The Alcorn State football program cannot wait for the 2017 season to begin.
Head coach Fred McNair has had to repeatedly field questions about whether or not he is the right man to lead the program after 21 players were arrested in a campus melee back in April. McNair has recently dealt with a growing amount of criticism after he said at SWAC media day two weeks ago that none of the players will miss any playing time.
All of that will fade away as the season draws near and people focus their attention to the on-field product, but until then McNair will continue to be asked about the incident and the university’s response.
2016 Alcorn State Football Season In Review
The Braves won their third straight SWAC East title last season, but their hopes of winning their third straight SWAC Championship were dashed by an overpowering Grambling squad.
Alcorn State came into the game as an underdog after a 5-5 regular season, but it jumped out to a 17-0 lead by halftime. Grambling came roaring back in the second half, though, as the Tigers scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions after the break. Alcorn State just couldn’t keep up, as Grambling claimed the victory. The loss kept the Braves from becoming the first SWAC team to win three straight league championship games.
Quarterbacks Lenorris Footman and Noah Johnson were used evenly in 2016 and put up eerily similar statistics. Both were average in the passing game, as they relied on their legs just as much as their arms. The younger Johnson was more productive but had some major trouble holding onto the ball. He fumbled eight times, which was one of the big reasons he didn’t win the job outright.
Darien Anderson led a defense that was third in the conference in 2016. He earned FCS All-America honors after a season in which he was a permanent resident in the opposing team’s backfield. Anderson finished the year with 18 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
2017 Alcorn State Football Season Preview
Footman and Johnson are both back, and all signs point to these two splitting the quarterbacking duties once again. Footman is a senior and Johnson is a sophomore; if Johnson can solve his turnover problems he might be able to wrestle the job away for good. He was the team’s second-leading rusher and racked up 10 touchdowns on the ground in 2016, so we know he can move.
The team’s leading rusher and receiver return from last season, too. Norlando Veals was named to the preseason All-SWAC team after averaging almost 20 yards per reception last year. Running back De’Lance Turner was named to the preseason all-conference team, too, after averaging 5.6 yards per carry. With the return of Marquis Warford, this is easily the best collection of skill position talent in the SWAC East.
Seven starters return on defense, but the most productive players have graduated. Michael Brooks and Ramonte Bell should make this defensive line formidable, but the linebacker corps is a little iffy.
2017 Alcorn State Football Schedule
September 2: Alcorn State vs. Miles College
September 9: Alcorn State at Florida International
September 16: Alcorn State vs. McNeese State
September 23: Alcorn State vs. Southern
September 29: Alcorn State at Texas Southern
October 5: Alcorn State at Alabama State
October 14: Alcorn State vs. Prairie View A&M
October 21: Alcorn State at Grambling
November 4: Alcorn State vs. Alabama A&M
November 11: Alcorn State vs. Mississippi Valley State
November 18: Alcorn State at Jackson State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Alcorn State should be able to win its fourth straight SWAC East title. The division is very weak compared to the West, and it would be seen as a pretty big failure if McNair couldn’t win the division.
You can be sure that Alcorn State has its rematch with Grambling circled on the calendar. The Braves have been thinking about how they blew that halftime lead in the title game all offseason and now get a chance for revenge. However, the game is in Grambling and the Tigers just don’t lose at home. Fade Alcorn State in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that week.