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Alabama State edges Jackson State, Alabama A&M as SWAC division favorite
The offseason hype surrounding the Alabama State football team peaked when the Hornets were tabbed to win the Eastern Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference here on Monday at SWAC Media Day.
The Hornets received 11 votes, edging out Jackson State and Alabama A&M who each received seven.
Alabama State has been in the news even before Monday’s vote with the addition of dismissed University of Georgia running back enrolling at the Montgomery school. The Hornets, who have several returning players on the depth chart, will also dedicate a new on-campus stadium late in the season.
SWAC preseason poll
Here is the predicted order of finish for the SWAC, as voted by the sports information directors, coaches and selected media members, with first-place votes in parentheses:
1. Grambling State (20)
2. Prairie View A&M (1)
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2)
4. Southern (2)
5. Texas Southern
1. Alabama State (11)
2. Jackson State (7)
3. Alabama A&M (7)
4. Alcorn State (1)
5. Mississippi Valley
But players at the media gathering Monday aren’t buying into the hype.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the media and everyone else, but we’re not focused on that,” said defensive back Kejuan Riley. “These preseason rankings won’t mean anything if we don’t prove it on the field.”
Head coach Reggie Barlow said Crowell, who rushed for 850 yards and five touchdowns on 185 carries as a freshman at UGA, has been embraced as a part of the Alabama State family, but it is up to him what he does with his second chance.
“We had a chance to sit down with him and his family and ask some important questions,” Barlow said. “We also talked to some people in his community. But at the end of the day, it’s all on him. This is his second chance and if he blows it, then the opportunity to play on the next level and get a college degree could go out the window.”
In addition to being selected to win the Eastern division, the Hornets placed eight players on the preseason All-SWAC team.
Alabama A&M using 2011 as motivation
Last season’s 16-15 SWAC Championship Game loss to Grambling State taught Alabama A&M running back Kaderious Lacey that the team can’t take any games for granted.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 15-0 lead, but ultimately couldn’t hang on. Lacey, who was named to the preseason All-SWAC first-team offense, said the loss will motivate the team all season.
“We were so close to winning but we couldn’t finish,” said Lacey, who rushed for a school record 1,143 yards last season. “That really hurt all of us and it stuck with me. Anytime someone wants to slow down or looks tired, I’m going to remind them of that loss and push them to work harder.”
Coach Anthony Jones’ Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the Eastern Division. The Bulldogs also had eight players selected to the preseason All-SWAC teams.
By Marquavius Burnett, The Birmingham News