Lots of unknowns for Alcorn State as they face Southern Miss

Published 1:50 am Saturday, September 5, 2009

JACKSON (AP) — One thing is sure: We know Southern Miss and Alcorn State open the season Saturday.

Beyond that little is clear in a game that features one team with a new coach and dozens of freshmen and the other with its two offensive stars nursing injuries that may keep them out.

Stay tuned. Most of these questions will be answered Saturday.

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‘‘It’s a little bit unknown to be honest with you,’’ Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. ‘‘As we watched them offensively, they did so many different things last year it’s kind of got us chasing ghosts a little bit. We’re not sure what to prepare for. It’s a little bit scary.’’

Even new coach Earnest Collins Jr. might not know what to expect from his Braves. A lot’s happened since last year. Defensive coordinator Collins and the assistants were fired at one point. Then head coach Ernest Jones was let go.

Next thing you know, Collins was back as head coach.

The Braves finished 2-10 last year but are hard to get a handle on with six losses by a touchdown or less and four in the last minute.

Collins has got more than 40 freshman on the roster and fewer than 10 seniors, though one of those is quarterback Tim Buckley.

Along with Buckley, Collins has a strong motivational tool.

‘‘You get kids at the I-AA level and they feel like they’ve been overlooked by I-A schools,’’ Collins said. ‘‘As a coach I tell them, ‘Now here’s your chance to prove you can play anywhere in the country.’’’

The task will be a little bit easier if Southern Miss is without two of its best players, tailback Damion Fletcher and receiver DeAndre Brown. Fedora said this week he would consider holding both out, though all indications are both will play.

Fletcher has told Fedora his injured hamstring is almost completely healed and Brown shucked his red injured jersey this week after a doctor evaluated his healing leg, broken during the New Orleans Bowl last year.

Fletcher is on a quest to become part of a small fraternity of players who have rushed for 1,000 yards in each of their four seasons. And Brown is trying to improve on the 67 catches and 12 touchdowns he put up during his record-setting freshman season.

They helped the Golden Eagles lock up their 15th straight winning season with five consecutive wins to end the year.

Fedora thinks the Golden Eagles are capable of a fast start.

‘‘We’re hoping that we can pick up where we left off at the end of the season,’’ Fedora said. ‘‘If there’s any indication from spring ball or how hard the guys worked this summer, I would say that’s what we’re counting on.’’