By Peter Holehan, SWAC.org
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference released its 2018 SWAC Preseason Teams Friday with two-time defending SWAC Champion and Celebration Bowl representative Grambling State being tabbed for the most individual honors with 15 overall selections including 10 First Team nods.
The Tigers have built a reputation of success under head coach Broderick Fobbs, who has led the team to a 39-11 mark in four seasons at the helm.
The teams were announced during SWAC Football Media Day at the Birmingham Marriott after ballots were cast by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
49 players were named to this year’s preseason teams, with several returning players that earned SWAC All-Conference honors based upon carryover from the 2017 season. Should a player that was named to the first team in the postseason awards not return, the second-team player for that position was elevated to the first team. Players were ranked in their position based upon the number of votes received. Ballots required voters to rank their selections in order.
After providing one of the most efficient work rates in the nation and aiding Alcorn State to a fourth straight SWAC East Division title, senior P.J. Simmons was the voters’ choice for the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year award. In 2017, the running back made the most of his split work with teammate and All-SWAC First Team selection De’Lance Turner as Simmons averaged 8.6 yards per carry to total 80 carries for 687 yards and seven touchdowns.
Grambling State De’Arius Christmas was tabbed as the SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after ranking among the best in the conference in several categories including tackles (88), tackles for a loss (17.5), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (two). The senior linebacker was a two-time SWAC Defensive Player of the Week in 2017 and realized a breakout performance during the 2016 SWAC Football Championship when he was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Tigers’ 27-20 SWAC Championship victory against Alcorn State after recording 12 tackles and a sack.
Alcorn State had the second most selections with 11 including four first teamers. Prairie View A&M received the third most amount of selections with seven (two first team selection) Alabama State followed with six selections (all on second team) while Arkansas-Pine Bluff garnered four selections including three first teamers. Alabama A&M secured three spots, Southern and Mississippi Valley State each had two representatives while Texas Southern had one selection. Jackson State did not receive any selections.
Joining Simmons on the preseason first-team offense were: Alcorn State quarterback Noah Johnson, Arkansas-Pine Bluff running back KeShawn Williams, offensive linemen Mustaffa Ibrahim (Alcorn State), Jeremiah Abby (Southern), William Waddell and Kyle Davis (both of Grambling State) and Corbin Finlayson (Prairie View A&M), wide receivers Quinn McElfresh (Mississippi Valley State) and Darrell Clark (Grambling State) and tight end Jordan Jones (Grambling State).
Joining Christmas on the preseason first-team defense were: a trio of defensive linemen from Grambling State in Linwood Banks, La’Allan Clark and Brandon Varner as well as Alabama A&M DL Vernon Moland, linebackers Patrick Harbin (Mississippi Valley State) and Trae Ferrell (Alcorn State), and defensive backs Dylan Hamilton (Alabama A&M), Andre Augustine (Southern), Ju’Anthony Parker (Prairie View A&M) and Percy Cargo (Grambling State).
Kicker Marc Orozco (Grambling State), punter Jamie Gillan (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and return specialist KeShawn Williams (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) were each tabbed as first team selections for special teams. Williams was the lone player in the conference to double as a first team selection for two positions; running back and return specialist.
The standings order of finish remained the same from the previous season.
East Division four-time defending champion Alcorn State totaled 95 points as it was named the preseason favorite to win the East once again. Alabama State was selected to finish in second with 72 points, Jackson State received 55 points, followed by Alabama A&M (51) and Mississippi Valley State (27).
In the West Division, reigning two-time SWAC champion Grambling State was chosen as the overall favorite after amassing a conference-best 96 points in the voting. Southern was selected second after it received 78 points. Prairie View A&M followed in third place with 65 points while Texas Southern (31) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (30) rounded out the order of predicted finish.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: P.J. Simmons (RB) – Alcorn State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: De’Arius Christmas (LB) – Grambling State
2018 Preseason All-SWAC Football Team
|QB||Noah Johnson||Alcorn State|
|RB||P.J. Simmons||Alcorn State|
|RB||KeShawn Williams||Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
|OL||Mustaffa Ibrahim||Alcorn State|
|OL||William Waddell||Grambling State|
|OL||Kyle Davis||Grambling State|
|OL||Corbin Finlayson||Prairie View A&M|
|WR||Quinn McElfresh||Mississippi Valley State|
|WR||Darrell Clark||Grambling State|
|TE||Jordan Jones||Grambling State|
|DL||Linwood Banks||Grambling State|
|DL||La’Allan Clark||Grambling State|
|DL||Brandon Varner||Grambling State|
|DL||Vernon Moland||Alabama A&M|
|LB||Patrick Harbin||Mississippi Valley State|
|LB||Trae Ferrell||Alcorn State|
|LB||De’Arius Christmas||Grambling State|
|DB||Dylan Hamilton||Alabama A&M|
|DB||Ju’Anthony Parker||Prairie View A&M|
|DB||Percy Cargo||Grambling State|
|K||Marc Orozco||Grambling State|
|P||Jamie Gillan||Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
|RS||KeShawn Williams||Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
|QB||Darryl Pearson Jr.||Alabama State|
|RB||Jordan Bentley||Alabama A&M|
|RB||Dawonya Tucker||Prairie View A&M|
|OL||Deonte Brooks||Alcorn State|
|OL||Kevin Hall||Alcorn State|
|OL||Roderick Smith||Prairie View A&M|
|OL||Jimmy White||Texas Southern|
|OL||Tytus Howard||Alabama State|
|WR||Quintin Guice||Grambling State|
|WR||Markcus Hardy||Prairie View A&M|
|TE||Zarrian Holcombe||Prairie View A&M|
|DL||Anfernee Mullins||Grambling State|
|DL||Sterling Shippy||Alcorn State|
|DL||Kevin Agee||Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
|DL||Christian Clark||Alabama State|
|LB||De’Andre Hogues||Grambling State|
|LB||Malcolm Williams||Grambling State|
|LB||Solomon Muhammad||Alcorn State|
|(tie)||Darron Johnson||Alabama State|
|DB||Reggie Stubblefield||Prairie View A&M|
|DB||Jeffrey Hill||Alabama State|
|DB||Brady Smith||Alcorn State|
|DB||Dedrick Shy||Grambling State|
|K||Corey McCullough||Alcorn State|
|P||Corey McCullough||Alcorn State|
|RS||George Golden||Alabama State|
2018 Eastern Division Predicted Order of Finish
|Mississippi Valley State||27|
2018 Western Division Predicted Order of Finish
|Prairie View A&M||65|