The SWAC football media day returns to Birmingham, Alabama this week with new faces in new places and anticipation of what figures to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory.
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:
Can the Bulldogs overcome the Glass ceiling at quarterback?
Alabama A&M enjoyed the spoils of having Aqeel Glass at the helm over the last four seasons. The SWAC Offensive Player of Year, Black College Football Player of the Year and record-setting SWAC champion is now departed. In his stead will largely, for now, be a bloated quarterback room that features ex-Jackson State quarterback Quincy Casey, three-star Los Angeles high school commit Ashley Tucker Jr., Illinois transfer Coran Taylor and backup Xaiver Lankford.
Also read: SWAC football coaching grades: Which schools got high marks during the hiring process?
How will the Braves bounce back from a disappointing 2021?
The first full football season Alcorn State played since its pandemic layoff was a season filled with adversity. Favored to win the SWAC West, Alcorn State stumbled to a 6-5 record playing a schedule that featured just three true home games. Its 2022 voyage will arguably be tougher than a season ago having to navigate a much tougher non-conference slate and playing in a division that includes significant coaching upgrades by rivals Grambling State and Southern.
Will this Eddie Robinson Jr experiment work?
Despite his collegiate and pro playing experience, Eddie Robinson Jr. hadn’t coached before — anywhere — prior to taking the Hornets job. It seems Alabama State is hoping to tap into something that was found in Jackson and Nashville.
Are the Wildcats really better than its 2-9 record from a year ago?
Bethune-Cookman was supposed to compete for a division championship in its first season in the SWAC East. That assessment might have been clouded by its success in the MEAC, however. The Wildcats started 2021 0-8 before winning two of its last three to end the season. The division has only gotten tougher and trying to establish itself a
Are the Rattlers just a quarterback away from being the best team in the SWAC?
Florida A&M made the FCS playoffs in 2021, but that was due to the strength of its strong defense, which returns SWAC Defensive Player of Year Isiah Land. On offense, head coach Willie Simmons has not yet decided between incumbent Rasean McKay and Jeremy Moussa. If the Rattlers can get consistent production from either (or both), FAMU maybe could unseat Jackson State in the SWAC East. Maybe.
What will the Tigers look like under Hue Jackson?
Grambling had to make a big-time hire — one with some credibility — after longtime successful coach Broderick Fobbs was fired. In comes Hue Jackson with his NFL resume and limited HBCU coaching background in tow. While Jackson has yet to coach a game, he’s been a bear so far on the recruiting trail, getting a program-record 36 commitments led by UCLA transfer quarterback Kijiya Hollawayne. With the staff Jackson has assembled and the talent acquired in the offseason, Grambling has every right to believe it can win the SWAC West.
Will the Tigers fix what led to its Celebration Bowl loss?
Following its 31-10 loss to South Carolina State in the biggest game of the year, Deion Sanders — in the postgame press conference — proclaimed that he would fix the issues which plagued them in Atlanta last December. What immediately comes to mind there is an offensive line and running game that needed improvement. The Tigers got former Delaware State All-MEAC rusher Sy’Veon Wilkerson. Then they picked up five offensive linemen via the transfer portal. It will be interesting to see how those adjustments (and others) Sanders and his staff made play out for a program projected to run the table again the SWAC.
Mississippi Valley State
Will Jamari Jones, the nation’s No. 1 junior college quarterback, finally give the Delta Devils a dynamic offense?
Mississippi Valley State struggled mightily to move the football with any level of consistency through the air. MVSU only averaged 167 passing yards per game in 2021. Jamari Jones, rated a three-star prospect, accounted for 2,728 yards and 33 touchdowns for East Mississippi Community College by himself last season. With All-SWAC running back Caleb Johnson in the fold for another season, this new-look version of the Delta Devils’ offensive will immediately earn the respect of opposing defenses.
Prairie View A&M
How do the Panthers replace Eric Dooley?
The Panthers fell one win shy of a SWAC championship in what was the program’s best season in more than a decade under then-head coach Eric Dooley. With Dooley gone to Southern, in steps Bubba McDowell, the ex-NFL veteran to fulfill that role. What momentum the Panthers attained from a strong 2021 will have to be retained under a new regime.
Will the return of Eric Dooley mean a return to SWAC championships?
Southern enjoyed tremendous stability under then-head coach Dawson Odums before he bolted to Norfolk State. Jason Rollins — on an interim basis — couldn’t get the Jaguars to finish games in the fourth quarter last season. Five of Southern’s seven losses were decided by a touchdown or less. Eric Dooley, who is no stranger to the winning ways at Southern, was hired to get the Jaguars over the top and beyond.
Can Andrew Body take the next step?
One of Andrew Body’s favorite athletes is Cam Newton. The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP was a dual-threat quarterback who did everything for his team to succeed. That is what Body — who was seventh in the SWAC rushing and sixth in passing in 2021– likely has to do for Texas Southern to have any shot in the SWAC West.
Can the Golden Lions regain that pandemic magic?
Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the surprise story of the 2020 spring season by winning the SWAC West. Then the Golden Lions stumbled to a 1-7 finish in the division in 2021. With Alcorn, Southern and Grambling vastly improving, UAPB will be trying to stay out of the basement for the second year in a row.