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CSN SWAC Attack: Unveiling the HOBO
By Brandon C. Williams, CSN SWAC Attack Columnist
It hasn’t taken long for new Texas Southern coach Johnnie Cole to let the rest of the conference know that the meek Tigers of 2007 are a thing of the past.
“TSU is coming back,” said Cole during Wednesday’s Labor Day Classic Luncheon in Houston.
Riding a 13-game losing streak, the road will be challenging for the Tigers, who face off against rival Prairie View A&M at Reliant Stadium on Saturday night, but for a team that hasn’t seen a victory since November 2006, TSU isn’t coming into its season opener without ample firepower, namely Oklahoma State transfer QB Bobbie Reid and one-time Florida State and Texas-El Paso WR Fred Rouse.
Cole, who has established himself as one of the top offensive minds in the FCS, will unveil the HOBO (high octane, big play offense) attack against a Prairie View defense that returns 10 starters from last season’s 7-3 squad. Coach Henry Frazier III’s Panthers also feature LB Zach East, the reigning SWAC Defensive Player of the Year who anchors the “Purple Haze” D.
“Our defense plans to hit anything that moves,” Frazier said.
The Panthers also are loaded on offense, with eight starters returning. QB Mark Spivey was 5-1 as a starter and recently received a medical hardship from the NCAA. Spivey threw seven touchdown passes in the last two games of 2007 and has had a stellar fall practice, which has Prairie View A&M convinced it can win the school’s first championship since capturing the Black National Championship in 1964.
“The horses are grazed and are ready to come out,” said Frazier of his Panthers squad, which will look for its fourth victory in the last five years in the State Farm Labor Day Classic. “You always want to open the season on a good note, but it’s especially important since (Saturday’s) a conference game within the division and – most of all – it’s against our biggest rival.”
Game of the Week
*Prairie View A&M vs. Texas Southern (at Reliant Stadium, Houston)
PV cannot underestimate the Tigers, especially on defense, which Cole said was “well ahead” of the offense at the end of fall practice. TSU will have to contend with the Panthers’ “Weapon X,” 230-pound RB Michael Jason, who Frazier said was a version of Earl Campbell.
Southeastern Louisiana at Alcorn State
Ernest Jones will have his hands full in his Braves coaching debut, as Lions RB Jay Lucas (1,704 total yards in 2007) is one of the most versatile backs in the FCS. Southeastern Louisiana brings back QB Brian Babin and could be a sleeper in a competitve SLC, but this could be a high-scoring affair if the Braves have embraced Jones’ new spread attack. Senior Tony Hobson won the QB job, and in WR Emmanuel Arceneaux, could have one of the SWAC’s leading game-changers.
Tennessee State at Alabama A&M
Kevin Adkins replaces Kelcey Luke at QB for the Bulldogs, who take on a Tennesse State team that will contend in the Ohio Valley Conference. Tennessee State gets a healthy QB Antonio Heffner and return RB Javarris Williams, the OVC’s top returning rusher. Atkins has shown he’s capable of guiding A&M into SWAC East contention, and if its spring scrimmage finale (where Atkins threw for 316 yards and five touchdowns) is any indication, this also could shape up to be a shootout.
Alabama State at Florida A&M
In what seems to be a recurring theme, ASU also breaks in a new QB, in this case either Reid Herchenbach or Anthony Speight. The winner will direct coach Reggie Barlow’s new spread attack, which was well ahead of the defense in the spring. The Rattlers welcome its third coach in five years, as former Hampton coach Joe Taylor will look to bring FAMU back into MEAC contention.
Arkansas-Monticello at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
The Division II Weevils will bring it, but won’t have enough to contend with a Lions team that will debut new coach Monte Coleman, a former 16-year LB in the NFL. APB has to improve its offense, and did show signs during the fall, but the Lions are going to rely on a defense that made strides down the stretch in 2007 after a 1-7 start.
Grambling State at Nevada
It’s one thing for the Tigers to light up SWAC foes, quite another when it comes to facing a Wolfpack team that has gone bowling three straight seasons. QB Brandon Landers is without his top two receivers and a bulk of his offensive line, but the RB combo of sophomores Frank Warren and Cornelius Walker won’t be enough to stop Nevada’s duo of QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Luke Lippincott.
Southern vs. Houston
SWAC MVP candidate Bryant Lee will have his hands full trying to play “can you top this?” against Houston. Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin has explosive QB Case Keenum and a fleet of talented receivers ready to unleash their version of Texas Tech’s “Air Raid” attack.
Texas College vs. Mississippi Valley State
What could be a must-win season for Delta Devils coach Willie Totten should get off to a good start against the Division II Steers.
* * *
News and Notes
*A loaded Prairie View A&M backfield will be more potent once Russell Ball is healthy. Ball, who transferred from Florida State, wowed the Panthers with his speed and versatility in practice, but has been hampered by a high ankle sprain.
*TSU will have 65 new faces on its roster, with at least a dozen transferring from BCS programs.
*For the first time in more than a decade, Grambling State does not return a receiver with at least 20 catches.
*Coleman is not the only SWAC coach with considerable NFL experience. Alabama State’s Barlow played eight seasons (1996-2003) with Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.
*TSU’s Cole joins Barlow (Alabama State) and Totten (Mississippi Valley State) who are coaching the school they played at.