Rebuilding a college football program from the ground up is not an easy task, but newly-minted Kentucky State head coach Felton Huggins Jr. is ready and excited for the opportunity to remake the Thorobreds.
“We’ve got an influx of older and younger guys who are going to play for us early. It’s a bit of a transition, but so far, it’s going pretty well,” Huggins said. “We’ve got an older defense that will be the backbone. I’m an Air-Raid spread guy, so we’ll transition from the triple option. We’re going to be prepared, and you’re going to see an exciting brand of football.”
KSU was in competition for much of last season’s final SIAC West Division title, finishing 4-3 in the division and 4-6 overall. That, unfortunately, didn’t move preseason voters, as the Thorobreds were picked to finish 12th in the league’s new one-division format.
The slight of the rankings, nor having a single player picked for preseason honors, won’t deter Huggins and his team from their mission.
“Rankings are just rankings. First or last, once you line up on Saturday, you’ve got to go out and win the game,” he says. “We can’t control anything, but if we’re prepared, we’ll be fine. We’re blessed to have the opportunity to show people who we are and how competitive we are.”
The Thorobreds return much of their top-5 SIAC defense from a season ago with considerable muscle up front. The defensive line averages 6 foot 3 and 260 pounds across the board, led by senior Jimmy Edmonds, who is drawing interest from NFL scouts.
His linemates — Jeremiah Owens, Bubba Johnson, and Bobby Hayes — will help keep rushing numbers low against KSU. The Thorobreds allowed just 121 yards per game on the ground in 2022, good enough for third in the conference. KSU also returns leading tackler Jalen Johnson at linebacker.
Offensively, playmakers such as freshman quarterback Denim Johnson, leading rusher Lavale Hill and newcomer Jaden Ellis will give Huggins — who took a running team at Charleston Southern to a top passing offense as offensive coordinator — a chance to experiment.
“The good thing about life is you take the experience you have and get yourself prepared for the moment,” he says. “I’ve had trial by error, and we’re just taking it a day at a time. You can’t throw it all at them at once.”
Still, once KSU gets used to the new offense, Huggins promises the fans that they’re in for a treat.
“What fans can expect is we’re going to be fast and highly explosive,” he explains. “We’re going to use all of the field, and it’s going to be fun.”
As this is Huggins’ first college head coaching job, he’s passionate about the opportunity to compete in the SIAC and elevate Kentucky State’s football program.
“I grew up playing football in Louisiana, and this game has given me everything,” he said. “I’ve been enamored with this job since it became available. Our guys don’t have a lot of the things that other schools have, but they have their hard hats on and work hard every day.”
To that end, he believes that once the season is over, that No. 12 ranking will be long forgotten.
“People are going to look at our guys and say, ‘Wow, they play the game the right way and have fun,’” Huggins says. “We’re going to shock some people this season.”
Kentucky State opens its season on Aug. 31 with a home game against SIAC foe Clark Atlanta.
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