The Southwestern Athletic Conference kicked off the preseason hype for HBCU football last week with its annual media day.
Now, it’s the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference turn.
Coaches and players from the SIAC’s 11 football-playing members, err … 10 football-playing members, come together Wednesday in Montgomery, Alabama, for the league’s annual media day.
Tuskegee, a Division 2 playoff quarterfinalist last season, is getting some national preseason love. The Golden Tigers are ranked 10th in Lindy’s Sports preseason poll and 13th by The Sporting News. However, TU may not be a clear favorite to win the SIAC in 2016 … but that’s up to the powers-that-be in the league to make those preseason predictions.
Here, we think a little differently. We look at some questions that are bubbling underneath all of the chitter-chatter of media day. Here are a couple for your consideration.
Will The SIAC be top-heavy in 2016?
The top four teams — defending conference champion Miles, Eastern Division champion Albany State, Fort Valley State and Tuskegee — lost only two total games in league play and were the only teams to finish the regular season over .500.
What does that mean? It means that the other seven teams in the SIAC finished the season at or below .500.
Morehouse (5-5, 2-2) finished at .500 in league and overall play while Central State (5-5, 3-7) ended 2015 at .500 overall.
With the top four returning key players, and Miles added more brain in its brain trust, it looks like there won’t be any surprises in the SIAC in 2016.
Who to Watch on Offense?
Albany State led the SIAC in total offense (330.3 yards per game), thanks in part to the duo of running back Jarvis Small and quarterback Caleb Edmonds. Small led the SIAC in rushing (197 carries, 932 yards, 11 TDs) while Edmonds led the conference in passing (1,543 passing yards) and total offense (199.9 ypg). Small and Edmonds return to Albany for their senior year.
However, there are other standouts returning to the SIAC in 2016. Lane dual-threat quarterback Marcus Reynolds (160 carries, 789 yards, 6 TDs/84-of-189 passing, 929 yards, 7 TDs, 8 INTs) returns for his junior season after finishing 2015 second in the league in rushing.
Two other returning quarterbacks — Miles’ David Whipple and Tuskegee’s Kevin Lacey — finished last season in the top four in total offense along with Edmonds and Reynolds.
Who to Watch on Defense?
Tuskegee defensive back Jonah McCutcheon is getting some preseason love, being named to The Sporting News’ preseason All-American team. However, the SIAC has other standouts on the other side of the ball coming back in 2016.
FVSU’s Tracey White led the conference with eight interceptions (taking two back for scores) while Central State’s Clim Robbins took three of his six picks back for touchdowns.
Central State linebacker Deonate Gary is the top returning tackler in the SIAC, finishing second in total tackles (105) and tackles for loss (21.5) last season.
Stillman College’s decision to drop all sports except men’s and women’s basketball leaves the SIAC with 10 football-playing members heading into 2016. That decision came in December, but Stillman President Peter Millet announced earlier this month that the school will retain its baseball and softball programs for the upcoming season.
The college moves out of the NCAA and into the NAIA, where its basketball teams will play in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. The GCAC counts Dillard, Edward Waters, Philander Smith, Southern-New Orleans, Talladega, Tougaloo and Xavier-New Orleans as members.
Stillman brought back football in 1999, nearly 50 years after discontinuing the sport. The Tigers started out in Division 3 before moving up to Division 2 to join the SIAC.
The dominoes from the Stillman decision are being felt in the SIAC. Former Tigers head coach Teddy Kenton and assistant James Johnson each got jobs at Miles. Kenton is an associate head coach and running backs coach while Johnson coaches tight ends.
The losses go beyond coaches. Defensive end Everett Curry had 7.5 sacks last season, which would have made him the top returning sack artist in the SIAC. However, Curry transferred to West Florida after Stillman shuttered its program.
Meanwhile, the loss of Stillman gives Western Division schools — Miles, Tuskegee, Central State and Lane — four conference games. The Eastern Division already consisted of five schools — Albany State, Fort Valley State, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta and Benedict.