By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Heading into tomorrow’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 2017 football Media Day, there are a few early questions and observations that would be worth keeping in mind for each SIAC team. They are:
Albany State was stingy on defense but a little shaky on offense last season. To fix that, the Rams brought in new head coach Gabe Giardina. Giardina, in his first head coaching job, is the former offensive coordinator at Charleston Southern where in two of the past three seasons his offenses averaged 400 yards a game and twice made the NCAA FCS playoffs.
Benedict has good news in that George Myers Jr. is back. He ran for nearly 1,100 yards, with two games of more than 220 yards rushing and two more with over 165. But passing – throwing it and stopping it – are major issues of concern that head coach Mike White will have to address heading into this season. They were at the bottom of the SIAC in both categories last season.
Central State has to do better scoring and stopping teams from scoring. They were last in both categories last season. They ran the ball superbly last year, but had the SIAC’s worst red-zone offense, couldn’t kick the ball well and ranked at the bottom of the league in turnover margin. And they lost their leading rusher to graduation. Transfer Trent Mays will push last year’s starting quarterback Lavon Meeks, who had a decent season.
Clark Atlanta is poised to take the next step towards the upper echelon of SIAC teams as quarterback Johnathon McCrary proved last year that he is one of the best signal-callers in the conference and turned the CAU offense into the league’s second best last season. The defense will need to improve and lost their leading tackler to graduation.
Fort Valley State won’t have much time this season to figure it out. Their first five games include West Georgia, Valdosta State, and the SWAC’s Southern – all on the road. That stretch also includes a match-up with the league’s highest scoring offense last year, Miles. The defending SIAC champs also must replace quarterback Otis Brown. Jamari Clark returns after a solid freshman season at running back
Kentucky State’s 2016 midseason in which they won four of five games – including shocking nationally-ranked Tuskegee – was one of the biggest headlines from the SIAC last season. The SIAC’s Coach of the Year, John L. Smith, returns the SIAC’s Freshman of the Year in quarterback Jules St. Ge, who is a dual threat, though more of a runner.
Lane has the Marcus Show returning to Jackson this season in junior running back Marcus Holliday and his classmate, quarterback Marcus Reynolds. Holliday led the SIAC in rushing last season while Reynolds threw seven TDs during an injury-filled 2016. Though a good secondary lost some players to graduation, the Dragon has some solid players returning to a pretty good defensive unit.
Miles lost their high-powered quarterback-running back duo in David Whipple and Jamarcus Nance to graduation. They have to figure out who will step into those spots. The returning quarterback with the most experience is Tommy Neeley who only completed 15 passes last season. Ger’Kerry Jackson showed flashes last year at running back. The Tigers won’t have long to figure things out. They start out against SWAC power Alcorn State and then go to West Georgia. They do have the SIAC’s best kicker in Nick Christiansen.
Morehouse’s biggest change this year is on the sidelines – Henry Williams takes over for the departed Leon Murray as offensive coordinator and brings a wide-open, spread the field offense that could be a solid match for athletic returning quarterback Kivon Taylor. David Smith, the SIAC’s third-leading tackler as a sophomore, is back to lead a solid defense.
Tuskegee had the SIAC’s best offense and best defense, was ranked among the nation’s top teams and now they have a new athletic director in venerable head football coach Willie Slater. But the Golden Tigers have lost their offensive leader in quarterback Kevin Lacey. Jamarcus Ezell was a solid understudy last season as a freshman, throwing five TDs and playing in all 12 games. Returning to a stalwart defense is Osband Thompson, a senior linebacker who has been a tackling machine his entire career.