This season might be the most anticipated in the SWAC ever. There are no easy games in either division, and as commissioner, Dr. Charles McClellan said, "There's going to be a signature game each and every week."
Last season set the table for this season's anticipation. The best freshman, defensive player, and coach were all in the SWAC. Jackson State freshman quarterback Shedeur Sanders won the Jerry Rice award as FCS' top freshman. Florida A&M defensive end Isaiah Land won the Buck Buchanan award. Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders was the Eddie Robinson coach of the year.
Here is a closer look at some of the more exciting players returning to the SWAC this fall:
Returning All-SWAC players:
Jackson State – 5: RS Isaiah Bolden (1st Team), LB Aubrey Miller (1st Team), OL Tony Gray (2nd Team), QB Shedeur Sanders (2nd Team, FOY), DB Shilo Sanders (2nd Team)
Texas Southern – 4: OL Drake Centers (1st Team), QB Andrew Body (2nd Team), LB Tarik Cooper (2nd Team), TE Jyrin Johnson (2nd Team)
Alabama A&M – 3: WR Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim (1st Team), RB Gary Quarles (1st Team), OL Robert Alston (2nd Team)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff – 3: OL Mark Evans II (1st Team), P Josh Sanchez (1st Team), LB Monroe Beard III (2nd Team)
Bethune-Cookman – 3: TE Kemari Averett (1st Team), DB Omari Hill-Robinson (1st Team), RS Darnell Deas (2nd Team)
Florida A&M – 3: DB BJ Bohler (1st Team), LB Isaiah Land (1st Team, DPOY), K Jose Romo-Martinez (1st Team)
Grambling State – 2: DL Sundiata Anderson (1st Team), K/P Garrett Urban (2nd Team)
Mississippi Valley State – 2: RB Caleb Johnson (2nd Team), DL Ronnie Thomas (2nd Team)
Southern – 2: OL Dallas Black (1st Team), DL Jason Dumas (1st Team; w/Prairie View)
Alcorn State – 1: RB Niko Duffey (2nd Team)
Returning FCS All-Americans:
Tight end - Kemari Averett, senior, Bethune-Cookman.
Isaiah Land, junior, Florida A&M
Decobie Durant, senior, South Carolina State
Quarterback: Shedeur Sanders, Jackson State
Running Back: Gary Quarles, Alabama A&M
Running Back: Caleb Johnson, Mississippi Valley State
Offensive Lineman: Dallas Black, Southern
Offensive Lineman: Mark Evans II, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Offensive Lineman: Drake Centers, Texas Southern
Offensive Lineman: Tony Gray, Jackson State
Offensive Lineman: Robert Alston, Alabama State
Wide Receiver: Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, Alabama A&M
Wide Receiver: Xavier Smith, Florida A&M
Tight End: Kemari Averett, Bethune-Cookman
Defensive Lineman: Sundiata Anderson, Grambling State
Defensive Lineman: Ronnie Thomas, Mississippi Valley State
Defensive Lineman: Jason Dumas, Southern
Defensive Lineman: Jordan Lewis, Southern
Linebacker: Isaiah Land, Florida A&M
Linebacker: Aubrey Miller, Jackson State
Linebacker: Monroe Beard III, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Defensive Back: Omari Hill-Robinson, Bethune-Cookman
Defensive Back: Irshaad Davis, Alabama State
Defensive Back: Shilo Sanders, Jackson State
Defensive Back: BJ Bohler, Florida A&M
Place Kicker: Garrett Urban, Grambling State
Punter: Garrett Urban, Grambling State
Long Snapper: Desmond Calloway, Prairie View A&M
Return Specialist: Darnell Deas, Bethune-Cookman
Players to watch:
Shedeur Sanders (Quarterback) Jackson State: This might be a bit of a hot take, but the sophomore quarterback is on his way to being the best quarterback in school history and possibly the best pro prospect since Doug Williams. Sanders threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. The younger Sanders was 2nd Team All-SWAC and won the Jerry Rice Award as FCS' top freshman.
Isaiah Land (linebacker/defensive end) Florida A&M: Land was the SWAC defensive player of the year and the Buck Buchanan Award winner. Land finished the season with 25.5 tackles for loss, including 19 sacks. Land is not only the best defensive player in FCS, but he should also be a high-round draft pick in 2023.
Jordan Lewis (linebacker/ defensive end) Southern: Lewis was the premier pass rusher in the SWAC in the spring season with ten sacks in just five games. The senior defensive end was hampered by injuries last season, missing two games. Lewis and the Jaguars defense look to get back on track under new head coach Eric Dooley.
Orange Blossom Classic: Jackson State v. Florida A&M
The SWAC season opens with what could be the game of the year from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Jackson State could be heavily favored in every game it plays except this one. The Tigers have a legitimate chance to go undefeated again if they can get past the Rattlers again. FAMU looks to get over the hump against the Tigers and contend in the SWAC with a win against JSU.
Arlington Football Showdown: Southern v. Texas Southern
Southern University is the favorite by many to win the SWAC west. Texas Southern wants an opportunity to prove they can compete against the class of the division. This game is tricky for Southern because they have to spend four quarters defending Andrew Body. However, this could be an opportunity for Jordan Lewis to assert himself as the best pass rusher in the SWAC.
Prairie View A&M v. Southern:
The Jags appear on this list twice because this game could go a long way to deciding who plays in the SWAC title game. The Panthers have to replace Juwan Pass, who resurrected his career at Prairie View. Southern has to do the same with LaDarius Skelton gone. Glendon McDaniel and John Lampley played many snaps last year, so they have options.