2. Tuskegee University
The loss of all-world QB Kevin Huff will be the biggest hole that Willie Slater will have to fill for this year’s TU squad. Under Huff, the Golden Tigers led the SIAC in scoring, rushing, and red-zone offense last year. However, sophomore Jacary Atkinson, who saw some action at quarterback (16-of-21, 213 yards, 2 TDs) in spot duty, should be an adequate replacement. With 16 returning starters (9 offense, 7 defense), TU has a very good shot at taking the SIAC outright this season.
3. Fort Valley State University
The Wildcats will be looking to rebound from a tough 5-6 season that, with the bounce of the pigskin here and there, could have been better. Deondri Clark’s Wildcats will have plenty of new faces, but there are enough veterans on the squad to provide a solid foundation for the 2007 season. Offensively, SIAC Freshman of the Year Nate Samas will likely be calling signals with C Romar Douglas acting as the linchpin of an offensive line that will have more depth this season. Defensively, CB’s Eddie Young, Steven A. Jackson and All-SIAC SS Ivan Diggs will be the top returning players.
4. Clark Atlanta University
The Panthers return seven starters from last year’s No. 1 defense in all of Division II last season, including All-SIAC selections LB Michael Porter and DE Curtis Johnson. On offense, the Panthers hope to improve on last season’s numbers thanks to the play of offensive lineman Jonathan Didier, who hopes to open plenty of holes for CAU’s running backs. An big early test for CAU will come on September 8th when they travel to Huntsville, Ala. to battle defending SWAC champion Alabama A&M.
5. Lane College
Last year, the Dragons were one of the surprise teams in all of college football. After being win less in 2005, Johnny Cole’s high octane offense ignited LC to an 8-3 finish including a fast 6-0 start. The Dragons just missed a Division II postseason berth and are looking to improve on last year’s success. Junior QB Sherard Ellis leads a list of nine Dragons who were named to the Preseason All-SIAC list including five who were named to the first team. Defensively, SIAC interception leader Leo Spears and running mate Harvey Scott are part of a strong defense that last just three starters.
6. Kentucky State University
Since coming to KSU, coach Fred Farrior has seen his Thoroughbreds finish with winning records in each of his two seasons. If their 3-1 finish last year is a gauge, Farrior’s bunch could find themselves right within the teeth of the SIAC title chase. With 18 returning starters (nine on both offense and defense) from last year’s 7-3 squad and an offensive line led by All-SIAC standout Nartavious Mitchell along with several junior college transfers, things will bode well the KSU offense. Defensively, senior DL Anthony Richardson leads a young, but very talented bunch.
7. Stillman College
After a slow start in 2006, Greg Thompson’s Tigers ended the year on a three-game winning streak and rallied to a 6-4 finish. Most of it was due to the progress of QB Curtis McCullum. A preseason All-SIAC selection, McCullum passed for 2,103 yards, 18 TDs and seven interceptions, adding 330 yards on the ground. Going into this season, he needs 1,479 passing yards to pass Tyvun Green as the school’s all-time leading passer, and 19 touchdowns to break Green’s record for TD. While the Tigers may struggle overall, McCullum’s senior season will definitely be something to watch.
8. Miles College
Wade Streeter’s squad will have 14 returning starters (6 offense, 8 defense) from last year’s team whose 5-5 record was forfeited due to the use of an ineligible player. The Golden Bears will be tested very early. After opening at home against Shaw University, they’ll play five straight road conference games (Tuskegee, Benedict, Fort Valley, Stillman, and Clark Atlanta). Just that stretch alone could make it very difficult for this very young squad to contend in the SIAC.
9. Benedict College
Former Alabama A&M assistant Stan Connor will take over a BC program that finished 3-7 last season. The Tigers opened 2006 at 2-2, but would lose five of their last six to cost head coach John Hendrick his job. However, there are positives for Connor going to Columbia. The new Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is one major plus. Also, the wealth of returning talent (10 starters on offense, seven on defense) and that five of the team’s seven losses came by a touchdown or less.
10. Morehouse College
The Maroon Tigers will now be under the command of Rich Freeman, who left Lane College, where he was assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Dragons last year. His biggest challenge will be filling the gaps caused by the loss of nearly a dozen starters, most of them linemen. Last season the Maroon Tigers played with a split personality — at the top of the conference in total offense, at the bottom of the heap in total defense. However, a new coaching staff, a new philosophy and new attitude and a solid recruiting class and returning veterans have given fans of the ‘House reason for optimism.