It could be argued that the best teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference resided in the Eastern Division in 2011. The same situation appears to hold true in 2012 with not too much major turnover to rosters and coaching staffs that would dramatically shift the balance of power. The race to Birmingham should be another tight battle.
1. Alabama A&M: Preseason prognosticators haven’t pegged the Bulldogs making a return trip back to the Birmingham for the SWAC Football Championship game. AAMU is returning 18 starters from a team that won the Eastern Division in 2011, including a healthy Deaunte Mason (preseason All-SWAC 1st-team Offense) and last year’s leading rusher Kaderius Lacey Lacey (preseason All-SWAC 1st-team Offense) to go along with a solid defense that boasts defensive back Vernon Marshall.
Is this the makeup of a third-place team?
“Everybody has to play, “said Alabama A&M head coach Anthony Jones. “This is drama and theater for (the media). When it’s all said and done, all 10 teams are going to have to play and only one will walk away with the trophy.”
2. Alabama State: The Hornets made the biggest offseason splash by landing five-star recruit Isaiah Crowell, who transferred from Georgia after getting into legal troubles. However, four players, include two key starters were ruled academically ineligible for the 2012 season. While the Hornets did have eight players selected the preseason All-SWAC team, one can’t automatically hand them the division in July.
3. Jackson State: Head coach Rick Comegy told everyone within listening distance at SWAC Media Days this week he isn’t concerned with the quarterback position. Although the Tigers have yet to name a starter to replace the departed Casey Therriault (from a field that includes Evan Ingram, Dedric McDonald, Tevin Chapman and Mark Thigpen among others), Comegy said he would be comfortable no matter who begins the season as the No. 1 guy.
“We have quarterbacks who can win,” Comegy said. “I feel good going into the season. We are not going to change the offense.”
Is having too many choices a good thing?
4. Alcorn State: Last season was a complete disaster for the Braves. Their starting quarterback was benched and then quit the team. The head coach, Melvin Spears was fired after a horrific 2-9 season. In the offense the school made an historic hiring by naming Jay Hopson the SWAC’s first white head football coach in a rather drawn out process. Hopson now finds himself behind the eight ball trying to install a new system and build some type of continuity with just a few months remaining until the regular season starts. Although Hopson said God called him to coach the Braves, it will take a miracle for the team to tally enough wins to threaten the top of the standings.
5. Mississippi Valley State: The Delta Devils won one game last season. As much as head coach Karl Morgan is grinding away to right the ship in Itta Bena, wins will be hard to come by again in 2012 even though there are real signs of improvement.