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Offense hoping to lead ASU to SWAC title
The Alabama State Hornets didn’t upgrade their ambitions after bringing former Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell into the fold.
They might feel even better about their chances of winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference, though. Crowell joined an already experienced team led by quarterback Greg Jenkins and safety Kejuan Riley in early July, a few days after getting kicked off the Georgia team following his arrest on felony weapons charges.
“Obviously the young man has been blessed with some athletic ability,” Hornets coach Reggie Barlow said. “He’s an explosive running back. He has size and power.
“Our goals and our focus, our thought process, is the same. You’ve got Greg Jenkins and Kejuan Riley and a host of other guys who are really, really good. Our goals are still the same, but it’s always a treat to have a guy like Isaiah that you can add to the program.”
Crowell ran for 850 yards and was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the year.
He joins a team that has eight returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Jenkins returns for his second season with the team after transferring from Troy. He passed for 1,475 yards and 11 touchdowns against five interceptions while starting eight games.
Jenkins will have to find a new favorite target with the SWAC’s leading receiver, Nick Andrews, gone.
Left tackle Terren Jones is a preseason All-SWAC pick, along with defensive lineman Carlton Jones.
Riley is the team’s biggest returning star. He was a consensus All-American last season after intercepting nine passes - second-best in the Football Championship Subdivision - and making 75 tackles. His 17 career picks are tied for the most at Alabama State since 1970.
The Hornets flirted with a spot in the SWAC championship game last season. They lost the East Division tiebreaker to Jackson State after Southern scored a touchdown with 9 seconds left for a 26-23 upset of Alabama State in the league finale.
The Hornets’ three losses came by a total of 11 points, but that last one particularly gnawed at Barlow. They haven’t won a SWAC title since 2004.
“Normally you talk about turning the page and last year was last year,” the coach said. “But I’ll be honest, the Southern game is a game that sticks in my mind because everything was right there for us, an opportunity to win that one and play for the championship. I guess we took it for granted and didn’t get it done. It stings. That is definitely something that we can learn from.”
The Hornets will make their debut in the new 26,500-seat ASU Stadium on Thanksgiving Day against Tuskegee.
“It’s a morale booster for our student-athletes, for our student body and for our alumni,” Barlow said. “We’re excited about that.”
By JOHN ZENOR, News Chief