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Southern Miss interim coach Scotty Walden has accepted the head coaching job at Austin Peay, sources told Yahoo Sports. This will put Southern Miss in the unusual position of having its third head coach this season, as assistant Tim Billings will take over the rest of the season.
Walden will not coach against Rice on Saturday, as he’s headed to Austin Peay to take over the FCS program for a spring season that has its first game on Feb. 21. Walden will immediately begin building a staff and familiarizing himself with a roster that’s considered a favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Walden, 30, was both the youngest and lowest-paid ($110,000) coach in FBS football this year. He took over at Southern Miss for Jay Hopson, who stepped down in early September as Southern Miss’ head coach after a disappointing opening effort at South Alabama.
Billings, the Southern Miss associate head coach who filled in for Walden in the Liberty game on Saturday, will be the latest interim coach. Billings already has experience as Walden missed Southern Miss’ loss to Liberty on Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19. In games Walden was on the sideline as the head coach, he went 1-2 with a win over North Texas.
Walden was the youngest head coach in the country at East Texas Baptist at the age of 26. He left there after the 2016 season for the wide receiver coach job at Southern Miss and the chance to eventually become a Division I coach.
Austin Peay’s full-time job has been open since this summer when former coach Mark Hudspeth resigned under mysterious circumstances in July. He’d just led Austin Peay to an 11-win season and said in a statement at the time he needed to “take some time away from the game” and be with his family.
The Walden hire is reminiscent of the theory behind Austin Peay hiring Will Healy in December of 2015. Healy turned the program around with energy and recruiting, a formula Austin Peay officials hope to mimic with Walden. Healy is now the head coach at Charlotte.
Austin Peay already played three games this fall season under interim coach Marquase Lovings and went 0-3 – with a loss to Central Arkansas and buy games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
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