HERO Sports wraps up the previews with "Two-A-Days" for each FCS conference through Friday, Aug. 24 (see full schedule below). Today, we feature the the SWAC.
SUM IT UP
(NOTE: Team by team previews in this conference are below)
Grambling is one of the most storied programs in college football, period (if not the most storied). The Tigers were one of the elite HBCU programs last year, but many doubters likely think there will be a big change with stud RB Martez Carter and QB Devante Kincade both in professional football now. Well, most of the rest of the guys are back, folks — including De'arius Christmas on defense. That's where the Tigers may be fiercest this year, is on 'D', which should matchup wonderfully with a very good Alcorn State team. In general, it looks like a battle between those two, with maybe Southern U. as a spoiler.
[credit]Arkansas Pine-Bluff's KeShawn Williams averaged 76 rushing yards per game. (UAPB Athletics)[/credit]
NAMES TO KNOW
THE VETERAN COACH: Dawson Odums, Southern U.
Odums may not feel like it, but he's been on the job the longest of anybody in the SWAC — since 2012. In his time he's led the Jaguars to 43 wins and two SWAC Title Games.
TOP PASSER: Chris Fowler, Mississippi Valley State
Threw for 1,565 yards last fall as a freshman to lead all returnees in the SWAC.
TOP RUSHER: KeShawn Williams, Ark-Pine Bluff
Averaged 76 rushing yards per game in 9 games for the Lions.
TOP RECEIVER: Quinn McElfresh, Mississippi Valley State
He was the SWAC's receptions leader with 57 last year, for 889 yards and 5 TDs.
TOP TACKLER: Julian Marcantel, Texas Southern
As a sophomore, he led the SWAC in tackles with 92, good for 8.4 per contest.
TOP SACK MAN: Vernon Moland, Alabama A&M
He led the SWAC last year with 10 sacks, and he's back in the lineup.
TOP INT ARTIST: Ju'Anthony Parker, Prairie View A&M
He snagged 4 INTs last year as a sophomore.
KEEP AN EYE ON: P.J. Simmons, RB, Alcorn State
Simmons (687 rushing yards, 7 TDs) was in the backfield with De'Lance Turner (1,365 yards) last year, now he has it to himself.
TOP FANBASE (*)
Grambling has hovered at the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the fan engagement ratings we've run all summer, right there with North Dakota State and James Madison. Alcorn State is also a Top 10 team in this regard. The top fanbase attendance wise was Prairie View A&M last year, with Grambling a close second.
(*) – Based on fan engagement with our previews this summer.
RANKING THE SOUTHLAND
|RK||HERO SPORTS (Brian)||COACHES|
|2||Alcorn St.||Alcorn St.|
|3||Southern U.||Southern U.|
|4||Jackson St. (up)||Alabama St.|
|5||Alabama A&M (up)||Prairie View|
|6||Alabama St.||Jackson St.|
|7||Prairie View||Alabama A&M|
|8||Tex. Southern||Tex. Southern|
|9||Ark.-Pine Bluff||Ark.-Pine Bluff|
|10||Miss. Valley St.||Miss. Valley St.|
I really don't have too much of a disagreement with the coaches poll, even down to the oft overlooked detail that the coaches seem to agree that Alcorn State is very much a threat to Grambling this year. The Braves may have lost DeLance Turner, but they have a capable RB in P.J. Simmons and a mostly intact lineup on both sides of the ball. Not surprisingly, those should be the two favorites to reach the SWAC title game. The lone disagreement I have is that Jackson State and Alabama A&M have a bit more experience back in the lineup than Alabama State and Prairie View, and I feel they should be slightly more highly regarded coming into 2018.
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The SWAC