Hopson era begins at Alcorn State

Published 11:27 am Friday, August 3, 2012

LORMAN — Taking the first step in a journey that will require thousands, Alcorn State opened preseason practice Thursday under new coach Jay Hopson.

The Vicksburg native, who was hired in May and is the first white head coach in the history of Southwestern Athletic Conference, had his 90 players go through an extensive, three-hour practice Thursday.

Hopson saw some good things, and some bad.

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“For us, it’s like the first day of spring practice because we weren’t here then,” Hopson said. “This is the beginning of a process where we try to do everything the right way and that includes conditioning and fundamentals. The guys worked hard and I was pleased with that. We were sloppy at times, which is to be expected. Overall we’ve got a ways to go. We’ll need at least a week and a half to see exactly where we are, but it’s good to finally get on the field.”

The Braves, who finished 2-8 last year under former coach Melvin Spears, will have morning practices today, Saturday and Monday in shorts and helmets, then classroom meetings in the evenings. On Tuesday, Alcorn will don pads. Hopson has scheduled two scrimmages, on Aug. 11 and Aug. 18.

Two sophomores, safety Casey Freeman and defensive end Mauola Malaga, were eager to get to work.

“It was fun but it was more intense,” Freeman said. “When the pads come on it’ll get real intense.”

Malaga, who is from America Samoa, likes Hopson and his staff’s approach.

“He speaks to us like men,” Malaga said. “We know we have a lot of hard work in front of us.”

Of Alcorn’s 90 players, nine are transfers or freshmen that Hopson has added over the summer.

“When I got here, the first thing I noticed was we didn’t have a kicker or a long snapper,” Hopson said. “We brought in Darryl Harvey from a junior college as a long snapper and Tyler Smith as a kicker. We signed two more high school kids including a tackle from American Samoa. The one transfer that is here is Joe Price, a tailback who was at Memphis.”

Hopson said last year’s starting quarterback Darius Smith had a good day.

“Darius had a lot of zip on his ball,” Hopson said.