Connell Maynor and his Alabama A&M football team had its ups and downs in fall 2021.
Coming off a Black College National Championship in spring 2021, the Bulldogs opened the season with three straight wins. They followed those victories with three straight losses before closing the campaign by winning four in a row.
“We wanted to have a winning season and send those seniors out, the ones who helped turn this program around four years ago,” Maynor said. “We had four straight winning seasons on those guys’ backs, so we wanted to finish strong and we did.
“We got those guys out with a winning season and almost slipped into the FCS playoffs,” the coach said. “We needed one more win.”
Alabama NewsCenter is taking a look at the upcoming college football season. Today, it is focused on Alabama A&M.
Alabama NewsCenter: What are the prospects for this season?
Connell Maynor: We take them one game at a time. Of course our goals are to win the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and win the Celebration Bowl and be Black College National Champions again like we were in ’21. But we take it one game at a time. The first two games we play FBS opponents (at UAB and at Troy). We want to be competitive and get out of there injury-free and see where we’re at as a football team. We’re gonna be learning a lot about ourselves, playing those first two games and then Austin Peay will come in. We wanted to send a message to the FCS Playoff Committee and the rest of those guys that we can play with the other teams in the FCS.
ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?
Maynor: We don’t know yet. We won’t know until we play somebody else. You’re only playing against yourself right now. Let’s just say the defense was getting the best of the offense. Well, we know our defense is better than our offense, but we don’t know how good or bad our offense is. Of course, last year the strength of our team was our offense. We’re returning probably six or seven starters on offense, so I will say offense. But I would hope it would be the defense.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Maynor: Defensively, we brought in a lot of new guys. With all the new guys we brought in, we’re expecting 10 of those guys to be starting over there. We’ll have 10 to 11 new starters on the defensive side of the ball. Everybody that we brought in, I’m not gonna name four or five of them because then the other four, five or six will be mad. Everybody we brought in on defense, we expect those guys to play and play at a high level. Offensively, of course, Gary Quarles was an all-conference running back (and) just short of 1,000 yards. Abdul Ibrahim is a three-time All-American, the only receiver in the conference with over 1,000 yards last year. Of course, we’re gonna lean on those guys. On the offensive line, we’ve got returners and we’ll lean on those guys. Jon Williams and Carson Vinson are our tackles and then we’ve got Cam Williams at center. Those guys have been in the program the last couple of years. We’ll lean on those guys and we’ve got a couple of transfers we’re looking to play probably at the guard spots. There’s (wide receiver) Brian Jenkins Jr. and then our quarterbacks, whoever wins the job. We think we’ve got two guys – Quincy Casey and Xavier Lankford – that can get it done. Whichever one we run out there we expect him to just do the job and continue to play the position at a high level.
ANC: What game(s) do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Maynor: The (Magic City) Classic and Jackson State. That’ll be the Gulf Coast Challenge against Jackson and the Magic City Classic against Alabama State, of course. And then homecoming (against Bethune-Cookman). Those are the three games that our fans have got circled and are looking forward to.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Maynor: Aqeel Glass is gone. He threw for 109 touchdowns the last four seasons, so the question everybody’s worried about is the quarterback position, which is the most important position on the football field. That’s understandable. But I think we’ll be all right.
Alabama NewsCenter is posting season previews for all 16 college football programs in Alabama. Read previews for Jacksonville State University, the University of North Alabama, Alabama State University, Birmingham-Southern College, Samford University, Faulkner University, Tuskegee University, the University of West Alabama, Troy University, Miles College and Huntingdon College, and look for a new preview each weekday.