Alcorn State was surprisingly competitive during coach Jay Hopson's first season.
Now the Braves are trying to become a real factor in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division after finishing 4-7 last season.
Alcorn State's trademark under Hopson was a stingy pass defense that gave up just 156 yards per game. The Braves return all four starters in the secondary.
But the Braves struggled badly on offense, averaging just 16 points per game. Hopson hopes another year of learning can help improve production. Quarterback John Gibbs returns after completing just 48.6 percent of his passes for 1,406 yards last season.
Alcorn State has a very tough September schedule, playing the SEC's Mississippi State in the opener before key conference games against Mississippi Valley, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama State.