The Southwestern Athletic Conference released its 2017 predictions and top players Friday at the league’s preseason Media Day here and coaches and sports information directors predicted a three-peat in what will be the last SWAC Championship Game.
Defending SWAC and Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl champion Grambling State was picked to win its third straight West Division championship while three-time defending division champ Alcorn State was selected to take the East for the fourth straight year.
If those predictions pan out, it would set up the third straight SWAC Championship Game meeting between the two in Houston on Dec. 2.
Among 49 players voted preseason first or second team all-SWAC, Grambling led all teams with 14 selections, eight (8) first teamers. Prairie View A&M had eight (8) players voted in including four first teamers. Alcorn State and Southern both had seven (7) overall selections with two and three first teamers respectively.
Alabama A&M garnered five selections. Jackson State nabbed three spots, Alabama State and Mississippi Valley State each had two representatives while Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff had one selection apiece.
After helping lead Grambling to a conference-best 11-win season, quarterback Devante Kincade was the voters’ choice for the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year award. In 2016, Kincade completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for 3,022 yards with 31 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
Two other senior quarterbacks, Austin Howard of Southern and Lenorris Footman of Alcorn State, are the other top signal callers expected to lead the biggest challenges to Kincade and the G-Men. Howard was selected as the second team quarterback.
Jackson State defensive end Keontre Anderson was tabbed as the SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after leading the nation with 25.5 tackles for a loss to go along with nine sacks and six hurries. Southern led the defense with two first-team selections, defensive lineman Aaron Tiller and defensive back Danny Johnson.
Joining Kincade on the preseason first team offense are: running backs Martez Carter (Grambling State) and Jordan Bentley (Alabama A&M), offensive linemen Trent Scott (Grambling State), Donovan Wheaton (Prairie View A&M), Timothy Gardner (Alcorn State), William Waddell (Grambling State), and Sam Baptiste (Alabama State), wide receivers KhaDarel Hodge (Prairie View A&M) and Devon Lindsey (Grambling State) and tight end Dillon Beard (Southern).
Joining Anderson on the preseason first team defense are: Tiller (Southern), Michael Brooks (Alcorn State), and DeVohn Reed (Prairie View A&M) on the defensive line, linebackers Kenneth Davis (Alabama A&M), Sean Jones (Texas Southern), De’Arius Christmas (Grambling State), and Johnson (Southern), Everett Nicholas (Mississippi Valley State), Tere Calloway (Alabama A&M) and Derrick Dixon (Grambling State) in the defensive secondary.
Kicker Nick Carden (Alabama A&M), punter Owen Hoolihan and Carter (Grambling State) were each tabbed as first team selections for special teams. Carter was the only player to double as a first team selection at separate positions (also made first team as a running back).
Alcorn State totaled 80 points as the voting favorite in the East. Alabama State was selected to finish in second with 66 points, Jackson State received 59 points, followed by Alabama A&M (45) and Mississippi Valley State (20).
In the West Division, Grambling State was chosen as the overall favorite after amassing a conference-best 85 points in the voting. Southern was selected second after it received 68 points. Prairie View A&M followed closely in third place with 59 points while Texas Southern (37) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (21) rounded out the order of predicted finish.