Kentucky State’s football team went 5-5 last season, going 3-4 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and finishing sixth in the West Division.
This year the Thorobreds are aiming higher.
“In previous years it’s been segregated with offense and defense, but we’ve come together as a unit, one team, one goal, one vision and that’s an SIAC championship,” KSU senior linebacker Terry Horton said during the team’s media day Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
“I’m really impressed with a lot of freshmen. A lot of freshmen are coming in and they understand the task at hand. It’s an SIAC championship or bust. We’re not trying to go 7-3, we’re not trying to go 8-2. We’re trying to get a ring, get some jewelry.”
The Thorobreds kick off their season with a Thursday night home game Sept. 4 against Kentucky Wesleyan.
At the SIAC Media Day in July, KSU was picked to finish fourth in the West Division and sixth overall out of 12 teams, but the Thorobreds think they have the components to make a run at the title.
“It’s definitely an exciting time for us at Kentucky State,” KSU head coach Josh Dean said. “We’re ready to get back at it and get it started.
“Our running game coming back gives us a one-two punch with Jacquise Lockett and Justin Williams, and our passing attack has improved. Our defense is still very solid.”
Lockett, a senior, led the SIAC in rushing last year and was named to the conference’s preseason first-team offense.
“I’m really impressed with our freshmen; they’re stepping up,” he said. “Another thing, I’m really impressed with our chemistry. It came together so fast. Our coaching staff, they’re improving, they’re adding a whole bunch of packages in.”
The newcomers have also made an impression on senior offensive lineman Chadwick Rives.
“We have a lot of competition,” Rives said. “Like coach says all the time, you can easily be replaced, so they brought in some guys who can take your spot so you’ve got to be on your horse, do what you’ve got to do.”
Last year when the season started Dean was the interim head coach, and he was named head coach last fall.
“We hit the ground running as far as recruiting,” Dean said. “We’ve done a great job recruiting this year, especially recruiting locally. We have 17 freshmen and three transfers and one mid-year transfer. Of those 17 freshmen six or seven are local stars.
“The biggest thing in recruiting is consistency, and they know I’m going to be here, right with them.”
Among this year’s freshmen are Franklin County High School graduates Chris Roberts and Lorenzo McCaskell.
“McCaskell, you can see the potential,” Dean said. “He’s fast, athletic. He’s going to redshirt this year, and he’s going back to running back. We’ll have him follow around Justin and learn from him.
“Chris is a good back. Right now he needs to learn how to run behind the pads, but he’s definitely going to be a big advantage.”
The other local player on the roster is senior defensive lineman Deshon Floyd, a Frankfort High graduate.
The Thorobreds play three non-conference games — two at home — before opening conference play Sept. 27 on the road at Stillman College.
KSU takes on conference rival Central State Oct. 4 in the Circle City Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Homecoming will be Oct. 18 against Miles College, and the final home game of the season will be Nov. 1 against Lane College.
The Thorobreds respect their conference rivals, but they don’t fear them.
“We’re underdogs, but I guarantee you every team in this conference knows Kentucky State,” said Horton, a preseason defensive second team all-conference pick. “There are no other running backs in the conference like the running backs we have. Another defense is like our defense, Fort Valley, and we go at it every year.
“We get overlooked because of discipline. We can’t stay disciplined. That’s what our coaches preach. This year, if we stay disciplined, then you guys will be here, late November, with another press conference and we’ll be talking about the playoffs. I promise you.”