Hopson hires new defensive boss

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

LORMAN — New Alcorn State football coach Jay Hopson’s coaching staff for the upcoming season is nearly complete.

Hopson, who was hired May 28 and became the first white head coach in the history of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, announced the Braves’ new defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro and defensive backs coach Cedric Thomas.

Pecoraro coached last year at North Alabama as defensive coordinator under former Auburn coach Terry Bowden.

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“He, along with Coach Thomas who was at Mississippi Delta Community College, gives us seven of the eight coaches we’ll have on staff,” Hopson said. “I have one position left and that will likely be a defensive assistant, but I have some flexibility there.”

Pecoraro said he was elated to join Hopson’s staff. He was on Bowden’s staff for two years as the Lions went 18-7 and earned two NCAA Division II playoff berths.

“I love being here so far,” Pecoraro said. “This place has a lot of good history. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I think its going to be a good challenge.”

Pecoraro and Thomas join Hopson’s other five hires, Willie Simmons, Mark McHale, Fred McNair, Doc Gamble and Ralph Street. Simmons, who came to Alcorn after a five-year stint at Middle Tennessee State, will be the offensive coordinator.

Unlike in the spring, when interim coach Todd McDaniel attempted to install a Wing-T offense, Simmons said the Braves will run a more fan- and player-friendly spread formation.

“It’s a spread with a no huddle,” Simmons said of the new offense. “We know we’re four months behind everybody else. It’ll be a challenge, but one we’re looking forward to.”

Besides ironing out his coaching staff, Hopson has gone to work improving the school’s football facilities. New Bermuda grass has been placed on the Braves’ main practice field. On Tuesday, Hopson was in the middle of putting in a new video system.

“We’re building an infrastructure that’s conducive to winning,” Hopson said. “My goal is to have two NFL quality practice fields by next year. The old field had about four different types of grasses on it, but we killed that off and the Bermuda has come on. We’ve also made some improvements to the weight rooms and we’re putting in a new video system.”

While most college coaches use June as their vacation month, that’s not been the case for Hopson and his staff.

“We know we’re behind and having to play catch-up,” Hopson said. “I’m just blessed to have these coaches. For us, it’s all about progression. We want to get better with each week.”

McHale, a coaching veteran of more than 30 years experience who had successful stints at Southern Miss, Marshall and Florida State, has been impressed with his boss.

“Jay is doing an unbelievably good job,” McHale said. “From hiring coaches, to setting up recruiting territories, to upgrading the facilities that we have, I’m glad to be a part of it. We’re going to make this into something special.”

Hopson’s staff will have about five more weeks to prepare for the opening of fall drills on Aug. 1. The Braves will open the 2012 season against defending SWAC champion Grambling State on Sept. 1 in Shreveport.