Jackson State, T.C. Taylor bracing for start of new era with Celebration Bowl rematch

(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )(Hakim Wright Sr | AP)
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 3:20 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - “Begin in Atlanta, end in Atlanta,” has been the motivating factor under first-year head coach T.C. Taylor since his appointment.

Taylor, the 22nd head coach in program history, looks to become the eighth JSU football since 1976 to win his first game as head coach.

While some names have changed, the goal for Jackson State stays the same as the Tigers approach the 2023 season. It will begin with a rematch of the 2021 Celebration Bowl against South Carolina State, a game that JSU lost 31-10.

This go around, the two will meet in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge on Saturday night in Atlanta, and Coach Taylor is ready to right some wrongs.

“Everybody knows what this week is about,” Taylor said. “I’m looking forward to it, with it being my first game as the head coach. We’re still chopping wood as a football team, though.”

The new-look Tigers have more than 70 new players in the program but still have a veteran presence among the returning lettermen. Running back J.D. Martin has had an impressive spring and fall camp and will carry the load for JSU, while preseason All-SWAC first-team tight end D.J. Stevens and Rico Powers are the top returning receiving threats.

Wide receiver and Madison Central grad Isaiah Spencer may also play a big role in the passing game after making a name for himself this fall.

The biggest question, however, is yet to be answered. Who will start at QB? Coach Tylor has opted to keep that decision a secret heading into the season opener.

“I have not,” Taylor said when asked if he’d named a starting quarterback for the matchup. “We’ll take that into the game… the guy that we decide to go with, we’re gonna send him out there that we feel good about. We know it’s game week. Our guys are getting reps, our guys have been looking good… but we’ll see when that time comes.”

Zy McDonald, Jason Brown, and Jacobian Morgan are the three quarterbacks being considered.

For the defense, it will be more of the same despite the big turnover of staff and players.

“Be physical, execute, and play our style of football,” Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Bradley said. “If we go out and do that, we’ll have a chance of coming out of there with a win this weekend.”

The Tigers’ season opener will kick off at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN Plus.

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