Sanders, JSU looking for follow-up title


AWARD WINNERS: Jackson State QB Shedeur Sanders (l.) was the 2021 FCS Freshman of the Year and Florida A&M defensive end Isaiah Land (r.) was the top defender in the FCS in 2021. They were voted the top offensive player (Sanders) and defensive player (Land) returning in the SWAC this season.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Everyone here for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Football Media Day Thursday had to be wondering what Jackson State head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders and his Tigers will do for an encore.

All Sanders and the Tigers did in his first full season was finish 8-0 to win the East Divi- sion title and beat West Division champ Prairie View A&M to give JSU its first league championship since 2007.

Speculation is that Sanders and JSU may be poised to repeat but they are going to have to do it against fortified league competition.

Four new coaches, all with quality credentials – Eddie Robinson at Alabama State, Hue Jackson at Grambling State, Eric Dooley at Southern, and Bubba McDowell at Texas Southern – have entered the fray.

Robinson was a championship linebacker at Alabama State in 1991 before a distinguished 11-year NFL career. He hopes to return his alma mater to its former glory.

Jackson had stints as an NFL head coach at Cleveland and Oakland and was an NFL offensive assistant for six different teams before taking over the legendary program this year.

Dooley led Prairie View to last year’s West Division title and was also a key offensive assistant for three SWAC championship teams in 21 years.

McDowell played seven years in the NFL and was a Prairie View assistant for the last de- cade before taking over this year from Dooley.

The Preseason All-SWAC teams, Individual Winners, and Predicted Order of Finish were voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.

Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Florida A&M defensive end/ linebacker Isaiah Land was tabbed Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Sanders had a stellar debut season for the Tigers as he was named the Stats Perform FCS Jerry Rice Award recipient. At the conclusion of regular season play, he led the SWAC with a 68.7 completion percentage while passing for 2971 yards (2nd in SWAC), 28 touchdowns (2nd in SWAC), and only five interceptions.

Land was one of the top players in the na- tion this past season as he was named the Stats Perform FCS Buck Buchanan Award recipi- ent. At the conclusion of regular season play, he led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. Land also added three forced fumbles, two pass breakups, and one fumble recovery.

Jackson State (116) was selected to finish in first place in the SWAC Eastern Division poll rankings. Southern (111) was tabbed to finish in first place in the SWAC Western Division.