Alcorn State is in a position they haven’t been in nearly a decade.

Legitimate contenders to win the SWAC East in 2014.

How good were the Braves last season? They finished 7-2 in conference play, including wins over SWAC championship game participants Jackson State and Southern on their way to a second place finish.

Head coach Jay Hopson, who is entering his third season at Alcorn State, will return a squad that features 14 new recruits to incorporate with talented group led by All-SWAC offensive lineman Issac Sampson and defensive back CJ Morgan.

If the Braves have any plans of appearing in the school’s first conference championship game, they’ll need to rely in the arm and legs of quarterback John Gibbs Jr., who finished last season with 2,400 all-purpose yards and 17 passing touchdowns.

Gibbs, who wasn’t a heralded prospect heading to Alcorn State, was third in the SWAC in passing and in total offense, respectively for a unit that ranked No. 3 in total offense in 2013.

The defense, which has steadily improved under the defensive-minded Hopson, was No. 4 in total defense, No. 1 in pass defense efficiency and No. 1 in turnover margin.

The secondary will be anchored by veteran safety Devon Francois, who recorded 76 tackles last year, which ranked fifth in the SWAC.

All the pieces seem to be in place for the Braves to make a serious run at a division and conference championship. Who would have thought that three years ago?



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