After a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic, the SWAC’s football media day return to Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday.
Each of the conference’s 12 teams will be on display with two players each fielding all kinds of questions from the assembled press.
Here’s a look at the one significant question for each team:
Attendees: Connell Maynor, Aqeel Glass, and Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim
Can the Bulldogs repeat navigating a loaded SWAC?
After Alcorn State chose to forgo the 2021 spring season because of COVID-19 concerns, Alabama A&M immediately became the odds-on favorite to win the division. Led by quarterback Aqeel Glass, the Bulldogs dominated in the spring en route to its first SWAC title in a decade. But the fall will bring strong challengers, including what appears to be a stacked Jackson State squad and newcomer Florida A&M to go along with an always competitive Alabama State team.
Attendees: Donald Hill‑Eley, Ezra Gray, and Colton Adams
Where will Alabama State find balance on offense beyond Ezra Gray?
For much of the 2021 spring season, the Hornets’ offense revolved around impact rusher Ezra Gray, who led the SWAC with 436 total yards and 87.2 yards per game over five games. As he went, so did the offense. And despite how promising quarterback Ryan Nettles expects to be, his inconsistencies — and that of the passing game in general — befell them down the stretch.
Attendees: Fred McNair, Felix Harper, and Taurence Wilson
How will the Braves look after a pandemic-induced layoff?
Alcorn State had what can conservatively be described as a tempestuous lead-up that eventually turned out to be a spring campaign without football because of internal COVID-19 concerns. Rested and with the majority of its roster coming back to the fall, the Braves will attempt to prove its mettle in its first season in the SWAC West.
Attendees: Terry Sims, Untareo Johnson, and Taron Mallard
Can the Wildcats make an immediate impact in the SWAC East?
Like Florida A&M, Bethune Cookman moves into the SWAC after several decades in the MEAC and is quickly tested being thrown in the toughest divisional alignment in recent memory. The Wildcats, though, do have a history of competing at a high level in what was — until 2020 — the premiere HBCU Division I conference.
Attendees: Willie Simmons, Keenan Forbes, and Markquese Bell
How much will Willie Simmons’ familiarity with the SWAC help in the Rattlers transition?
Florida A&M was the most high-profile entrant into the SWAC during an offseason FCS realignment. While the Rattlers might be in new stomping grounds in the fall, Willie Simmons — the program’s intrepid head coach — first cut his teeth in the SWAC as offensive coordinator at Alcorn State and one-time Prairie View coach. Intimacy with the league could make the adjustment period less uncertain and even prosperous.
Attendees: Broderick Fobbs, Dan Fields, and DJ Clark
Can Grambling find fall stability coming off an underachieving spring?
Going winless during the spring wasn’t the worst of it for the Tigers. The team went through two offensive coordinator changes, had its starting quarterback enter the transfer portal and an in-season COVID outbreak ravaged the roster. Head coach Broderick Fobbs will be tested to keep his bunch focused and ready in what will be a gauntlet that is the SWAC West. But Fobbs has experience resurrecting the program from low points.
Attendees: Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders, and Nyles Gaddy
What will the Tigers look like with its fall roster primed to be unleashed?
Jackson State made waves throughout the Division I landscape by stockpiling an impressive bounty of junior college and FBS transfers to go along with highly-touted high school prospects. Now that they’re all eligible to compete in the fall, the influx of talent figures to position the Tigers among the favorites to win the SWAC championship.
Mississippi Valley State
Attendees: Vincent Dancy, Caleb Johnson, and Jerry Garner
Can the Delta Devils put up a fight on offense?
Mississippi Valley State struggled mightily to move the football with any level of consistency. MVSU only averaged 13.7 points per game, dead last in passing offense, and ran the third-fewest plays of any team in the conference during the spring.
Prairie View A&M
Attendees: Eric Dooley, Drake Cheatum, and Jason Dumas
How do the Panthers replace its All-American linebacker?
Storey Jackson completed one of the best defensive seasons in the history of the Prairie View program en route to an All-American campaign before transferring to Liberty. The productivity and depth of the position will be tested, with sophomore Jessie Evans as one of the few linebackers who recorded double-digit tackles in the spring.
Attendees: Jason Rollins, Ja’Tyre Carter and Jalen Ivy
Can Jason Rollins keep the momentum going?
The first-year head coach takes over Dawson Odums after the longtime Southern coach surprisingly bolted to Norfolk State. Rollins takes over a roster that went 5-1 in the spring and nearly missed out on another SWAC championship appearance. Continuity is important in sustaining success and Southern decided to value it by elevating Rollins in hopes it leads to getting the Jaguars over the hump.
Attendees: Clarence McKinney, Jonathan Giles, and Michael Badejo
What will we learn about the Tigers in the fall?
The 2021 spring season was a throwaway, to say the least as Texas Southern did not play a game after April 3 because of COVID. An October stretch that includes games against Southern, Grambling, Alcorn State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Prairie View will determine just where the TSU program really is in the Clarence McKinney era.
Attendees: Doc Gamble, Mark Evans II, and Issac Peppers
Will the Golden Lions fly under the radar again?
Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the surprise story of the spring season by winning the SWAC West. The Golden Lions likely won’t sneak up on anybody during the elongated fall season, but the team will surely be a tough out in 2021.