Camp provides USM preview

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gary Camp is one of the fresh-faced young coaches assembled bynew Southern Miss head football coach Larry Fedora. An experiencedbusinessman, Camp loves coaching football, too.

Camp was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of theBrookhaven Lions Club. He shared his Christian faith and explainedthe winding road that led him to Hattiesburg. He also talked aboutthe bright prospects for USM’s 2008 football campaign.

“Speaking as a football coach gives me a platform to share myChristian faith,” said Camp, a 1991 Baylor University graduate.That’s where he first came in contact with Grant Teaff, Baylor’slegendary head coach. Fedora was a graduate assistant atBaylor.

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A former offensive tackle from the Dallas area, Camp entered thecustom housing business after graduating from college. Business wasgood.

He met his wife, Staci, who was a professional Christiancontemporary gospel music singer. They now have four children.

Changes in plans and career led them to Middle Tennessee StateUniversity where he served as a graduate assistant. He became goodfriends with Fedora who was on the MTSU staff while his wifecontinued her studies for a degree in education.

Bluntly honest, Camp said, “Coaching at a Division III schooldidn’t pay enough to support a wife and four children. That wasincentive enough to join Fedora in Hattiesburg.

Camp’s custom housing business had been sold but he was able toregain control of the operation and returned to Texas.Unfortunately, a home owner decided to sue him over a house thatwas constructed after he had sold the business.

That led to Camp’s decision to seek employment with a nationalbuilding company. He wasn’t happy with that situation after beinghis own boss.”God did a lot of things in my life to get me here,”explained Camp. After MTSU, he was hired as recruiting coordinatorand offensive line coach at Sewanee (Tenn.) University.

When Fedora was named to replace Jeff Bower last December, Campwas contacted by Fedora. He was hired to serve as Director ofFootball Operations at USM.

“Wherever God was going to lead me was where I would go,” saidCamp. “When you make a commitment to God, it usually isn’t easy.There can be a lot of pitfalls along the way.”

According to Camp, the USM Golden Eagles made much progressduring spring practice. Enthusiasm is high and more fans areexpected to fill M.M. Roberts Stadium this season as Fedoraunleashes, a high-octane, no-huddle offense, similar to OklahomaState.

“We had an incredible spring and our offensive line lookssolid,” said Camp. “We have two tackles who could play at the nextlevel but we need more depth.”

Quarterback, a big question mark, appears to have a solidperformer in Austin Davis, a redshirt freshman. Davis spentcountless hours pouring over game films before spring practicestarted.

The USM running backs are led by All-American candidate DamionFletcher. Kirksey, a transfer from Pearl River Community College,showed flashes of greatness in the spring.

“You must have more than one good running back so you can givethem a rest,” said Cook. He said 5-star receiver Andre Brown ofOcean Springs is expected to be eligible when preseason practicearrives in August.

Speaking for the defense, Camp said USM has a wealth of talentat linebacker. The defensive line is strong but it lacks depth.

Franklin County All-State standouts, defensive linemen Josh andBo Tillman, are working hard to become eligible as freshmen. Campsaid Josh should be on campus this summer and Bo, enrolled in aJackson-based prep school, could be at USM by December.

In the secondary, USM is counting on junior college transfers tofill some big shoes. The kicking game appears to be in goodshape.

Jonathan Massey, former Co-Lin tight end, had an outstandingspring. Camp said, “When Massey went across the middle on a passplay, I knew he would catch the ball. He’s not a real big guy buthe has great hands.”

Massey transferred to USM in December.

Camp said former Co-Lin linebacker Blake Spiers, a senior thisfall, also made progress in the spring. “Blake got to work with thefirst and second teams. We are deep at linebacker.”

Looking ahead, the Golden Eagles kick off their 2008 campaignAug. 30, hosting Louisiana-Lafayette. It becomes much more seriousSept. 6, when USM visits Auburn.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or