As if preparing for Nebraska isn’t enough for Southern Mississippi and first-year coach Ellis Johnson …
The Golden Eagles have started this week with their schedule being shaken up by Hurricane Isaac making its way toward Hattiesburg. Instead of taking Monday off, as planned, Johnson put his team through a 2½-hour workout and will have to give them a day off later this week.
But the harder part, he said, is keeping many of his players from worrying too much about the potential impact of Hurricane Isaac on their hometowns and families along the Gulf of Mexico coast in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“As a coaching staff we’ve got to do a good job keeping them focused and keeping them ready to play,” Johnson said.
Johnson said during the Conference USA teleconference Monday that they have told players there’s “nothing they can do physically going down there” and trying to help. In fact, many hometowns of Eagle players are being evacuated.
This all on the heels of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation in similar areas seven years ago.
“There’s no point in trying to tell them don’t worry,” Johnson said. “They’re going to worry.”
Johnson also said during his Monday press conference with local media that there are no plans to relocate the team “unless something unforeseen comes about.” The university already has canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Eagles likely will have to go inside Tuesday and probably for sure on Wednesday. Johnson said he wasn’t yet sure when Southern Miss would take its NCAA-mandated day off after the team practiced Monday.
“I just worry about the consistency of the preparation,” he said, “and the families of these young people and the people here in Hattiesburg.”