Aug. 3, 2011
Courtesy Alabama State Sports Information Office -
The Alabama State Hornets enter the 2011 season looking to take the final step to a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
Last season, ASU shocked the SWAC football world in winning the Eastern Division title and a berth in the SWAC Championship Game, falling six points short of the league title.
Fifth-year head coach Reggie Barlow looks to have this year’s team to continue to get better in hopes of taking the final championship step.
Alabama State returns 60 letterwinners from last year’s division championship team, including 17 starters (8 offense, 9 defense).
The Hornets will be under a new offensive system as veteran coach Fred Kaiss takes over as offensive coordinator.
The offense will look to improve on its conference ranks of eighth in scoring offense (20.8 ppg) and ninth in total offense (266.7 yards per game).
Greg Jenkins, a transfer from Troy, along with returning players Devin Dominguez and Demetric Price, will compete for the quarterback job. Dominguez, also a pitcher on the baseball team, tied for third in the SWAC with 19 touchdown passes last season. The winner of the position battle will have a pair of top wide outs to throw to.
The Hornets will feature two All-SWAC wide receivers in Nick Andrews and T.C. McWilliams. The senior Andrews (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) earned second-team honors in 2009, while the junior McWilliams earned the same honor last year. In 2010, the duo combined for 88 receptions for 1,206 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The offensive line is slated to be anchored by the trio of returning starters Terren Jones, Kendrick Delaine and Edmond Davis. Jones (6-foot-9, 320 lbs) played in all 12 games with 10 starts in earning second-team All-SWAC honors as a sophomore last season. Delaine (6-7, 295) played in 10 games as a freshman with four starts, including the SWAC Championship Game. Davis (6-1, 280), like Jones, also played in 12 games with 10 starts.
The catalyst for last year’s championship run was the defense, which ranked in the Top 3 in the SWAC in eight categories and in the Top 20 in the nation in six categories, including scoring defense (18.6 ppg - 2nd SWAC/12th FCS), passing defense (165.7 ypg - 3rd SWAC/18th FCS), and takeaways (35 - 1st SWAC/4th FCS).
Defensive end Kynjee Cotton (6-0, 260) was sixth on the team in tackles with 51 and tied for the team lead in sacks with 5.0 while ranking second on the team in tackles for loss (11). Cotton, along with fellow senior Quin Bohannon (6-0, 270), will anchor the men up front.
Juniors Demarques Taylor and Leland Baker will lead the linebackers corps. Taylor (64) and ranked second in tackles (64) with third for tackles for loss (8.0/gm).
Kejuan Riley earned first-team all conference honors at free safety and was a second-team FCS All-American. The junior from nearby Wetumpka, Ala. tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, which also tied for second in the nation. More than just a ballhawk, Riley ranked third in tackles (63), tied for third in both pass breakups (six) and pass defensed (13) and tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries (two).
The Hornet special teams were just that in 2010, as ASU led the conference in kickoff returns (23.6 ypr) and ranked fourth in punt returns (13.4 ypr).
Kicker Andrew Lyons will again be a vital cog in Hornet special teams. Last season, the senior converted on all 27 PATs and made eight of 15 field goals to lead the team in scoring with 51 points.
Signees Bobby Wenzig (punter) and Malcolm Cyrus (running back/return specialist) will be called upon to have an immediate impact on the special teams units.
Wenzig, a transfer from Arizona State, was a second-team all-State kicker and averaged 41 yards per punt at Westview High in San Diego, Calif. Cyrus led the nation in returns for touchdowns with 13 (eight punts, five kickoffs) while rushing for 1,200 yards and scoring 19 touchdown at Autaugavile (Ala.) High.
The Hornets will again face the grueling nine-game SWAC schedule and will play most of their early season contests on the road. Alabama State will play three of their first five conference games on the road, as well as three road games in September, highlighted by their first-ever meeting with Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference.
The Hornets will play five home games this season in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, beginning with the home opener versus Grambling on Sept. 17. ASU will again compete in two of the most storied classics in Black College Football, the Magic City Classic in Birmingham and the Turkey Day Classic on Thanksgiving Day in Montgomery.
ASU will play at Mississippi Valley State and at Eastern Michigan before facing Grambling in the home opener. After travelling to Jackson State, the Hornets will open October with a home game against Alcorn State. A trip to Texas Southern and a home game against Prairie View A&M will lead into the first of two bye weeks. Following the first bye week, ASU will face archrival Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic in Birmingham.
After a road game at Arkansas-Pine Bluff to begin November, Alabama State will host Southern prior to the annual Turkey Day Classic Showdown against Tuskegee.