Alabama State was picked to advance to the first Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game in Houston, but all roads to the West seem to lead through defending conference champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff and its quarterback, Ben Anderson.
Anderson was the offensive player of the year in preseason balloting at SWAC Media Day in Birmingham, while Jackson State defensive back Qua Cox was selected as the league’s top defensive player.
UAPB had nine players selected as first team all-conference, led by SWAC Championship Game offensive MVP Anderson, who led the Golden Lions to a 24-21 overtime victory against Jackson State. That earned the program selection as the black college national champions by American Sports Wire. UAPB finished at 10-2, setting a school record for wins in 2012.
Anderson is joined on the first-team offense by teammates Justin Billings at tailback, Ladarius Eckwood at receiver, Dezmond Beverly at tight end and Kenny Eagle at offensive line.
Alabama State had three players named to the first-team offense, including tailback Isaiah Crowell, center Edmond Davis and guard Damien Love. Bobby Wenzig earned first-team honors as both the punter and placekicker.
Other first-team offensive players include Southern wide receiver Lee Doss and Prairie View offensive linemen Tre Glover and Dillon Bonnet.
On defense, Cox was joined by defensive linemen Robert Simpson (Mississippi Valley State), Damien Lee (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Teddrick Terrell (Jackson State) and DeMarcus Berry (Arkansas-Pine Bluff); linebackers Jer-ryan Harris (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Jerome Howard (Prairie View A&M), and Anthony Balancier (Southern); and defensive backs Ryan Shaw (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Kevin Eugene (Mississippi Valley State) and Virgil Williams (Southern).
Three ASU players made the second-team unit: tight end Justin Robinson, defensive end Carlton Jones and linebacker DeMarques Taylor, the Hornets’ leading tackler in 2011 who sat out last season as an academic casualty.
UAPB was the runaway choice to win the West with 105 points (and 14 first-place votes), followed by Southern (88 points and six votes), Prairie View A&M (83 points and three votes), Grambling State (51 points and one vote) and Texas Southern (38).
The same three East teams that fought to the wire in 2012 were picked to battle it out again, with Alabama State earning 108 points and 15 first-place votes, followed by Jackson State (102 points and the remaining nine votes) and Alabama A&M (60 points). Mississippi Valley State (51) was fourth, followed by Alcorn State (40).