinator

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.

Tony Pecoraro, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

Pecoraro joins the Southern Miss staff after working as defensive coordinator for the last four seasons at Alcorn State, where he helped lead the Braves to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.

Prior to his stint in Lorman, Pecoraro served a two-year stint at North Alabama as defensive coordinator.

Pecoraro had an integral part in North Alabama's success in his two seasons there as he coached a total of five All-Americans and 11 All-GSC players.

In both seasons at North Alabama, Pecoraro helped lead the Lions to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Previous to North Alabama, Pecoraro earned his stripes with eight years of collegiate coaching experience, including having served for three seasons as the defensive quality control coach, at Florida State.

During his tenure at FSU, Pecoraro was a part of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship teams in 2002 and 2003. He also helped coach five bowl teams as Florida State played in the Nokia Sugar Bowl in 2003, the FedEx Orange Bowl in 2004, the Music City Bowl in 2007, the Champs Sports Bowl in 2008 and the Gator Bowl in 2009.

Pecoraro began his collegiate coaching career at Webber International University in Babson Park, Fla., where he worked as a graduate assistant from 2004-05. In 2006, Pecoraro was promoted to a full-time coaching position responsible for the defensive line and he served as the recruiting coordinator. During this time, Pecoraro also earned his M.B.A.

In his first experience with FSU, Pecoraro served as a student assistant from the 2002-03 season working directly with the quarterbacks. He also earned his Bachelor's degree in Sports Management.


Dan Disch, Secondary Coach

Disch returns to Southern Miss for his second stint, after spending the last season as defensive coordinator for the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in Germany after previously serving as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of North Carolina for three seasons.

His first stint at Southern Miss came in 2011 as defensive coordinator and secondary coach and the Golden Eagles improved from 75th nationally in pass efficiency defense to seventh, and were ranked 22nd in rushing defense, allowing just 112.6 rushing yards per game. Disch's defense set an NCAA record with eight interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Overall, USM ranked 29th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense as the Golden Eagles won the 2011 Conference USA championship over previously unbeaten Houston and then won their school-record 12th game over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. In the final regular season top 25 polls, Southern Miss was No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 22 in the Associated Press poll.


Before arriving in Hattiesburg, Disch spent six seasons at Illinois, where he served as the special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach (2005), special teams coordinator/linebackers coach (2006), co-defensive coordinator/linebackers (2007-09) and linebackers coach (2010). He served under Ron Zook for seven seasons, including one year at Florida (2004) where he coached the secondary.


Prior to entering the collegiate ranks, Disch spent 22 years coaching high school football in the Jacksonville, Fla., area, including 16 seasons as the head coach of Ed White High School, where he posted a record of 122-55 to become the school's all-time winningest coach. While under Disch's lead, Ed White made 11 playoff appearances, won seven district and six conference championships, and reached the state quarterfinals four times. Ed White also was ranked in the Top-10 of the state's final football poll eight times. Additionally, five of Disch's high school assistant coaches went on to land head coaching jobs.


Tim Billings, Assistant Coach

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.

Derek Nicholson, Defensive Line

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.


Jack Wright, Offensive Line

Wright joins the Southern Miss staff after leading Northwest Community college to the NJCAA national championship in 2015. Wright worked two seasons as head coach at Northwest CC. In two seasons at the helm, Wright led the Rangers to an 11-1 record, conference championship and first national title in 23 years while being named the NJCAA Region 23 and NJCAA Coach of the Year.

His two-year record as a head coach stands at 15-7 overall (.682) and 9-3 in north division play, making the playoffs in each of his two seasons as head coach and leading the Rangers to their first conference championship since 1999 last season. He was on staff for each of Northwest’s last two bowl wins in 2012 (Brazos Valley Bowl) and 2015 (Mississippi Bowl VIII).

Wright spent the 2013 season as the offensive line coach at Holmes, but prior to that stint, the Batesville, Miss., native was the Rangers' offensive coordinator from 2008-12.

All told, Wright has had the privilege of coaching 41 All-MACJC selections in his time at Northwest, including 13 NJCAA All-Region 23 selections and nine NJCAA All-Americans.

Prior to Northwest, Wright was at NCAA Division III Millsaps College, where he was the offensive line coach, run-game coordinator and strength coach from 2005-07. Wright's presence at Millsaps helped turn around a program that won only two games in 2005 and went on to win back-to-back Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships his final two seasons, including the program’s first playoff berth in 31 years.

Prior to Millsaps, Wright was the offensive line coach and power lifting coach at Meridian High School from 2002-04. Under Wright, Meridian produced four 1,000-yard rushers in three seasons and improved from 3-8 in 2002 to 8-4 in 2003 and 11-2 in 2004. Wright also spent one season at North Delta Academy in 2001.

Wright earned his bachelor's in management information systems in 1999 from Arkansas State University and went on to obtain his master's in business administration in 2001. He started all four seasons for the Indians at deep snapper and center from 1997-2000.

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