Alcorn State staff’s secret weapon: A passer with mind-boggling numbers

First-year Alcorn State coach Melvin Spears expects big things from quarterback Brandon Bridges this season. And not just because of the true sophomore’s still-emerging talents at the position.

Spears has also brought in the SWAC’s most prolific passer as quarterbacks coach.

Bruce Eugene, a multiple finalist for the Walter Payton Award for FCS offensive player of the year between 2002-05, was one of the first assistants Spears added when he took over this offseason.

You have a guy who has played that position, and he was very successful,” Spears told me. “That adds credence to everything he says.”

Eugene, with Spears as offensive coordinator, led the FCS in total offense in 2002 and 2003, helping Grambling to a Southwestern Athletic Conference title in ’02. He was a pass or two away from playing for another one a year later, before missing Spears’ initial campaign as head coach in 2004 with a knee injury. Eugene then returned on a torrid pace, going on to win every league contest, his first Bayou Classic and another league championship while throwing 56 scoring passes — besting a FCS career touchdown record that had stood for 20 seasons.

Comparisons with that kind of eye-popping production don’t come easy, though Spears says one element of Bridges’ game stands out.

“I might never coach another Bruce Eugene,” he admits. “That doesn’t come along very often in this league. But for all of the intangibles, Bruce couldn’t run like this guy.”

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