Montgomery, Ala. – As we all can imagine, the state of the world has impacted our lives in many ways, including sports. Collegiate athletics have endured a lot over the last few months, from cutting spring sports short to strong concerns about the fate of the fall and beyond. Alabama State is not immune to these problems, but with hopes remaining high for the season to start on time, albeit with some restrictions, there are several components that Hornet nation will consider coming into the season.
One of the biggest changes is the changing of SWAC conference opponents. Instead of playing Prairie View A&M this season, the Hornets will take on Southern University, whom they haven’t seen since the 2016 season, when the Tigers dominated to the tune of 64-6 in Baton Rouge. The dominance has continued since then, including back-to-back division titles and appearances in the conference championship.
Adding Southern to the schedule only makes the goal of turning around the program much tougher, not only because they have to face the SWAC West Champion, Southern, but they still have to face the SWAC East Champion, Alcorn. The Braves have won six straight division titles to go with back-to-back conference championships and, were it not for Grambling State University and North Carolina A&T, they might have won five straight conference titles and Celebration Bowl victories. They has been as consistent as they have been successful.
There are some positives to account for, however. The Hornets improved their record last season under Donald Hill-Eley to 5-6 and 4-3 in conference play, better than the 4-7 overall and 3-4 conference record in Eley’s first full season in 2018. Be mindful that three of the losses are to non-conference opponents (including the ACC’s Florida State) and the other three were against Alcorn, a triple-OT loss to Alabama A&M, and a 20-17 loss against Prairie View that was a botched field goal away from a more victorious headline. The program is progressing in the right direction, and it brings optimism for Eley’s third full campaign.
The Hornets also have several players they can count on this upcoming season. They have defensive lineman Christian Clark and defensive back Naytron Culpepper, both Second Team All-SWAC, returning to anchor the defense. ASU also boasts a recruiting class that, according to HEROSports, is the best in the SWAC and 34th overall in the FCS, with several recruits in the top 25. Here are some of the names suiting up for Alabama State in the fall:
- Rishard Densmore- 3-star ATH who will play receiver; had offers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Mississippi State
- James Burgess- 3-star defensive back; 52 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles during his senior season at Huffman (AL).
- Joe Owens- Threw for almost 5,000 yards and 62 touchdowns; earned All-State (SC) and 4A Player of the Year honors.
- Awysum Harris- 105 tackles, three interceptions and three sacks his senior season; earned All-State (AL) Honors
That is only scratching the surface of the squad that will be at Eley’s disposal, and rising senior quarterback KHA’Darris Davis will have plenty of weapons to throw to, which will be crucial considering Ezra Gray, the running back responsible for a lot of the offensive production, graduated in the spring.
Overall, the season will be tough for the Hornets, but the team being put together looks up for the challenge. After weighing all the variables, it would be shocking if the team lost more than five games, with two of those coming from non-conference opponents in Texas Tech and Kennesaw State. The conference play will be the strongest showing yet, bringing a lot of excitement that Montgomery hasn’t felt in years. Even though the coronavirus will make this season unlike any other, be on the lookout for some fireworks in Hornet Stadium