While Southern Miss did not get its desired start to the 2021 season with a 31-7 loss, Head Coach Will Hall looks to recover when he makes his long-awaited debut at The Rock.
Hall called the season-opener a ‘humiliating’ loss, but took the blame for mistakes and emphasized that this season is going to be a process of getting to where the team wants to be.
“We have a long way to go, and we knew that tonight going into it,” Hall said. “We are building this program back. It doesn’t look like it tonight, but we are. We are far away right now, but we will keep digging and keep fighting.”
After coaching for 16 years at eight different universities, Hall, a native of Amory, Mississippi, seized the opportunity to become a Division One head coach in his home state and will call his first game in Mississippi against Grambling State on Sept. 11.
Hall’s roots were in Mississippi, where he was raised in a football family. His father, Bobby Hall, is one of the winningest coaches in state history.
Hall personally played quarterback at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Though he is only five-foot-seven, he became a two-time junior college All-American before playing his last two years at North Alabama.
Since coming on campus early this year, Hall and his staff have taken the task of guiding a program that, last season, endured several challenges, including player opt-outs, COVID-19 cancellations and three head coaching changes.
While Hall has not translated his coaching into the win column yet, Southern Miss fans and players have adopted the culture he and his staff have established during the offseason.
“He brings the juice,” senior tackle Khalique Washington said after a practice in spring. “We went through everything that happened last year with the good and the ugly, but he brought the juice back into the program.”
Hall’s hiring brought stability back to the program. Since starting the program, he has made it his mission to install a culture that teaches team values.
“We’ve got to build a culture where we’re going to make each other the best we can every day, but we’ve got to know that we’re black and gold in this together,” Hall said.
This new culture is best shown with Hall’s latest abbreviation, “AIE”. It stands for “Attitude is Everything” — a motto that the team has used in their approach to football and even life.
“It’s just a whole different environment,” junior running back Darius Maberry said. “Nobody comes here and complains[. It’s] just let’s get to work. There’s no negative energy, just positive vibes only.”
The newer culture has also had an effect on the fanbase, with season ticket sales surpassing their totals from past seasons.
“Coach Hall has done a great job of getting people excited,” Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain said.
Through his rhetoric and energy, Hall has gotten the fanbase and players excited, but he has remained serious and focused on where he wants to bring the program.
“We’re pushing this thing back to where it’s going to be,” Hall said. “It’s going to take time. How quick we get there, I’m not sure yet. I hope we get there fast, but we are headed in the right direction.”