What was SWAC media day like without Deion Sanders? That and five other observations.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The unofficial start to the Southwestern Athletic Conference football season arrived Tuesday in Alabama with SWAC media day.

Here are five observations from the day’s festivities.

Gone but not unappreciated

Deion Sanders made a splash in his three seasons at Jackson State before taking the head coaching job at Colorado in December, and the void was felt at media day. Sanders — a living, breathing viral moment waiting to happen — created news when he wasn’t creating a buzz. Although it wasn’t always the preferred kind of attention, SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland acknowledged the impact was positive. “We were significantly grateful for what coach Prime brought to the SWAC,” McClelland said. “He brought an outside audience that did not necessarily know what the SWAC is all about. What we have seen is that that audience has stayed with us. Our football numbers were off the charts and basketball was significantly higher, and baseball and softball. Those numbers continue to chart.”

Big shoes to fill

Sanders left a canyon full of expectations for his successor, T.C. Taylor, a former Jackson State player who most certainly “is SWAC.” Taylor understands that Jackson State had a reputation for winning titles and pumping out star players long before Sanders used it as a steppingstone. At the same time, Taylor humbly expressed appreciation for what he learned under Sanders, such as how he handled being a first-time head coach, which is what Taylor is. He kept notes and remembered conversations they had while fishing together, and he said they paid dividends. “We’re expected to win the moment we get off the bus,” Taylor said. “I have my way and he has his.”

Mum’s the word

No team suffered a more painful defeat last season than Texas Southern, which blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter in a 24-20 loss to Alabama A&M, costing the Tigers the SWAC West title on the season’s second-to-last playing date. Quarterback Andrew Body had the ball knocked out of his hands at the 1-yard line before what could have been the game-clinching touchdown, and he was hurt on the play as the Bulldogs rallied. With Body, a junior, back for his third season as a starter, the Tigers are a dark horse for the division crown despite being picked third. “We haven’t mentioned last year at all since back in January,” coach Clarence McKinney said. “I know our players have worked extremely hard since then. We know we let one get away, but we have an opportunity to go get the next one.”

Full of fire

Arkansas-Pine Bluff might be doomed to another tough season, but first-year coach Alonzo Hampton has come out breathing fire. A former assistant at the school and a four-year letterman at UL-Monroe, where he coached under Terry Bowden last season, Hampton won media day in terms of excitement and enthusiasm about his first head coaching gig. In his mile-a-minute prose, he promised his team will be physical on offense (“smash the football down your throat”) and defense (“you’re going to be hit and hit more”). Hampton has a lot of work to do while starting over at quarterback and losing his leading rusher to the transfer portal for a program that is 5-17 overall and 2-14 in league play over the past two seasons. But he’s nothing if not game. “I hope they pick us last,” he said.

Major turnover

The transfer portal has accelerated college football player movement on every level, but Mississippi Valley State may have demolished the previous record for incoming players. First-year coach and former Delta Devil Kendrick Wade takes over for Vincent Dancy, who joined the staff of Deion Sanders at Colorado. Wade said he’s brought in 61 new players — via high schools, junior colleges and other transfers — to add to 40 holdovers, so name tags may be required as the Devils prepare for the season. Wade expressed gratitude and devotion about joining the three other first-year coaches. “I’m going to go above and beyond because it is my alma mater,” he said. “I feel like it’s a dream come true.”

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Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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