HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Alabama A&M.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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ALABAMA A&M (6-5 IN 2018)
The SWAC (A&M was Tied 2nd in East in 2018)
COACH: Connell Maynor – At School: 2nd year (6-5 record), Overall: 10th year (71-36)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2011 SWAC Title Game (loss to Grambling)
2018 OFFENSE: 28.2 ppg. (56th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 23.1 ppg. (29th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 16 – @ Alcorn State: The Bulldogs believe in themselves, but this is the game that can take Alabama A&M from hopeful contender to postseason participant. Alcorn State looks on paper like the HBCU team to beat in 2019, but the Bulldogs could upend those prognostications on this very date. Sketch this one in as a super early "Game of the Week" in November. It'll be a good one.
SUM IT UP: If you're an Alabama A&M fan and you're not stoked about what is in front of you with this 2019 team, make a doctor's appointment and get yourself checked. Connell Maynor is in his second "full cycle" year with the Bulldogs and last year he led them to their first on-the-field winning record since 2012, when Alabama A&M went 7-4. Earlier this decade, Maynor led D-II Winston Salem State to three consecutive CIAA national titles. Alabama A&M had a winning record in his first year at the helm, and he has 13 starters back in the lineup – including young dynamo quarterback Aqeel Glass, who already has notched 3,500 career passing yards and is only halfway through his career. There is serious reason for optimism here.
If improvement is what fires you up, consider that Alabama A&M went from the 102nd best offense in the FCS in 2017 to the 56th last year — and that will continue to improve this year with Glass and his playmaker list nearly intact. The defense went from 67th in the FCS to 29th, another testament to the job this staff did and the way this team is buying in. On defense, the secondary is stingy against the pass, and heart-and-soul inside linebacker Armoni Holloway is arguably the top defensive player returning in the SWAC. Expect a bevy of interceptions and a clamp-down style in the defensive backfield, as the program continues to try to fill holes on the front line. Overall, this looks like a team that could be Top 30 in the nation in both the offensive and defensive categories, and that's a sign of where things are heading.
OUR TAKE: Alabama A&M is a legitimate contender in the SWAC and looks like — on paper — a potential top five type HBCU program this year. This program is well-coached, talented and hungry as hell to continue the success of last year when it won five of its final seven games and played SWAC champ Alcorn State tough. Looking at the schedule, there's no question the eight-win mark is very possible this year, with a nine-win season probably being the ceiling. Out-of-conference games with a loaded North Alabama team and a rebuilding Samford team should be good early litmus tests. We'll project the seven-to-nine win mark as Alabama A&M's 2019 outlook range, with the Alcorn State game in November getting a lot of hype when it rolls around.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./LB Armoni Holloway (Led SWAC with 108 tackles, 7 TFL – 1st Team All SWAC)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr/QB Aqeel Glass (Led SWAC in passing as a sophomore – 2,426 yds passing, 20 TDs – 2nd Team All SWAC); Sr./RB Jordan Bentley (509 rushing yards, 7 TDs splitting time with Mizzou transfer Trevon Walters last year, but Walters is gone now); Sr./OL Shonye Reams (Fourth Year starter); Sr./DB Michael Mills (22 tackles, 5 PBUs); Jr./DB Tuwile Wilson (29 tackles); Soph./WR-RS Brian Jenkins Jr. (475 yds receiving, 503 return yards); Sr./DB Desmond Fletcher (27 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 INTs); Jr./WR Zabrian Moore (374 yds receiving, 3 TDs); Sr./OL Tevoris Butler (multi-year starter up front).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./WR Jurial Caldwell (reportedly held an Auburn offer, along with Utah and others – if Caldwell buys into Alabama A&M's staff's system, things might get really interesting this fall for Caldwell)
THE QUOTE: "We've used this as an opportunity to develop our younger players. Everyone is getting reps, trying to win a spot on the field this fall. You can't win a scholarship during spring practice, but you can win a starting job. That's what our guys are trying to do. I like the competition. We've seen a lot of good things … The transition to our new defensive system has gone well. The scheme is a good fit for our personnel. Those guys have been flying around making plays, and I know they're ready to get on the field (in the spring game)." — Head Coach Connell Maynor said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Alabama A&M Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The SWAC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast