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HBCU teams in Alabama gear up for first games

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Alabama A&M quarterback DeAngelo Ballard. (Special to The Times)

Donald Hunt

For The Birmingham Times

Alabama A&M quarterback DeAngelo Ballard. (Special to The Times)
Alabama A&M quarterback DeAngelo Ballard. (Special to The Times)

This looks like a big year for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) football in Alabama.

In the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), Alabama State was picked to finish second in the East Division. The Hornets should have a powerhouse team.

On offense, Alabama State will be led by Khalid Thomas who gained 720 yards on150 carries while scoring five touchdowns. Thomas, a 5-10 senior, was an effective receiver catching 33 passes for 281 yards. He should continue to do well running behind the Hornets offensive linemen Sam Baptiste and Kerry Williams.

Defensively, Alabama State has one of the best players in the country with linebacker Kourtney Berry who was named the SWAC preseason defensive player of the year. Berry, a 6-0, 215-pound senior, had 130 total tackles last season, which led the conference.

“He’s a first class student athlete,” said Brian Jenkins, Alabama State head coach. “He exemplifies what you want in a student athlete. A guy that gets it done in the classroom and that understands his role. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s a phenomenal young man who has done an exception job for our program.”

He should have plenty of help up front with defensive linemen Robert Brown and Roderick Henderson. Alabama State will open its season against host Texas San Antonio on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Alabama A&M

Alabama A&M was predicted to finish fourth in the SWAC Eastern Division. The Bulldogs top player is linebacker Bryan Brower who had 76 total and 49 solo tackles last season. Brower will be a major player on defense.

Offensively, the Bulldogs will try to move through the air with quarterback DeAngelo Ballard and wide receiver Tevin McKenzie and tight end Jonathan Dorsey. Alabama A&M head coach James Spady feels Dorsey has pro potential.

“Jonathan Dorsey should be exciting to watch,” Spady said. “He’s an NFL prospect. I expect big things out of him.”

Ballard is coming off a pretty solid year where he threw for 1,156 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 340 yards and four touchdowns. McKenzie caught 32 passes for 472 yards and four touchdowns. Dorsey chipped in with 22 receptions for 385 yards and five touchdowns.

Alabama A&M will visit Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.

Miles College

In the SIAC, Miles was picked by the league as the No. 1 team in the West Division. Miles is led by quarterback David Whipple who received first team preseason All-SIAC honors. Whipple threw for 1,081 yards and six touchdowns last season. The Golden Bears should have a strong running game with Jamarcus Nance, the team’s leading rusher, who compiled 597 yards and seven touchdowns. Miles host Fort Valley State on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.

Tuskegee

Tuskegee was picked to finish second in the West Division. The Golden Tigers are nationally ranked. They’re ranked 17 in the AFCA preseason poll and ranked seventh in the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll. Tuskegee defensive lineman Julian Morgan was named the SIAC preseason defensive player of the year. Morgan had 56 total tackles and 9.5 sacks last year. He will be a key player for the Golden Tigers with his tackling and pass rushing skills. Tuskegee will travel to Atlanta to face Clark Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.