HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – Southern Miss center Trace Clopton had a pretty simple goal when he got to Southern Miss as an early-enrollee in January.
“The main goal was to improve as much as possible and compete as hard as I had to,” Clopton said.
When he got to school, the freshman from Brookhaven knew he would have a chance to compete for the starting center position. He took advantage of that opportunity by winning the job in the spring.
“I was excited for sure,” Clotpon said. “I called my parents and told them coming early, coming in January paid off. That was the goal so it was good.”
Not only did he meet his goal, but he also earned the respect of a veteran offensive line.
“When I was a freshman, if I were in his shoes, I would be panicking,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Drake Dorbeck said. “He’s pretty poised. [He] still has a lot to learn about the game, as we all do, but he’s doing a great job.”
Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson says the fact Clopton earned the center job as a first-year player is impressive.
“He has a big load on him when it comes to stuff pre-snap-wise he’s got to do. Cadence wise, a lot of that stuff is on him,” Dawson said. “And so for a freshman to come in, win the job in the spring, and sit here and be the starter right now, to me is very impressive at that position especially.”
Clopton is a coach’s son. He played for his dad, Tommy, at Brookhaven.
Both Dorbeck and Dawson say Clopton’s dad helped turn Trace into the player he is today.
“Just coming to work every day, not making the same mistake twice which he rarely does,” Dorbeck said. “He knows the game of football, he grew up in a football family. He’s a good learner, just a hard worker.”
Added Dawson: “he understands the dynamic of team sports. so just the way he approaches things, the way you can coach him. You can coach him really hard and he doesn’t blink an eye.”