The Southwestern Athletic Conference released its 2018 SWAC Preseason Teams Friday with two-time defending SWAC Champion and Celebration Bowl representative Grambling State being tabbed for the most individual honors with 15 overall selections including 10 First Team nods. The University of Arkansas at Pine-Bluff Golden Lions football team garnered four selections, including three first teamers.

The Tigers have built a reputation of success under head coach Broderick Fobbs, who has led the team to a 39-11 mark in four seasons at the helm.

The teams were announced during SWAC Football Media Day at the recently refurbished Birmingham Marriott after ballots were cast by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.

49 players were named to this year’s preseason teams, with several returning players that earned SWAC All-Conference honors based upon carryover from the 2017 season. Should a player that was named to the first team in the postseason awards not return, the second-team player for that position was elevated to the first team. Players were ranked in their position based upon the number of votes received.  Ballots required voters to rank their selections in order.

After providing one of the most efficient work rates in the nation and aiding Alcorn State to a fourth straight SWAC East Division title, senior P.J. Simmons was the voters’ choice for the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year award.  In 2017, the running back made the most of his split work with teammate and All-SWAC First Team selection De’Lance Turner as Simmons averaged 8.6 yards per carry to total 80 carries for 687 yards and seven touchdowns.

Grambling State De’Arius Christmas was tabbed as the SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after ranking among the best in the conference in several categories including tackles (88), tackles for a loss (17.5), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (two).  The senior linebacker was a two-time SWAC Defensive Player of the Week in 2017 and realized a breakout performance during the 2016 SWAC Football Championship when he was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Tigers’ 27-20 SWAC Championship victory against Alcorn State after recording 12 tackles and a sack.

Alcorn State had the second most selections with 11 including four first teamers.  Prairie View A&M received the third most amount of selections with seven (two first team selection) Alabama State followed with six selections (all on second team) while Arkansas-Pine Bluff garnered four selections including three first teamers.  Alabama A&M secured three spots, Southern and Mississippi Valley State each had two representatives while Texas Southern had one selection.  Jackson State did not receive any selections.

Joining Simmons on the preseason first-team offense were: Alcorn State quarterback Noah Johnson, Arkansas-Pine Bluff running back KeShawn Williams, offensive linemen Mustaffa Ibrahim (Alcorn State), Jeremiah Abby (Southern), William Waddell and Kyle Davis (both of Grambling State) and Corbin Finlayson (Prairie View A&M), wide receivers Quinn McElfresh (Mississippi Valley State) and Darrell Clark (Grambling State) and tight end Jordan Jones (Grambling State).

Joining Christmas on the preseason first-team defense were: a trio of defensive linemen from Grambling State in Linwood Banks, La’Allan Clark and Brandon Varner as well as Alabama A&M DL Vernon Moland, linebackers Patrick Harbin (Mississippi Valley State) and Trae Ferrell (Alcorn State), and defensive backs Dylan Hamilton (Alabama A&M), Andre Augustine (Southern), Ju’Anthony Parker (Prairie View A&M) and Percy Cargo (Grambling State).

Kicker Marc Orozco (Grambling State), punter Jamie Gillan (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and return specialist Williams (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) were each tabbed as first team selections for special teams.  Williams was the lone player in the conference to double as a first team selection for two positions; running back and return specialist.

“I really don’t think about it because it really doesn’t matter until the end of the season,” said Williams. “I can get picked for preseason awards, but not get picked for post-season awards, and what good is that? I try to just stay focused and continue to do what I do best.”

The standings order of finish remained the same from the previous season.

East Division four-time defending champion Alcorn State totaled 95 points as it was named the preseason favorite to win the East once again. Alabama State was selected to finish in second with 72 points, Jackson State received 55 points, followed by Alabama A&M (51) and Mississippi Valley State (27).

In the West Division, reigning two-time SWAC champion Grambling State was chosen as the overall favorite after amassing a conference-best 96 points in the voting.  Southern was selected second after it received 78 points. Prairie View A&M followed in third place with 65 points while Texas Southern (31) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (30) rounded out the order of predicted finish.


2018 Preseason All-SWAC Football Team

QBNoah JohnsonAlcorn State
RBP.J. SimmonsAlcorn State
RBKeShawn WilliamsArkansas-Pine Bluff
OLMustaffa IbrahimAlcorn State
OLJeremiah AbbySouthern
OLWilliam WaddellGrambling State
OLKyle DavisGrambling State
OLCorbin FinlaysonPrairie View A&M
WRQuinn McElfreshMississippi Valley State
WRDarrell ClarkGrambling State
TEJordan JonesGrambling State


DLLinwood BanksGrambling State
DLLa’Allan ClarkGrambling State
DLBrandon VarnerGrambling State
DLVernon MolandAlabama A&M
LBPatrick HarbinMississippi Valley State
LBTrae FerrellAlcorn State
LBDe’Arius ChristmasGrambling State
DBDylan HamiltonAlabama A&M
DBAndre AugustineSouthern
DBJu’Anthony ParkerPrairie View A&M
DBPercy CargoGrambling State


KMarc OrozcoGrambling State
PJamie GillanArkansas-Pine Bluff
RSKeShawn WilliamsArkansas-Pine Bluff


QBDarryl Pearson Jr.Alabama State
RBJordan BentleyAlabama A&M
RBDawonya TuckerPrairie View A&M
OLDeonte BrooksAlcorn State
OLKevin HallAlcorn State
OLRoderick SmithPrairie View A&M
OLJimmy WhiteTexas Southern
OLTytus HowardAlabama State
WRQuintin GuiceGrambling State
WRMarkcus HardyPrairie View A&M
TEZarrian HolcombePrairie View A&M


 DLAnfernee MullinsGrambling State
 DLSterling ShippyAlcorn State
 DLKevin AgeeArkansas-Pine Bluff
 DLChristian ClarkAlabama State
 LBDe’Andre HoguesGrambling State
 LBMalcolm WilliamsGrambling State
 LBSolomon Muhammad (tie)
Darron Johnson
Alcorn State
Alabama State
 DBReggie StubblefieldPrairie View A&M
 DBJeffrey HillAlabama State
 DBBrady SmithAlcorn State
 DBDedrick ShyGrambling State


KCorey McCulloughAlcorn State
PCorey McCulloughAlcorn State
RSGeorge GoldenAlabama State

2018 Eastern Division Predicted Order of Finish

Alcorn State95
Alabama State72
Jackson State55
Alabama A&M51
Mississippi Valley State27

2018 Western Division Predicted Order of Finish

Grambling State96
Prairie View A&M65
Texas Southern31
Arkansas-Pine Bluff30