SWAC Contenders Want More Than Conference Title

Football.

(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 16 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

East Division

1. Alcorn State (92 points)

2. Alabama A&M (70)

3. Jackson State (61)

4. Alabama State (47)

5. Mississippi Valley State (30)

West

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

First Team

Offense

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

Defense

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

Special Teams

PK - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State

P - Anthony Craven, Alabama State

RS - Ezra Gray, Alabama State

Second Team

Offense

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

Defense

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

Special Teams

PK - Zack Elder, Prairie View A&M

P - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State

RS - Tyrin Ralph, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

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