Alcorn must build local recruiting base

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 1, 2012

Jay Hopson has hardly had any time to catch his breath since Alcorn State announced his hiring as head football coach in late May.

He won’t find much time for a breather going forward, either.

Hopson’s time with his players has been limited so far. Until fall camp starts, being able to assess what’s on his roster and installing his system is going to have to wait. All he can do right now is trust his strength and conditioning coaches to make sure his players are in shape come two-a-days.

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Meanwhile, other staffs in the SWAC have had an entire year of offseason workouts, spring training and building relationships in recruiting. To say that Hopson is bringing a knife to a gunfight this fall wouldn’t quite be accurate. It’s more like he’s bringing a knife in his right pocket, but his right hand is tied up, so he has to reach over and grab the knife while dodging bullets.

And since he’s right-handed, things won’t be as easy for him once he does manage to grab the knife.

Hopson isn’t the type to make excuses. When discussing the challenges of trying to fit in so much in such a short amount of time, Hopson said he and his staff would simply have to go to work. One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of work to be done.

A lot will go into turning the Braves’ football program around. Consistency is a big thing — alumni are going to have to show some patience if the team struggles this fall. The school can’t afford to fire Hopson after just one season and not give him a chance to build his program.

Recruiting is another key for the Braves. You can’t win without good players, and Hopson is going to have to find players that are not only good, but who are a good fit for the school. While that certainly shouldn’t — and won’t be — limited to players in the Miss-Lou, establishing a recruiting base locally would only benefit the Braves’ program.

Alcorn President M. Christopher Brown II said at a local luncheon in late April that a public university’s responsibility is to “serve the community in which it is situated.” With Alcorn’s campus a mere 40-minute drive away — not to mention the school having a Natchez campus — there’s no reason for Alcorn to let players from our area slip through the cracks.

A good example of a local athlete succeeding at the SWAC level is Natchez High School graduate Rico Richardson, who signed with Alcorn’s hated rival, Jackson State. Richardson was second-team All-SWAC at wide receiver last fall, and the rising senior will be aiming for a first-team All-SWAC bid this season.

This is someone who Jackson State signed right out of Alcorn’s backyard, and it’s an example of the type of athlete Alcorn cannot afford to lose going forward. When you have someone looking at SWAC schools who lives 40 minutes away from your main campus, letting that player go to your top rival and compete for all-conference honors is a slap in the face.

Hopson obviously had nothing to do with that. But the next time a Rico Richardson comes along, whether he’s from Natchez, Jefferson County, Concordia Parish or somewhere else close by, it will be Hopson’s responsibility to do everything he can to make that player a Brave.