HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Alabama State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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ALABAMA STATE (4-7 IN 2018)
The SWAC (ASU was Tied 4th in East in 2018)
COACH: Donald Hill-Eley – At School: 3rd year (9-8 record), Overall: 15th year (68-84)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2010 (SWAC Championship loss to Texas Southern)
2018 OFFENSE: 15.4 ppg. (118th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 37.0 ppg. (107th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 26 – vs. Alabama A&M, Legion Field, Birmingham — The traditional Magic City Classic is a monster matchup, who are we kidding? Last year's version, which A&M won 27-10, drew nearly 66,000 fans. The Hornets want to prove they can hang with their in-state SWAC rivals, and Alabama A&M certainly looks strong this year.
SUM IT UP: There is no question when you lose draftable talent like first-round NFL draft pick OL Tytus Howard and free agent stud DB Kurron Ramsey that it's a sign of challenges ahead. Alabama State is in that spot, but it has a program that can rebound. You'll understand that if you are driving into Montgomery, Ala. like I did last August (one week prior to the 2nd biggest ASU crowd ever showing up there at 26,222) and you see that stadium towering over the interstate as a reminder of what this program can be.
That Black and Gold aura is there, I certainly sensed it and felt it. From 2010 to 2015, ASU didn't have a losing season. And this is a program that could head back that way very quickly. The foundation is set, ASU, now it is time to capitalize on it. The program has a ton of exciting transfers — six of the FBS variety — who could be key contributors in 2019. The offense has 10 of its 11 starters back from last year's season-ending victory over Mississippi Valley State, and it has two experienced quarterbacks in Darryl Pearson and Kha'Darris Davis. That will be something to build off of, but improvements over last year's 15.4 points per game output definitely are needed. Keep an eye on this budding group of ASU underclassmen, too.
OUR TAKE: Alabama State is going to win its 500th all-time game this fall. That's a big, big milestone and should be appreciated by all. The challenge is that ASU definitely scheduled up, with UAB and Florida State in the FBS realm, along with FCS power Kennesaw State, and the usual SWAC guantlet. The funny thing is? I think this team may have more talent than last year's, but has more hurdles to jump. In a normal year, I'd project five wins, but I'll say this now … if ASU does reach five wins? That's an incredible coaching job against a brutal schedule and gives an idea of good things to come.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./LB Darron Johnson (184 career tackles, 18.5 career tackles for loss)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./RB-FS Ezra Gray (2nd Team All SWAC as a return specialist; 104.9 all-purpose yards per game); Sr., P/K Anthony Craven (2nd Team All SWAC Punter – 42.7 yards per punt, 20 punts over 50 yds, 29 punts inside the 20-yard line); Jr./QB Kha'Darris Davis (961 yds passing, 10 TDs last year); Soph./RB George Golden (406 yds rushing as a freshman before injury in 2017); Jr./K Hunter Hanson (20 of 35 career field goals); Sr./DB Joshua Hill (3rd leading tackler, 61 tackles, 2 INTs, 3 FFs); Sr./DL Christian Clark (5th leading tackler, 53 tackles, 5 TFLs); Sr./OL Carl Thompson (starting center); Sr./OL De'Andre Brown (6-foot-6, a starting tackle).
TOP NEWCOMER: Soph./DB Naytron Culpepper (former 3-star South Florida recruit who could be a big-time factor if the transfer buys into the chemistry of the ASU program)
THE QUOTE: "The biggest transition will happen throughout the summer. The coaches have to get back and dissect either what we are doing or who we have doing it. They need to come away from that and know where we can be competitive next fall." — Head Coach Donald Hill-Eley said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Alabama State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The SWAC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast