Where: ASU Stadium, Montgomery
Radio: 91.9 FM, 97.9 FM
1. It’s a new day: The game marks the beginning of Jax State’s era under Bill Clark. Clark became the Gamecocks’ 24th head football coach in December. It also will be the JSU grad’s first game as a Division I head coach. He previously served as defensive coordinator at South Alabama. The game is a homecoming of sorts for Clark — he won two 6A state titles in nine years at Prattville.
2. Who’s the QB: The Gamecocks have kept mum all preseason about who their starting quarterback would be in the opener. It could be Minnesota transfer Max Shortell, athletic Eli Jenkins or steady Kyle West. Leading speculation is it will be Shortell, the only one of the three with any collegiate playing experience. Shortell made eight starts in 15 games in two seasons at Minnesota. He’s a big-bodied, strong-armed junior, while Jenkins will be active in the run game and West is steady smart. Two will play.
3. They’ve been around: Alabama State had what has been reported as one of the top recruiting classes on the FCS level last year and have 16 Division I transfers planted throughout their lineup. The Gamecocks also added several Division I transfers in the transition — two from Auburn and one each from Alabama, Arkansas State, Appalachian State and Ole Miss.
4. What will offense look like: Along with the new quarterback, the Gamecocks are expected to unveil an up-tempo spread offense that will feature a lot of receivers and plenty of fast snaps. There are many in the OVC who say the Gamecocks have plenty of athletes to make the transition a smooth one. They’ve been doing a lot of things fast in the spring and summer, but the key to maintaining continuity will be avoiding the false start penalties that may raise its head in a season opener.
Alabama State RB Isaiah Crowell vs. the JSU linebackers: Crowell, who wears No. 1, transferred to ASU from Georgia last season and rushed for more than 800 yards and 15 TDs. There was some question whether he would play after sitting out the Hornets’ final scrimmage of camp, but coach Reggie Barlow said the staff had seen enough of Crowell to allow him to sit out the scrimmage after coming down with a case of “bubble guts.” The Gamecocks, meanwhile, are deep at linebacker, with four seniors among the five inside and in the two deep in the middle.
First year JSU coaches don’t fare well in their first games and while there has been overflowing enthusiasm for Clark since his arrival, it’s still a first game with the usual first-game accompaniments. Since all of the Gamecocks’ heavy work in camp has been behind closed doors, it’s impossible to know how they’ll play, so history is the only thing to go on. Only three JSU coaches have won in their first game. Clark may have to wait a week to get his first win. Alabama State 28, JSU 24.