2016 Southwestern Athletic Conference Preview

(STATS) - The Southwestern Athletic Conference's preseason offensive player of the year, senior running back Lenard Tillery, started his career at Southern University as a walk-on.

So, too, did tight end Dillon Beard, who joined Tillery as one of seven Jaguars on the SWAC's preseason team.

Having one player develop like that is good fortune. Two? Hard to believe.

But the top teams in the West Division need success stories such as that this season. Try to separate Grambling State, last year's division champ, Southern, the 2013 and '14 division champ, and Prairie View A&M, this year's favorite in the division, and it's difficult.

One person's predicted order of finish today might be completely reversed tomorrow.

The West Division had become dominant in the SWAC until Alcorn State came along from the East Division and won the last two championship games. The Braves are the clear favorite again in the East, but the West is anybody's guess.

"We don't need a polished product," Southern coach Dawson Odums said. "A guy may not play as much in high school, he might not have the film, but he wants to go to college and get an opportunity to play college football. But he wants to go somewhere where he's not just going to be used as a scout-teamer, he's going to have a fair opportunity to compete for playing time. That's what our team offers.

"We're talented, and we've got to be committed to the process. And if we follow that, I like our chances in 2016."

So do the Grambling and Prairie View coaches, who, like Odums, have enjoyed quick success at their schools. There's been no time for building a program when there's a title to be won.

"The focus this year is the spirit of the game, how we play," Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. "Too many times last season we had quarters where we had lulls where we didn't play as well as we were capable of in certain quarters. So for us, it's about putting four quality quarters together week in and week out and continue that throughout the season."

Said Prairie View coach Willie Simmons: "We're not a team that's big on accolades, we're not a team that's big on preseason hype - things of that nature."We try to be a team that says, 'Hey, whoever needs to step up, step up.' But we all have a job to do."

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2016 Southwestern Athletic Conference race and STATS' predicted order of finish

East Division

1. Alcorn State

2. Alabama State

3. Jackson State

4. Alabama A&M

5. Mississippi Valley State

West Division

1. Grambling State

2. Southern

3. Prairie View A&M

4. Texas Southern

5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

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TEAM CAPSULES=

EAST DIVISION=

1. ALCORN STATE BRAVES=

LOCATION: Lorman, Mississippi

STADIUM: Jack Spinks Stadium

COACH: Fred McNair (first season at Alcorn State)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 7-2 SWAC East (1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (5 offense/6 defense)

KEY LOSSES: John Gibbs Jr., QB; Darryen Ragsdale, RB; Warren Gatewood, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Lenorris Footman, QB, Jr. (74-for-170, 1,106 yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs; 138 carries, 1,023 yards, 11 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Stacey Garner, DE, Jr. (42 TT, 14.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Marquis Warford, RB/WR/KR, R-Jr.; Arron Baker, RB, Jr.; Brandon Campbell, TE, So.; Detonio Dade, C, Sr.; Deonte Brooks, LT, Fr.; Mike Brooks, DE, So.; Mike Hurns, LB, Sr.; Darien Anderson, LB, Sr.; D'Andre Smith, DB, Jr.; Brady Smith, CB, Jr.; Eric Foster, DB, R-Jr.; Haiden McCraney, PK/P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Coming off back-to-back SWAC titles, Alcorn remains the team to beat in the conference. But former coach Jay Hopson is gone to Southern Miss, with former Braves assistant Fred McNair a head coach for the first time. It's a natural progression considering McNair is an Alcorn alumni and his late brother Steve will forever be royalty in the program. The Braves lost a superb senior class, but got a jump on this season last fall when Footman replaced an injured Gibbs at quarterback and took command of the offense, going over 1,000 yards in both passing and rushing with 25 total touchdowns. The dynamic Warford (1,431 all-purpose yards, 11 TDs) and Baker (9 TDs) also will continue to rack up touchdowns in their explosive offense. The Braves led the SWAC in total defense and scoring defense last year, and Garner, Brooks and Anderson return to help make a strong front. Their defense surrendered a ridiculously low 91.6 passing yards per game. The Braves have a national spotlight to open the season - a Sept. 4 trip to Bethune-Cookman for the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 4, at Bethune-Cookman

Sept. 10, Alabama State*

Sept. 17, Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Sept. 24, at Grambling State*

Oct. 1, at Arkansas

Oct. 8, at Alabama A&M*

Oct. 15, Texas Southern*

Oct. 29, Southern*

Nov. 5, at Prairie View A&M*

Nov. 12, at Mississippi Valley State*

Nov. 19, Jackson State*

* - SWAC game

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2. ALABAMA STATE HORNETS=

LOCATION: Montgomery, Alabama

STADIUM: Hornet Stadium

COACH: Brian Jenkins (6-5 in one season at Alabama State; 52-19 overall)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-4 SWAC East (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Daniel Duhart, QB; Jamir Hannah, WR; Damian Love OL

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Khalid Thomas, RB, Sr. (151 carries, 720 yards, 5 TDs; 33 receptions, 281 yards, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Kourtney Berry, LB, Sr. (130 TT, 5.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Quinterris Toppings, QB, Sr.; Alex Anderson, RB, So.; Josh Davis, WR, Jr.; Brandon Barnes, TE, Jr.; Kerry Williams, C, Sr.; Sam Baptiste, OL, Jr.; Jylane Ware, OL, Sr.; Robert Brown, DL, Jr.; Roderick Henderson, DL, Sr.; Darien Barrett, DE, Sr.; Ricky Haley, LB/DE, So.; Torrey Davis, LB, Sr.; Dominique Jackson, LB, Jr.; Bradley Street, DB, Sr.; Trey Jenkins, DB, Sr.; Therron Presley, DB, R-Jr.; Trevor Vincent, PK/P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: An 0-3 start to the Jenkins era set back the Hornets last September, but they finished strong with six wins in their final eight games. The road portion of this year's schedule is particularly tough, including UTSA, Alcorn State and Southern to open the season. But the Hornets return one of the more productive linebackers in SWAC history, Berry, who has 363 career tackles and was the conference's 2015 defensive player of the year and an All-SWAC first-team selection for the third time. Overall, the Hornets have eight defensive starters back, with Brown and Henderson set to keep the D-line among the SWAC's best. On offense, Toppings hopes to settle in at quarterback (part-time starter Ellis Richardson is not back), but the game plan still revolves around Thomas, who led the team in receptions in addition to rushing yards.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at UTSA

Sept. 10, at Alcorn State*

Sept. 17, at Southern*

Sept. 24, Texas Southern*

Oct. 1, Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Oct. 8, at Prairie View A&M*

Oct. 15, Mississippi Valley State*

Oct. 29, Alabama A&M* (at Birmingham, Alabama)

Nov. 5, Jackson State*

Nov. 12, at Grambling State*

Nov. 24, Miles

* - SWAC game

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3. JACKSON STATE TIGERS=

LOCATION: Jackson, Mississippi

STADIUM: Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium

COACH: Tony Hughes (first season at Jackson State)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 3-6 SWAC East (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)

KEY LOSSES: Devin Fosselman, WR; Teddrick Terrell, LB; Ryan Deising, PK

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Dan Williams, WR, Jr. (54 receptions, 800 yards, 7 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Javancy Jones, DE/OLB, Sr. (91 TT, 24.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: LaMontiez Ivy, QB, Sr.; Robert Johnson, RB, Jr.; Jairus Moll, WR, Sr.; DeSean McKenzie, WR, Sr.; Tevin Garrett, TE, Sr.; Marcus Cook, OL, Sr.; Cornelius Henderson, DL, Sr.; Christian Marshall, OL, Sr.; Keontre Anderson, DE, Sr.; Stacy Noble, LB, Sr.; Kwame Bowens, LB, Sr.; Shawn Bishop, LB, Jr.; Justin Jemison, DB, Sr.; Brandon Maiden, DB, Jr.; Zavian Bingham, DB, Sr.; Darcy Williamson, P, R-Sr.

OUTLOOK: Jackson State's tradition-rich program has won 16 SWAC titles, but none since 2007. Career assistant coach Hughes (most recently, Mississippi State) is a head coach for the first time and he inherited a veteran team which should be much improved. The offense will be dangerous. Ivy (171-for-282, 2,197 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INTs) is a hard-nosed pocket passer and his top WR Williams needs only 45 receptions to break the school's career record. The Tigers went heavy on offensive linemen in the signing period, which is welcome news to RB Johnson as he returns from a shoulder injury last season. Jones is a fierce pass rusher and the defense has many of its key players returning.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, at UNLV

Sept. 10, Tennessee State

Sept. 17, Grambling State*

Sept. 24, at Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Oct. 1, Mississippi Valley State*

Oct. 15, Southern*

Oct. 22, at Texas Southern*

Oct. 29, Prairie View A&M*

Nov. 5, at Alabama State*

Nov. 12, Alabama A&M*

Nov. 19, at Alcorn State*

* - SWAC game

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4. ALABAMA A&M BULLDOGS=

LOCATION: Huntsville, Alabama

STADIUM: Louis Crews Stadium

COACH: James Spady (7-16 in two seasons at Alabama A&M)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 3-6 SWAC (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (3 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Brandon Eldemire, RB; Anthony Lanier, DL; Danny Johnson, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: De'Angelo "Tuttie" Ballard, QB, Sr. (88-for-197, 1,516 yards, 9 TDs, 3 INTs; 82 carries, 340 yards, 4 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Bryan Brower, LB, Jr. (76 TT, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Damion May, QB, So.; Byran Brower, RB, Jr.; Harvey Harris, RB, Sr.; Tevin McKenzie, WR, Sr.; Octayvious Miles, WR/KR, Jr.; Jonathan Dorsey, TE, Sr.; Malcolm Johnson, OT, Jr.; Dexter Reese, S, Jr.; Averee Giles, DL, Jr.; Embrel Vaughn, LB, Sr.; Tere Calloway, CB, Jr. (Nevada transfer); Justin Brown, CB, Jr.; Devonte Simon, CB, Jr.; Nick Carden, P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: The offseason death of Johnson in a car accident deeply affect the Bulldogs' team. It will be an emotional season for them. Some of the returning starters also are not back for various reasons, so the Bulldogs will not find it easy to make significant progress in the win column. Too often they played from behind in games last season. Spady went heavy on offensive linemen and defensive backs in his recruiting class to solve some problems. While QB Ballard is a dual threat, he has to improve his 45 percent completion percentage. May could see time behind center as well and there is depth at the skills positions to boost the offense. The Brower twins are enjoying strong careers, with Bryan coming off a team-high 76 tackles despite missing two games and Byran a hard-nosed runner. The Bulldogs are adding new defensive packages to be a more aggressive unit.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 10, at Mississippi Valley State*

Sept. 17, Prairie View A&M*

Sept. 24, Southern*

Oct. 1, at Texas Southern*

Oct. 8, Alcorn State*

Oct. 15, at Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Oct. 29, Alabama State*

Nov. 5, Grambling State*

Nov. 12, at Jackson State*

Nov. 19, at Auburn

* - SWAC game

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5. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE DELTA DEVILS=

LOCATION: Itta Bena, Mississippi

STADIUM: Rice-Totten Field

COACH: Rick Comegy (3-19 in two seasons at Mississippi Valley State; 167-105 overall)

LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 1-8 SWAC (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Le'Trey Jones, DB; Quantavius Peterson, S; Jerrell Moore, RB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Booker Chambers, WR/RS, So. (15 receptions, 194 yards, 3 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Marquise Green, DB, So. (47 TT, 1 TFL, 7 INTs, 1 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Slade Jarmon, QB, So.; Thurston Rubin, Jr., QB Jr.; Natron Brooks, WR, Jr.; Tre Simms, WR, So.; Farrean Toney, WR, R-So.; Alvin Solomon, OL, Jr.; Marcellous Ellis, OL, So. (Arkansas Baptist transfer); Khalil Young, DE, Grad; Treikell Jones, DL, Jr.; Gearl Majors, DL, So.; Jermone Pledger, ILB, So.; Jamaine Boyd, DB, R-So.; Farreon Toney, DB, So.; Ruben Piraquive, PK, R-So. OUTLOOK: Comegy is making a difference at MVSU with his recruiting classes. As freshmen last season, Chambers led the team with six touchdowns and Green was among the FCS leaders with seven interceptions while leading a young secondary. Still, Comegy's third team has to improve in many ways. That includes both rushing the ball and stopping the run (the Delta Devils ranked last in the conference in both categories). They were outscored by an average of 30 points per game. An effective Jarmon will go a long way at quarterback after the position was a revolving door a year ago. Comegy enjoyed great success in the SWAC while coaching Jackson State, so he still feels like the right fit for MVSU. It might start to show with more wins this year.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Eastern Michigan

Sept. 10, Alabama A&M*

Sept. 17, at Texas Southern*

Sept. 24, Prairie View A&M*

Oct. 1, at Jackson State*

Oct. 8, at Montana

Oct. 15, at Alabama State*

Oct. 22, Grambling State*

Nov. 5, at Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Nov. 12, Alcorn State*

Nov. 19, at Southern*

* - SWAC game

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WEST DIVISION=

1. GRAMBLING STATE TIGERS=

LOCATION: Grambling, Louisiana

STADIUM: Eddie Robinson Stadium

COACH: Broderick Fobbs (16-8 in two seasons at Grambling State)

LAST SEASON: 9-3 overall, 9-0 SWAC West (1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jonathan Williams, QB; Chester Rogers, WR; Troy Roach, LB, Sr.

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Martez Carter, RB/RS, Jr. (111 carries, 876 yards, 9 TDs; 25.7-yard KO return average, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Guy Stallworth, DB, Sr. (101 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FR, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: DeVante Kincade, QB, R-Jr. (Ole Miss transfer); Trevon Cherry, QB, So.; Jestin Kelly, RB, Sr.; Chad Williams, WR, Jr.; Verlan Hunter, WR, Sr.; Justin Miller, OL, Sr.; Arkez Cooper, LB, Sr.; Malcolm Williams, LB, So.; Ja'Terious Pouncey, DB, Jr.; Derrick Dixon, DB, Jr. (Texas Tech transfer); Jameel Jackson, DB, Sr.; Marc Orozco, PK, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Grambling didn't lose to a SWAC opponent last season until the championship game against Alcorn State. With SWAC offensive player of the year Johnathan Williams graduated, the Tigers feel they have the perfect replacement at quarterback in Kincade, a transfer from Ole Miss and former four-star recruit. When he settles in running the high-powered offense, he will rely on the versatile Carter and Kelly in the backfield as well as All-SWAC WR Chad Williams (64 receptions, 1,012 yards, 10 TDs). They have to get better on the offensive line, but it should remain a high-level offense. On defense, the Tigers seek improvement against the pass, but they feature one of the SWAC's better defensive players in Stallworth. Carter is excellent at getting into opposing backfields. Fortunately for the Tigers, they get SWAC heavy hitters Alcorn State, Prairie View A&M and Alabama State at home and rival Southern on a neutral field.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, Virginia-Lynchburg

Sept. 10, at Arizona

Sept. 17, at Jackson State*

Sept. 24, Alcorn State*

Oct. 1, Prairie View A&M*

Oct. 22, at Mississippi Valley State*

Oct. 29, Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Nov. 5, at Alabama A&M*

Nov. 12, Alabama State*

Nov. 19, at Texas Southern*

Nov. 26, Southern* (at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans)

* - SWAC game

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2. SOUTHERN JAGUARS=

LOCATION: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

STADIUM: Ace W. Mumford Stadium

COACH: Dawson Odums (28-18 in four seasons at Southern)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 6-3 SWAC West (3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Reginald Redding, OL; Daniel Brown, LB; Deonte McDuffy, SS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Lenard Tillery, RB, R-Sr. (197 carries, 1,211 yards, 14 TDs; 19 receptions, 173 yards, 1 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Danny Johnson, DB, Jr. (38 TT, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 7 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Austin Howard, QB, Jr.; Deonte Shorts, QB, R-Sr.; Willie Quinn, WR/RS, R-Sr.; Curtlan Williams, WR, Fr.; Anthony Mosley, OL, R-Sr.; Terrell Lee, C, R-Sr.; Aaron Tiller, DE, Jr.; CeaJae Bryant, DL, R-Fr.; Jamal Boulden, OL, R-Sr.; Kentavious Preston, LB, Jr.; Bryan Anderson, FS, Jr.; Jamar Mitchell, DB, R-Jr.; Rhaheim Ledbetter, DB, R-Sr.

OUTLOOK: Last season was difficult for the Jaguars, and not just because they slipped back after winning the 2013 SWAC title and appearing in the 2014 championship game. Devon Gales was paralyzed on a kickoff return during a Sept. 26 game at Georgia. This year, the Jaguars are more experienced and expect to contend for the title again. In Howard (172-for-263, 2,292 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs), they have the SWAC preseason quarterback. In Tillery, they have the SWAC's preseason offensive player of the year and the SWAC rushing champion. Their offense also boasts leading wide receiver Quinn, who's an All-America kickoff returner. The defense is looking to cut down the 33.5 points they surrendered per game last season. The Jags allowed 27 passing touchdowns. Among the changes, Trei Oliver has taken over the defensive coordinator duties that Odums previously held.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Louisiana-Monroe

Sept. 10, at Tulane

Sept. 17, Alabama State*

Sept. 24, at Alabama A&M*

Oct. 15, at Jackson State*

Oct. 22, Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Oct. 29, at Alcorn State*

Nov. 5, Texas Southern*

Nov. 12, at Prairie View A&M*

Nov. 19, Mississippi Valley State*

Nov. 26, at Grambling State* (at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans)

* - SWAC game

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3. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M PANTHERS=

LOCATION: Prairie View, Texas

STADIUM: PVAMU Football Stadium

COACH: Willie Simmons (8-2 in one season at Prairie View A&M)

LAST SEASON: 8-2 overall, 8-1 SWAC West (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (6 offense/ 10 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Johnta Hebert, RB; Jordan Johnson, OT; Brandon Medina, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Trey Green, QB, Sr. (171-for-288, 2,459 yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs; 71 carries, 215 yards, 6 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Marquice O'Leary, DB, R-Sr. (42 TT, 2.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: KhaDarel Hodge, WR, R-Jr.; Demarquo Lastrappe, WR, R-Sr.; Josiah Freeman, LT, R-Sr.; Shawn Pierce, RT, R-Jr.; Akheem Barton, DE, Jr.; DeVohn Reed, DT, R-Jr.; James Harper, DT, Jr.; Willie Green, DE, R-So.; Jalan Coleman, LB, R-Jr.; Damond Jackson, DB, Jr.; Arthur Lockett, DB, R-Jr.; Dominique Weaver, DB, R-So.; Owen Hoolihan, PK/P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: After a banner first season under Simmons, the Panthers were the West Division favorite in the SWAC preseason poll as they get set to move into a new on-campus stadium, Waller ISD Stadium, this season. While they lose a do-everything offensive standout in Hebert, this has become QB Green's team after his breakout sophomore campaign, when he threw for 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions. Simmons may be offensive-minded (the Panthers averaged an FCS-high 44.9 points and 487.5 yards per game last season), but the defense finished strong to become more of a strength. The unit heads into a second season under the same defensive coordinator (Ralph Street) for the first time since 2012. O'Leary and Reed both made the SWAC preseason team, while Coleman collected a team-high 66 tackles in his first season with Prairie View. The Panthers last won the SWAC title in 2009.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, Texas Southern*

Sept. 10, at Texas A&M

Sept. 17, at Alabama A&M*

Sept. 24, at Mississippi Valley State*

Oct. 1, Grambling State*

Oct. 8, Alabama State*

Oct. 22, at Rice

Oct. 29, at Jackson State*

Nov. 5, Alcorn State*

Nov. 12, Southern*

Nov. 19, at Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

* - SWAC game

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4. TEXAS SOUTHERN TIGERS=

LOCATION: Houston

STADIUM: BBVA Compass Stadium

COACH: Michael Haywood (first season at Texas Southern; 10-15 overall)

LAST SEASON: 3-7 overall, 2-7 SWAC West (4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Malik Cross, WR; Amir Bloom, DE; Darian Claiborne, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Derrick Griffin, WR, R-So. (36 receptions, 709 yards, 11 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Zach Bammijoko, LB, Sr. (54 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 2 FR, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jay Christophe, QB, R-Jr.; Brad Woodard, RB, So.; Roshard Burney, RB, Sr.; Larry Clark, WR, Sr.; Austin Watts, WR, Sr.; Tracy Johnson WR, R-Jr.; Jahlil Mathis-Ellis, OT, Jr.; Damond King, DE, So.; Derrick Lyles, DT, Sr.; Zach Bammijoko, LB, Sr.; Jamal Lucas, LB, R-So.; Jarius Moore, LB, R-Sr.; Dondre Dobbins, SS, R-Jr.; Eric Medina, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Haywood, the former Miami of Ohio coach, will try to get the Tigers winning more games than they did under former coach Darrell Asberry, who helped guide the program through several years of NCAA sanctions, but his went only 12-31 over four seasons, including 9-27 in the SWAC. There are key returning players in WR Griffin (36 receptions, 709 yards, 11 TDs) and leading tacklers Lucas and Bamijoko, but Haywood will need plenty of players to move into bigger roles. That includes Christophe running the offense, which will operate from the pro-set. At 6-foot-4, he will stand tall in the pocket and look to the 6-7 Griffin. The new defensive scheme is a 4-3 base alignment.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Prairie View A&M*

Sept. 10, at Houston Baptist

Sept. 17, Mississippi Valley State*

Sept. 24, at Alabama State*

Oct. 1, Alabama A&M*

Oct. 15, at Alcorn State*

Oct. 22, Jackson State*

Oct. 29, at Sam Houston State

Nov. 5, Southern*

Nov. 12, Arkansas-Pine Bluff*

Nov. 19, Grambling State*

* - SWAC game

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5. ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF GOLDEN LIONS=

LOCATION: Pine Bluff, Arkansas

STADIUM: Golden Lion Stadium

COACH: Monte Coleman (37-52 in eight seasons at Arkansas-Pine Bluff)

LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 1-8 SWAC West (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (5 offense/4 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Kyle Coleman, TE; DeMarkus Berry, DE; Kevin Rucker, FS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Willie Young, WR, R-Sr. (49 receptions, 584 yards, 3 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Willie Duncan III, LB, R-Sr. (118 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Brandon Duncan, QB, R-Jr.; Nolan Sorensen, QB, Sr.; John Hawkins, WR, Jr.; KeShawn Williams, WR, So.; Patrick Rowland, WR, Jr.; Nicholas Stroud, DL, So.; Cameron Willis, DL, Sr.; Rashad Boyd, LB. R-Jr.; Je'Kevin Carter, LB, So.; David White, DB, Jr.; Jamie Gillan, PK, So.; Matthew Guth, P, So.; Jaimon Peterson, KR, So.

OUTLOOK: With the fewest returning starters in the SWAC at nine, the Golden Lions will struggle to get out of the basement in the West Division. They have suffered through three straight losing seasons. First-year offensive coordinator Ted White has switched the offense back to a spread attack, which will benefit QB Duncan (80-for-149, 1,027 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs), who was average last season but flashed his potential in a loss against Grambling State (459 passing yards and three touchdowns). His top receiver, Young, is back as well, but the running back needs to raise its production. While LB Duncan is a standout, the defense has a lot of holes. Clearly, it's a rebuilding season in Pine Bluff.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Tennessee State

Sept. 10, Panhandle State

Sept. 17, at Alcorn State*

Sept. 24, Jackson State*

Oct. 1, at Alabama State*

Oct. 15, Alabama A&M*

Oct. 22, at Southern*

Oct. 29, at Grambling State*

Nov. 5, Mississippi Valley State*

Nov. 12, at Texas Southern*

Nov. 19, Prairie View A&M*

* - SWAC game

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