The matchup is set for the SWAC’s biggest game of the season, as Arkansas-Pine Bluff will battle Jackson State for the conference championship on Dec. 8 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. But now it’s time to select the best players and coach in the SWAC.
Offensive Player of the Year
Rico Richardson, Jackson State wide receiver
Richardson is a solid NFL prospect who has gone over the 1,000-yard receiving mark. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has 56 receptions for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns and is a big-play receiver who averages 19.3 yards a catch. He can turn a short pass into a game-breaking play and can also catch the deep ball with his great speed.
Defensive Player of the Year
Brandon Thurmond, Arkansas-Pine Bluff defensive lineman
Thurmond has put together a magnificent senior season. The 6-2, 260-pounder has played a huge role in UAPB’s success and helped the Golden Lions capture the SWAC Western Division title. He has 63 total tackles, including 35 solo, and 19 tackles for loss for 87 yards. Thurmond also leads the country in total sacks with 16.5.
Coach of the Year
Monte Coleman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff head coach
Coleman had UAPB playing some pretty good football last season. This season, he’s guided the Golden Lions to the SWAC championship game. Coleman has built this team on defense, as he has the SWAC’s best defensive players in linebacker Bill Ross and defensive lineman Brandon Thurmond. He has done a great job of developing these players.
Other Top Players
Alabama State running back Isaiah Crowell
Alabama A&M running back Kaderius Lacey
Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason
Alabama State defensive back Kejuan Riley
Arkansas-Pine Bluff linebacker Bill Ross
Jackson State defensive back Qua Cox
Southern quarterback Dray Joseph
Southern wide receiver Lee Doss
Alabama State (7-3 overall, 7-2 in SWAC) will host Division II Tuskegee (9-1) in the 89th Turkey Day Classic. The game will be the official opening of the new ASU Stadium on Thursday (ESPNU, 4 ET). Tuskegee is led by running back Derrick Washington, one of the top Division II players in the country. He is a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is presented annually to the top Division II player. Washington has rushed for 1,399 yards while scoring 13 TDs and averaging 8.1 yards a carry.
Grambling State (1-9, 0-8) will clash with long-time rival Southern (3-7, 2-6) in the legendary Bayou Classic at the New Orleans Superdome on Saturday.
Bethune-Cookman (9-2 overall, 8-0 league), champions of the MEAC, will face Coastal Carolina (7-4 overall, 5-1 Big South) on Saturday at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff defensive lineman Brandon Thurmond has been added to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List. The award goes to the top defensive player in the FCS.
Boxtorow HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll
1. Winston-Salem State
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
5. Alabama State
6. Tennessee State
7. Jackson State
8. Alabama A&M
9. North Carolina A&T