Few college football teams have a quarterback situation as murky as that of Jackson State heading into the 2017 season.
There will be a three-man battle for the starting gig with newcomers Alin Edouard and Jeff Toney jockeying with Brent Lyles for the job with the Tigers.
Don’t be surprised if this battle ends up going deep into preseason practice with a starter not selected until right before the opener.
2016 Jackson State Football Season In Review
It was a rough first year for Tony Hughes. The longtime assistant earned his first career head coaching job last season and had a dismal debut.
His Tigers went winless out of conference and emerged victorious in just three games all season. Jackson State’s three wins came against teams that won a combined six games, so Hughes is still looking for his first signature victory.
Three different quarterbacks saw significant playing time for the Tigers. Lyles and LaMontiez Ivy received most of the snaps for the first half of the season, but both completed less than 50 percent of their passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
That left the door open for another to emerge, and Jarin Morikawa ended up taking over the job during the last half of the season. He was a better passer in every capacity. His numbers weren’t great, but it was a noticeable step up when he won the job.
Still, the offense was pretty bad in 2016. The Tigers averaged just over 300 yards and 18.5 points per game.
Jackson State had a much better performance on the defensive end. The Tigers were in the top-35 in the nation in total defense and allowed under 350 yards per game. They had a lot of veteran talent, which kept the team in games despite an inept offense.
2017 Jackson State Football Season Preview
Despite having a year under his belt, Hughes might not find things much easier in his second season. Jackson State went from solving the quarterback problem to having the position thrown into disarray this offseason.
The team was set to go with Morikawa as the starter, but the coaching staff made a decision that came back to haunt them in the spring game. Hughes had the team go full pads with full contact, and Morikawa took a vicious hit. He left the game with a severe concussion and decided to retire from football.
That means Lyles will be the first option in all likelihood. While he had a good spring, the team is more limited using him instead of Morikawa. The fact that Edouard is considered to have a shot at the starting job even though he arrived on campus in mid-July tells you all you need to know about the struggles at the position.
Carle Ollie missed virtually all of last season with a wrist injury and is ready to make an impact in 2017. He looked set to have a solid year as the team’s No. 2 receiver, but he left the field in the season opener and never returned. He will be the No. 1 option for whoever wins the quarterbacking duties and can make defenders miss in the open field.
It will be up to the defense to determine how far this team can go. Keontre Anderson was named the SWAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year and should constantly draw double teams. Last year, he registered nine sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss as a disruptor along the edge of the line. Teammates Andre Lloyd, Shawn Bishop and Dario Robinson will also make this one of the best defense in the conference.
2017 Jackson State Football Schedule
September 2: Jackson State at TCU
September 9: Jackson State at Tennessee State
September 16: Jackson State at Grambling
September 23: Jackson State vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff
September 30: Jackson State at Prairie View A&M
October 14: Jackson State at Tuskegee
October 21: Jackson State vs. Southern
October 28: Jackson State at Mississippi Valley State
November 4: Jackson State vs. Alabama State
November 11: Jackson State at Alabama A&M
November 18: Jackson State vs. Alcorn State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
To finish with a winning record would be a success for a Jackson State team that has fallen on hard times. A home game against Alcorn State at the end of the season just might give the Tigers a chance to go over .500. Alcorn State was the one team in the SWAC East to finish with a winning record in conference play last year.
That’s a tall task for all of the youth on this roster. Jackson State brought in 30 freshmen this signing class and 45 players have never played a down of football with the Tigers. They are at least a year away, so you should be hesitant to pick them in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.