Alabama NewsCenter 2018 football preview: Alabama State University

Alabama NewsCenter 2018 football preview: Alabama State University
Coach Donald Hill-Eley led the Alabama State Hornets to a huge turnaround during the second half of the 2017 season. Hill-Eley says he believes offensive production is the key to a complete season this year and a shot at the SWAC championship. (Alabama State Athletics)

Donald Hill-Eley had to flip the script in Montgomery last season. The former Alabama State assistant coach was handed the reins after the Hornets opened with an 0-5 record.

“You’re trying to change the morale of 100-plus people, not just the players in the helmets but the coaches, the fans and everything else,” the coach said. “It was a tough feat to try to jump in and redirect (everyone).

“We were able to do it by a lot of great coaches,” Hill-Eley continued. “We’ve got a lot of experienced assistant coaches who doubled their duties and we’ve got players who moved positions. It was a wealth of changes and it proved beneficial as we were able to finish the season, the last six games 5-1.”

The football season is fast approaching and Alabama NewsCenter is taking a tour of college football programs in the state. Next up is Hill-Eley’s Alabama State Hornets.

Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?

Donald Hill-Eley: We want to continue to build off of how we finished last year. With that said, we have the players that are back and they have the expectation of what we want, and we have coaches back who know the schemes and the philosophy we want to implement. We’re not starting from scratch. We have some momentum from last season and we’re planning on using that to propel ourselves to the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) Championship Game.

ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?

Hill-Eley: Again, it will be defense. Our defense has kept us afloat with great field position and stopping people and putting us in a position where we could be successful. Again, we’ll go in with a great, strong defense and we’ll match it with a competitive offense and special teams.

ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?

Hill-Eley: I think everything starts with the defensive line. You have Christian Clark, who will anchor the middle, Devin Santana, who will book one of the ends, and Ricky Haley, who will book the other. You have Darron Johnson at middle linebacker. At safety, you have Kurron Ramsey, who will anchor that back end along with the Hill guys – Jeff Hill and Josh Hill. Offensively, we’re expecting a lot out of (quarterback) D.J. Pearson. We’re expecting KHA’Darris Davis, his backup, to push him. We have a second-round draft pick at left tackle in Tytus Howard, who will anchor that offensive line. We have Joe Williams at receiver, Ezra Gray at running back and George Golden. We have some talent. It’s just about all of it coming together for one cause.

ANC: What game do your fans have circled on your schedule?

Hill-Eley: You figure this year we’ve got Tuskegee, which is an in-state rivalry. We’ve got (Alabama) A&M, we’ve got Auburn and we’ve got South Alabama. We have a lot of good football to be played here in Alabama.

ANC: What is your lingering question?

Hill-Eley: We know we need more offensive production. Going into this season, we’re anxious as they report to camp to see what our makeup is like offensively. Can we run as well as throw the football?

Read 2018 football previews for Jacksonville State University, Miles College, the University of West Alabama, Birmingham-Southern College, the University of North Alabama, Samford University, Tuskegee University and UAB, and look for new football previews each weekday on Alabama NewsCenter.

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