Monday, July 21, 2014

Media Picks Tennessee State to Finish Second, Coaches and AD's Pick the Tigers Third in the OVC; TSU's Bass Named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

#55 Anthony Bass (photo from TSU athletic department web site)

Four defensive starters, including the Ohio Valley Conference's 2014 preseason Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Anthony Bass, have led media experts to believe Tennessee State will finish second in the conference race this year. 

The Tigers, who finished 10-4 last season and sported one of the nation's most dominating defenses, were narrowly picked to finish second to Jacksonville State, a team that was 11-4 in making the FCS Division playoffs last season.  One of their losses last year was to Tennessee State. 

OVC coaches and athletic directors picked the Big Blue Tigers third, behind JSU and Eastern Illinois, a team that featured QB Jimmy Garoppolo who is now in the NFL. Eastern defeated TSU twice last year, one in the regular season and again in the FCS playoffs. 

This season, Bass picks up where he left off last year. Bass was a one-man wrecking crew last season with 34 tackles, 14.5 for losses, ten sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, a safety and a blocked kick.  He was named the OVC's 2013 Defensive Player of the Year from a defensive squad that led the OVC is nearly all defensive categories and was ranked sixth nationally in total defense. 

Three other Tigers defense was named to the preseason All-OVC team - linebacker Nick Thrasher (110 tackles, three forced fumbles in 2013); defensive backs Daniel Fitzpatrick (FCS National Defensive Back of the Year with 75 tackles and a nation-leading eight interceptions) and De'Ante Saunders (39 tackles, four interceptions).  

Quarterback Michael German rebounded from an early season suspension to lead the Tigers into the playoffs in being named to the OVC's preseason All-Conference team.  In seven games, German had nearly 1,200 yards passing and 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for the Tigers.  He will be defended by talented offensive lineman Robert Myers, also an All-Conference pick. 

TSU opens their season on August 30 against Edward Waters in the John Merritt Classic at LP Field. 

Defending SWAC Champ Southern Favorite to Win 2014 Football Title, According to League Poll

Southern wide receiver Willie Quinn (photo from Southern athletic department web site)
Southern may have lost their start quarterback and top receiver, but Southwestern Athletic Conference watchers believe the Jaguars have enough to successfully defend their 2013 SWAC football title.

SWAC head coaches, sports information directors and selected national media members chose Southern in the West Division and Alabama State in the East as its preseason favorites for 2014.

The Jaguars do return breakout running back Lenard Tillery, who had nearly 800 yards rushing and nine touchdowns during his freshman season last year.  Fellow sophomore Willie Quinn also had a big freshman season where he was one of the SWAC top receivers as he averaged 13 catches a game, with nearly 800 yards receiving and seven touchdowns all season. Tillery is a second team All-SWAC preseason pick while Quinn made the first team.

Offensive lineman Anthony Mosley made the first team while his colleague Zach Brown was a second team pick. Defensive lineman Arthur Miley and Daniel Brown are first team choices.

The Jaguars have all that going for them, but head coach Dawson Odums still hasn't come up with a final choice as to who will be the quarterback replacing graduated star Dray Joseph.

Doesn't matter, he says.

"It takes a collective effort from everyone around to make that guy stand out," he said at the SWAC media day, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  "He just needs to do his part and everyone else do their part.  I don't think you have to be great. You can become great because of the people around you.  You make good decisions.  Whoever is going to lead the Southern Jaguars in 2014 at that position will do it because they make good decisions."

Alabama State were the experts' pick in the west.  The Hornets were one of the conference's stingiest defenses against the run last year as first team pre-season All-SWAC picks LB Kourtney Berry and DL Derrick Billups led the Hornets.  Berry came from out of nowhere as a freshman to be the SWAC's third-leading tackler with 105 stops and seven sacks.  Billups had 80 tackles and was in the SWAC's top ten in tackles for loss.  Edward Mosely and Justin Mitchell, second team preseason All-Conference picks, round out the SWAC's top defensive line.

Here is the SWAC Preseason predicted order of finish and their votes:

1) Southern (95)
2) Prairie View (88)
3) Arkansas-Pine Bluff (66)
4) Texas Southern (50)
5) Grambling State (31)

1) Alabama State (93)
2) Alcorn State (91)
3) Jackson State (72)
4) Mississippi Valley State (40)
5) Alabama A&M (34)

Howard Women's Soccer Becomes Member of the SWAC

(photo from Howard University athletics web site)
This may sound strange, but Howard will be competing for a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship this fall.

It's the Howard women's soccer team.   Since the Mideastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) doesn't have women's soccer, Howard was accepted by the SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors as an official SWAC women's soccer program.

Their first SWAC game will be Sept. 26 at Alcorn State.  And instead of playing their home games in Washington, D.C., the Lady Bison will host SWAC squads in Vestavia Hills, Ala.  Howard's season opener is against VMI on August 22.

"We are pleased to welcome Howard University and its women's soccer team to the Southwestern Athletic Conference," said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp earlier this year in a statement.  "They are an amazing university with a strong academic and athletic history.  Howard's athletic programs have strong fan support and the program fits well with the goals we have in place for the sport."

The SWAC will now have 11 teams competing in women's soccer.  The SWAC champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Soccer Championships.  Howard will be immediately eligible for a conference title and, in 2015, the NCAA championship bid.

The Lady Bison women's soccer team has been in existence since 1995, but has competed as an independent.  The Lady Bison finished 6-7-2 last season, flirting with their first .500 or better season since 2001 when they were 10-8.

"We are excited about our women's soccer team joining the Southwestern Athletic Conference," said Howard Athletic Director Louis "Skip" Perkins.  "[The] SWAC has been recognized for its competitiveness and commitment to academic excellence.  Howard looks forward to entering the conference and contributing to [the] SWAC's traditions of top performance on the field and in the classroom."