LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Darius Smith looks to pass during a drill at Alcorn State’s practice on Aug. 15. Smith, a junior, is the starting quarterback for Alcorn this season.

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Junior Darius Smith ready to lead Alcorn into 2012 opener

Published 12:02am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lorman — Last season, Alcorn State quarterback Darius Smith was thrown into the fire when he was forced to take over for departed starting quarterback Brandon Bridge midway through the Braves’ season.

This year, Smith knows that he is the man under center from Day 1, but he said he is not letting the lessons he learned last season be forgotten.

“Last season I was kind of thrown into it, but it definitely helped me get ready for the upcoming season,” Smith said. “I wasn’t expecting to play, and I didn’t study like I should have. But now I know I’m the guy and am taking the time out (to prepare).”

Saturday, Smith and the Braves will take the field for the first time under a new coaching staff led by head coach Jay Hopson when they face Grambling State University in the Port City Classic. Smith said he is ready for the challenge and ready to show how his game has improved.

“I looked at my faults and what I needed to improve,” he said. “I am a lot more patient, and I don’t rush things and, I let things develop.”

Hopson said he tabbed Smith as the starter in large part because of how he prepared.

“He has really picked up the system,” Hopson said. “He’s good mentally.”

Smith said he focused on developing his footwork, film study, throwing and leadership this offseason.

“It’s great finding how guys trust me. I’m not much of a talking guy, but I lead by example,” he said.

The Braves’ offense is ready to show what it can do this season, Smith said, beginning Saturday in Shreveport, La., against Grambling.

“We are ready,” he said. “We spent all summer and spring to prepare for 10 or 11 games, and we are excited to get out. It’s going to be great. We know the fans are behind us 100 percent, and there is a different feel on campus. It’s a different atmosphere.”

Smith said Hopson and his coaching staff have helped create a buzz about the Alcorn football program.

“I love the staff,” Smith said. “We have guys from all over the country. It’s a great group of coaches that care for the players.”

Hopson said Grambling, who is defending SWAC champion, would present a great challenge for his team, but he is focused on improvement more than wins and losses.

“We’ve really been on the job for only three weeks, and we trying to build a program the right way,” he said. “We are going out to compete every week, but our goal is to be a better team in two months that we are now.”

Hopson said he expects a great atmosphere for the contest, and every member of the program is ready to hit the field.

“We’re all excited, but we know we’ve got a job to do,” he said.

Kickoff between the Braves and the Tigers is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.