Alcorn’s spring game set for Saturday

Published 12:34 am Friday, April 17, 2009

LORMAN — For the second season in a row, the Alcorn State Purple and Gold Spring Game will see a new head coach.

But this time, the coach is already a bit familiar with the team.

Earnest Collins was associate head coach under Ernest Jones this past season, when the Braves went 2-10 and lost to Jackson State in the Capital City Classic.

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Now Braves fans — and Collins — are expecting some improvement.

“Of course we’re always striving to be better,” Collins said. “Like I told the kids, we’re just going to take it one game at a time. If we succeed one week, then we’ll keep going. If we lose, we’ll reevaluate and go on to the next game. But I’m looking forward to bigger and better things.”

Collins said he’s comfortable with the team going into Saturday’s game, even if he is in a different position.

“Now I have more responsibilities,” he said. “Before I just answered to the defensive side of the field. Now I have to be the focal point of the entire football team. I’m a religions man, and I don’t believe the Lord would have put me in a position I couldn’t handle.”

Collins said the drama of the past winter — the firing and rehiring of assistant coaches and the termination of Jones — are behind the team now.

Now they’re focusing on fitting the players into a new system and integrating all the freshmen into the team.

“We’re just trying to feel the kids out and see what we’ve got,” Collins said. “We’re looking at what holes we’ve got to fill with transfers and freshmen. I’m excited to get our new acquisitions to our football team too.”

And Collins is excited about the returning starters.

Quarterback Timothy Buckley was fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 49.3 percent passing completion average, completing 99 of 201 attempts with six interceptions.

He threw for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 193 yards per game.

Edward Johnson, who will be a junior next season, ranked fifth in receiving yards per game with 460 on 35 catches.

“At this point in time I don’t want to single out any players because it’s still early and we’re trying to get everybody comfortable in their roles,” Collins said. “But we had our normal guys from last year who are stepping up. We’re just trying to build this program and add to our football team, and all the young guys are stepping up and taking positive roles on the football team.”

The Purple and Gold Game will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jack Spinks Stadium.