SWAC contenders want more than conference title
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Southwestern Athletic Conference commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland didn't mince words when he addressed his conference's football media day on Tuesday.
He told the 10 teams that it's time for one of them to bring home another Celebration Bowl championship.
There's a good chance this year in the conference in which Alcorn State and Southern have been installed as the East and West Division favorites, respectively.
Grambling State delivered the Celebration Bowl in 2016, but it's the only one for the SWAC heading into the fifth edition of the game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium in December.
The winner almost surely wins the black college football national title as well, which North Carolina A&T has done three times for the MEAC, including with a 24-22 win over Alcorn in last year's Celebration Bowl.
Heading into the 2019 season, it appears to be "advantage SWAC." The SWAC's likely contenders feature veteran lineups, including at quarterback, while in the MEAC, N.C. A&T returns only eight starters and perhaps the conference's best team this season, Florida A&M, is under NCAA sanctions and ineligible for the postseason.
But first things first for the SWAC, whose championship game - the only one in the FCS - will be held Dec. 7 on the campus of the higher-seeded division winner
"This is a very competitive conference all over. It's the SWAC championship every week," Alcorn State coach Fred McNair warned. His program has won four straight East titles.
Alcorn, which finished 9-4 last season, is bolstered by the return of 14 preseason all-conference selections - more than twice as many as any other SWAC team except for Prairie View A&M's eight. They include preseason offensive player of the year Noah Johnson at quarterback and defensive player of the year Solomon Muhammad at linebacker.
Southern (7-4), whose only two SWAC losses were to Alcorn, returns many of its impact players among its 17 returning starters. They include quarterback Ladarius Skelton and pass rush specialist Jordan Lewis.
"That disappointing SWAC championship loss in 2018 has really been the motivation for us going forward," coach Dawson Odums said.
SWAC PRESEASON POLL
Coaches and Sports Information Directors Vote
1. Alcorn State (92 points)
2. Alabama A&M (70)
3. Jackson State (61)
4. Alabama State (47)
5. Mississippi Valley State (30)
1. Southern (90)
2. Prairie View A&M (78)
3. Grambling State (74)
4. Texas Southern (34)
5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (24)
SWAC PRESEASON TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year - Noah Johnson, QB, Alcorn State
Defensive Player of the Year - Solomon Muhammad, LB, Alcorn State
QB - Noah Johnson, Alcorn State
RB - Taeyler Porter, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
RB - De'Shawn Waller, Alcorn State
OL - DeJohn Jones, Prairie View A&M
OL - Deonte Brooks, Alcorn State
OL - Mustaffa Ibrahim, Alcorn State
OL - Jodeci Harris, Southern
OL - Kevin Hall, Alcorn State
WR - Tristian Wallace, Prairie View A&M
WR - DeJuan Miller, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
TE - Kendric Johnson, Alabama A&M
DL - Jordan Lewis, Southern
DL - Christian Clark, Alabama State
DL - Jalen Steward, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
DL - Anferenee Mullins, Grambling State
LB - Darron Johnson, Alabama State
LB - Armoni Holloway, Alabama A&M
LB - Solomon Muhammad, Alcorn State
DB - Javen Morrison, Alcorn State
DB - Qwynnterrio Cole, Alcorn State
DB - Joseph McWilliams, Grambling State
DB - Ju'Anthony Parker Prairie View A&M
PK - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State
P - Anthony Craven, Alabama State
RS - Ezra Gray, Alabama State
QB - Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M
RB - Dawonya Tucker, Prairie View A&M
RB - Devon Benn, Southern
OL - Christian Rice, Prairie View A&M
OL - Danny Garza, Prairie View A&M
OL - William Waddell, Grambling State
OL - Shonye Reams, Alabama A&M
OL - Jaylon Brinson, Southern
WR - Tren'Davian Dixon, Texas Southern
WR - Brian Jenkins, Alabama A&M
TE - Jeremias Houston, Southern
DL - Ron Collins, Prairie View A&M
DL - Darrell Henderson, Alcorn State
DL - Theron Bonds, Alcorn State
DL - Khalil Johnson, Jackson State
LB - Brelion Hollis, Alcorn State
LB - Julian Marcantel, Texas Southern
LB - Keonte Hampton, Jackson State
DB - Daquarian Fields, Grambling State
DB - Joshua Hills, Alabama State
DB - Daylon Burks, Alcorn State
DB - Montavious Gaines, Southern
PK - Zack Elder, Prairie View A&M
P - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State
RS - Tyrin Ralph, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Updated July 16, 2019