By: Keisha J Kelley
February 26, 2021
On Friday, for the first time since Thanksgiving Day 2019, the Hornets will play in Hornet Stadium as they open the season again Southern University on ESPN3. In 2019, Alabama State finished the season 5-6 and and 4-3 in conference play, while Southern finished 8-5 and 6-1 in conference play and also held the title of 2019 SWAC Western Division Champions. The last time the Jaguars played the Hornets in 2016, the game ended in a lopsided score of 64-6, with the Jaguars headed back to the bayou happy. Southern leads the all-time series 28-12 with a 4 game win streak. Since then, Head Coach of Southern, Dawson Odums is still at Southern, but Brian Jenkins has since left Alabama State. On Friday, when Odums marches his Jaguars into Montgomery for kickoff, he is looking for the same results from 2016: a win! However, Dr Donald Hill-Eley, will be at the helm of Hornet football Friday night and looks to win. A win Friday night would be the second time in 3 years that Alabama State would win their season opener, defeating Tuskegee in 2018 and falling to UAB in 2019. The Jaguars will introduce a new offensive coordinator Zach Grossi, among four new offensive assistants and a fifth new assistant on defense. Southern will likely retain its identity as a run-first offense. Southern will be without it's top three wide receivers from 2019. The offensive line lost three starters but have preseason guard Jonathan Bishop and right tackle Ja'Tyre Carter, both whom are seniors. Caleb Carter playing at the weak side of linebacker and should team well with transfer Ray Anderson at the middle. This year both Glenn Brown and Robert Rehm will return to make the team's deepest position. Cornerback Tamaurice Smith, preseason All-SWAC pick also stepped up as a starter and had three interceptions. Cesar Barajas gives the Jaguars experience as a punter and placekicker. He made 8 of the 11 field goal attempts, four of them from 41 yards or farther and averaged 40.9 yards per punt. For the Hornets, Ezra Gray returns for his senior season after a year in which he was rewarded for his academic work. The senior, who graduated in December, was named the FCS ADA Scholar Athlete of the Year and followed that up with being named a finalist for the William V, Campbell Trophy which is considered the Academic Heisman. Junior receiver, Michael Jefferson returns for his third season after an impressive sophomore year with 12 TD catches. Alabama State had three players named First Team All-SWAC this week with Gray, earned the nod at running back, Christian Clark (defensive line) and Naytron Culpepper (defensive back) earned the same.
One thing for certain this season opener will have a lot of energy. For excited fans, and well prepared athletes and coaches, everyone is ready to return to Spring football. As we anticipate the first snap, hearts are racing and the spring season will finally be underway. Only one team will win at the end of the fourth quarter. Question is: Who will it be? Meet us in Montgomery, Alabama to find out!