SWAC team capsules

Alabama A&M

2013: 4-8, 4-5 (5th, East)

Prediction: 2-10, 2-7 (5th, East)

Key players

WR Montarius Smith, Jr.: Has had consecutive 50-catch seasons and is poised to increase his productivity.

QB Jaymason Lee, Jr.: After playing in eight games last season, Lee has the job to himself.

Best case: Coach James Spady’s new offense clicks, and the Bulldogs set a scoring pace opponents can’t match.

Worst case: The transition to a new coaching staff and offense carries into the season.

Alabama State

2013: 8-4, 7-2 (T-2nd, East)

Prediction: 8-4, 6-3 (2nd, East)

Key players

RB Malcolm Cyrus, Jr.: Rushed for more than 700 yards last season despite playing behind SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Crowell.

LB Kourtney Berry, So.: Was the SWAC Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference.

Best case: Berry leads an improved defense that makes the Hornets balanced enough to win the East.

Worst case: Cyrus can’t match Crowell’s productivity, and the Hornets are unable to lean on the running game as they did a year ago.

Alcorn State

2013: 9-3, 7-2 (T-2nd, East)

Prediction: 9-3, 7-2 (1st, East)

Key players

OL Isaac Sampson, Jr.: This mammoth blocker leads a talented line that set the tone for the second-most productive offense in the SWAC last season.

DL Deion Roberson, Sr.: A disruptive playmaker who had 12.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks, a year ago.

Best case: The Braves build on the momentum of last year’s success and win the East crown.

Worst case: The lofty expectations prove to be too much of a burden and the Braves fall well short of last year’s success.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff

2013: 2-9, 2-7 (T-3rd, West)

Prediction: 4-8, 4-5 (3rd, West)

Key players

QB Ben Anderson, Jr.: Versatile athlete has been the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014.

LB Antonio Jenkins, So.: He was second on the team with 95 tackles as a redshirt freshman last season.

Best case: Anderson has a blockbuster season that elevates his team into contention in the West.

Worst case: The defensive shortcomings from last season persist and negate Anderson’s accomplishments.

Grambling

2013: 1-11, 1-8 (5th, West)

Prediction: 2-10, 2-7 (5th, West)

Key players

OL Anthony Cherry, Sr.: Experienced player is the anchor of the Tigers offensive line.

DB Tyree Hollins, Jr.: Led the team with seven pass break-ups and tied for the lead with three interceptions last season.

Best case: First-year coach and alumnus Broderick Fobbs rekindles memories of his time as a player and erases bad memories from last season.

Worst case: The scars of last season’s 1-10 debacle prove to be too deep to heal in just one year.

Jackson State

2013: 8-4, 8-1 (1st, East)

Prediction: 6-6, 5-4 (3rd, East)

Key players

QB Lamontiez Ivy, So.: Talented player is trying to bounce back from broken fibula and dislocated ankle suffered in opener at Tulane last year.

LB Javancy Jones, So.: Was named SWAC Freshman of the Year after making 14 tackles for loss, including five sacks.

Best case: The muscle memory of playing in the past two SWAC title games carries the Jaguars through what many see as a rebuilding year.

Worst case: The transition to a new coaching staff, led by Harold Jackson, leads to that rebuilding year.

Mississippi Valley State

2013: 2-9, 2-7 (5th, East)

Prediction: 3-9, 3-6 (4th, East)

Key players

DB Avery Boykin, Sr.: Experienced player who led the SWAC with six interceptions last season.

WR/RS Julian Stafford, Sr.: Versatile player who has led the Devils in receiving the past two seasons and excels on kickoff returns.

Best case: Former Jackson State coach Rick Comegy instills his winning ways right away.

Worst case: The dropoff in talent from Jackson State to Valley forces Comegy to be patient as he builds the program.

Prairie View

2013: 6-6, 5-4 (2nd, West)

Prediction: 6-6, 6-3 (2nd, West)

Key players

QB Jerry Lovelocke, Sr.: Dual threat guided the SWAC’s most productive offense a year ago.

LB Jerome Howard, Sr.: Was second on the team with 80 tackles, including 18 for loss.

Best case: Panthers spring to the top of the West as they begin the season by knocking off crosstown rival Texas Southern, then upset defending SWAC champion Southern two weeks later.

Worst case: The defensive woes from a year ago continue to slow the high-octane offense.

Southern

2013: 9-4, 7-2 (1st, West)

Prediction: 8-4, 7-2 (1st, West)

Texas Southern

2013: 2-9, 2-7 (T-3rd, West)

Prediction: 3-9, 3-6 (4th, West)

Key players

QB Homer Causey, Jr.: Dual-threat player who led the team in passing and rushing last season.

DL Amir Bloom, Jr.: Strong pass rusher who had eight sacks in nine games last season, a key contributor for a middle-of-the-pack defense.

Best case: Led by Bloom and a talented secondary, the defense blossoms into one of the SWAC’s best.

Worst case: Inconsistency prevents the least-productive offense in the SWAC a year ago from improving, leading to another forgettable season for the Tigers.