HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Prairie View A&M.
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PRAIRIE VIEW A&M (5-6 IN 2018)
The SWAC (PV A&M was Tied 2nd in West in 2018)
COACH: Eric Dooley – At School: 2nd year (5-6 record), Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2009 (beat Alabama A&M in the SWAC Title Game)
2018 OFFENSE: 33.5 ppg. (22nd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 27.0 ppg. (52nd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 21 @ Alcorn State – We really don't care that this game is in September, this will prove how strong the Panthers really are, even before their divisional matchup in Baton Rouge with Southern U a few weeks later on Oct. 12. Is PVAMU a SWAC contender? We'll certainly know after this game.
SUM IT UP: The coaching transition from Willie Simmons to Eric Dooley last year was pretty smooth. The Panthers opened the season by very nearly taking out FBS Rice in Houston, with the Owls needing a field goal with no time remaining to beat PVAMU. The Panthers also played Sam Houston State tough and had some signature wins like with Grambling and usual MEAC power North Carolina Central. They also closed with two straight blowout wins in the SWAC. There are certainly things to be happy with pushing into 2019, but they certainly would like to close the gap with the SWAC front runners from last year, Alcorn State and Southern U.
The offense was pretty darned good last year and it should be again, starting with the trifecta of QB Jalen Morton, RB Dawonya Tucker and WR Tristen Wallace. That's one of the most lethal and balanced trios in the HBCU ranks, and they'll get their yardage. Of course, they're not the only reason. The offensive line is almost entirely intact from last year, and the tight end (Zarrian Holcombe) was the best in the SWAC last year. Last year, this group averaged 33.5 points per game, which was good for No. 22 in the FCS in scoring. They'll undoubtedly score even more points this year, you can count on that. One last note, 2017 starting QB Neiko Hollins — who was really good as a freshman that year — is also back with the program after a one-year hiatus, so the depth at the signal-caller position is as good as any FCS program has.
That takes us to the defense. This side of the ball certainly wants to improve — and it lost some talent, like NFL Draft Pick Quinton Bell, one of the coolest stories of the entire draft. The top three tacklers are gone now, and this run defense specifically has got to get better if PVAMU wants to get to the Celebration Bowl. One big-time returnee is potential pro prospect Ju'Anthony "Juice" Parker, who is a slice-'em and dice-'em defensive back/punt returner who is going to be fun to watch this year. He's one of the reasons the pass defense was No. 4 in the nation in pass efficiency last year, and we think he'll make an NFL roster next year because of his ability to return punts and also his obvious love of blocking kicks. That's a valuable skill set at the next level.
OUR TAKE: After opening at Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M is going to hit a three-game stretch in which it won't be considered the "favorite" — FBS Houston with its new 20 million dollar coach Dana Holgersen (straight from West Virginia for the biggest G5 contract in CFB history), then Southland champion Nicholls at home, then at SWAC champion Alcorn State in Mississippi. No matter how good PVAMU is, there's a very realistic chance the Panthers go into the Grambling game on Sept. 28 at 1-3. The program opted for an 11-game season instead of the 12 games allowed this year. We see seven games on the schedule that look like wins and two (Alcorn and Southern) that we don't know exactly how to project just yet. We think Prairie View's range is seven to nine wins, and if it hits nine? We'll be seeing the Panthers in the SWAC championship game, obviously, with a chance to pick up a 10th … and a chance to pick up an 11th if they can make it all the way to Atlanta for the Celebration Bowl. It's not out of the realm of possibility with this impressive offense, but PVAMU has to get over the Alcorn-Southern hump first.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DB-PR Ju'Anthony "Juice" Parker (1st Team 2018 All SWAC; 3 INTs, 12 passes defended, 2 blocked kicks; 26 tackles — 10.5 yards per punt return, 1 TD)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./RB Dawonya Tucker (2nd Team All SWAC; 1,096 yards rushing, 6 TDs; 211 yards receiving, 2 TDs); Sr./QB Jalen Morton (2,344 yards passing, 18 TDs; 1,073 yards gained rushing, 10 TDs); Sr./TE Zarrian Holcombe (1st Team All SWAC – 26 catches, 350 yards, 7 TDs): Sr./OL Christian Rice (2nd Team All SWAC); Jr./OL DeJohn Jones (2nd Team All SWAC); Jr./WR Tristen Wallace (2nd Team All SWAC – 38 catches, 629 yards, 4 TDs); Sr./DT Ronald Collins (51 tackles, 6 TFLs); Soph./DL Jason Dumas (9 TFLs, 32 tackles, 4 sacks); Soph./SS Drake Cheatum (53 tackles – leading tackler coming back).
TOP ADDITION: Fr./RB Ahmad Antoine (No. 10 ranked signee in the FCS in the HERO Sports Recruiting Rankings – reported 5 P5 offers and 16 total FBS offers).
THE QUOTE: "I thought last season we got off to a great start. We had some big victories. We didn't finish exactly the way I wanted but I thought we finished with a lot of excitement towards the end and that's something we can build on." — Head Coach Eric Dooley said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Prairie View A&M Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The SWAC
Alabama A&M | Alabama St.| Alcorn St.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff | Grambling | Jackson St. | Miss. Valley St.
Prairie View A&M | Southern U. | Texas Southern
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