Will Hall, a “Mississippi boy,” has returned to his home state as the new head football coach at Southern Miss.

From all angles, Will Hall appears a perfect fit and a home run hire at Southern Miss.

Let’s start with his family and friends. Bobby Hall, his dad, is one of the most successful high school football coaches in Mississippi history. Marcus Boyles, his first babysitter, is another highly successful coach at nearby Petal. Drew Causey, the head coach at Class 6A powerhouse Oak Grove, is one of his best friends and college teammate.

That’s just for starters. There are plenty more.

Says Bobby Hall, “There’s not a high school coach in Mississippi that Will or I don’t know.”

Rick Cleveland

Says Boyles, who babysat Will Hall when Will was still in diapers at Raleigh, “I have followed him his entire life. He’s been around great coaches his entire life, including his dad. He’s been a head coach himself. He’s recruited Mississippi successfully everywhere he’s been. He’s built relationships with Mississippi coaches. He’s won everywhere he’s been.”

Get this: Three of Boyles’ former Petal players were recruited to Tulane by Will Hall, the Green Wave offensive coordinator the past two seasons. All three are starters. They were not recruited by Southern Miss. Those players helped Tulane beat Southern Miss 66-24 in Hattiesburg earlier this season. Hall’s offense ran for 427 yards with a starting freshman right tackle, Trey Tuggle, Hall recruited out of Mize.

When Hall was an assistant at Memphis, he recruited Yazoo County’s Kenny Gainwell, who probably was the best player in Mississippi as a senior and who had over 2,200 all-purpose yards last season for the Tigers.

When he was at West Alabama, Hall recruited and coached Malcolm Butler out of Vicksburg. Butler famously became a Super Bowl hero. Ty Keyes, a highly recruited quarterback out of Taylorsville, is a Tulane commit, again recruited by Will Hall.

There are many more of those Mississippi recruiting success stories, too, but you get the idea.

Says Causey, who has his Oak Grove Warriors in the Class 6A Championship game again this weekend, “Whether he was at West Alabama or West Georgia or Louisiana-Lafayette or Tulane, Will has always recruited Mississippi hard and he has always gotten good players. He has a lot of connections in Mississippi. And nobody will outwork him.”

Bobby Hall, again: “Will is a Mississippi boy through and through. He eats, sleeps and drinks football. He was with me at practices from when he was in kindergarten until when he played for me.”

There’s a story there. Will Hall was his dad’s quarterback, leading Amory to a Class 3A state championship. He could run it and he could throw it. But he was 5 feet, 9 inches short. No colleges recruited him. Itawamba, the JUCO that had the first pick of Amory players back then, didn’t want him, either. Bobby Hall sent a film to legendary Northwest Community College coach Bobby Ray Franklin asking him if he could use a quarterback. Franklin watched and said yes, he surely could.

At Northwest, Will Hall set records and was a two-time All American. Still, there were no D-I offers, so Will Hall went to North Alabama where he won the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Said Causey, who was a guard on that team, “Will was short for a quarterback, but he was very, very talented – and more than that, he was a great leader. The team believed in him. And he always praised his offensive line, so he had that going for him.”

North Alabama won 13 games and made the national semis his senior year.

Will Hall helped Tulane win 66-24 at Southern Miss in September.

Will Hall’s coaching career has been much the same: He started small and worked his way up, proving himself at each level. He coached quarterbacks at Presbyterian and Henderson State and then was the offensive coordinator at Southwest Baptist. Then, it was on to Arkansas-Monticello as offensive coordinator there, and from there to West Alabama where he spent three years as offensive coordinator before becoming the head coach.

In the tough Gulf South Conference, the SEC of Division II, he won 56 and lost 21 as the head coach of both West Alabama and West Georgia. He won league titles and was Coach of the Year both places.

All the while, Will Hall told me in a brief conversation Tuesday afternoon, Southern Miss was a job he coveted.

“I know the history there, I know you can win there, and I always felt like it would be a good fit for me,” he said. “We’re gonna get it rolling again, step by step, handshake by handshake. I can’t wait.”

Bobby Hall, admittedly prejudiced, believes his son will win – and big – at Southern Miss.

“Will wants to be there,” Bobby Hall said. “He wants to be the head football coach at Southern Miss. That really makes a difference.”


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.