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Hopson: ASU players keep improving

Alcorn State University wide receiver Tavoris Doss makes a catch against teammate defensive back Devon Francois during practice Wednesday at the Lorman campus. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

LORMAN — As long as they keep getting better, Jay Hopson said he’s happy.

And the Alcorn State football coach said Wednesday his team has indeed kept making progress as they continue with fall camp.

The Braves open against Grambling State in Shreveport, La., Sept. 1, but Hopson said the focus has been his players simply taking the right steps to improve.

“We’ll start working on them on game week,” Hopson said. “The thing about us is, we’re not going to go too far ahead for Grambling. We’re not building our program on the Grambling game. We’re going to worry about us.”

Hopson said Wednesday was day 12 of practice, and the Braves had their first scrimmage this past Saturday.

“We’re getting better every day,” Hopson said. “That’s what I live to see. We were a little sloppy in the scrimmage, but it was the first scrimmage.”

Hopson also said the defense did some good things in the scrimmage, but the offense has started to work its way toward matching the defense.

“I would say the defense was ahead in the scrimmage, but these last two days, the offense has probably come on,” Hopson said. “That’s natural. It kind of goes back and forth.”

This week started a series of practices where Alcorn will go twice in one day, one day the next and then twice the third day.

“The NCAA has changed stuff over the years to where there’s no true two-a-days,” Hopson said. “It’s not like the old days, but it’s what we do (now), so it’s no big deal.”

Even with the heat, Hopson said he’s been very pleased with how the players have responded to the warm weather.

“They’re in pretty good shape so far,” Hopson said. “We’ve had some cramps, but other than that, it’s been good.”

Alcorn fans will likely pay close attention to the quarterback competition, but right now, Hopson said Darius Smith, who started last season, has the edge.

“Darius is probably in the lead right now, but John Gibbs has done some good things, and Brandon Vessel has kind of come on a little bit,” Hopson said. “Right now, Darius is the starter, but we’ll see. We’re still competing.”

Hopson said Smith has good control of the system and is probably a step ahead mentally.

“John is closing ground fast, though,” Hopson said.

With approximately 90 players showing up for fall camp, Hopson said he’s able to lay the groundwork as he builds toward the Braves’ future.

“We’re going to have 25 to 30 newcomers out here, so that’s part of the building stage,” Hopson said.