It’s hard not to take notice of Brandon Thurmond when watching Arkansas-Pine Bluff on the football field.
The SWAC has, and on Tuesday, the conference named the senior defensive end its Defensive Player of the Year. Thurmond is also one of 13 UAPB players who have been named to the All-SWAC teams, which were announced by the conference along with other SWAC postseason honorees Tuesday.
Thurmond, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior from Augusta, Ga., leads all NCAA divisions in sacks with 16.5 on the season. He is four away from tying the conference record set last year by Adrian Hamilton of Prairie View A&M.
Thurmond also has 63 tackles including 25 for loss, seven quarterback hurries, three recovered fumbles, a forced fumble, a pass break-up and a blocked kick.
“I thought, Brandon and Bill (Ross), both of them played well enough to be defensive player of the year,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “Brandon, with the number of sacks he has and leading the nation, I thought it was the right decision.”
Ross, a senior linebacker, and Thurmond are two of seven Golden Lions who have been placed on the All-SWAC first team. The others include quarterback Ben Anderson, junior tight end Dezmond Beverly, senior offensive lineman Christopher Wilson, junior defensive back Ryan Shaw and sophomore kicker Tyler Strickland.
Ross, who transferred last year from New Mexico Military Institute, has recorded more than 100 tackles in each of his two seasons with the Golden Lions. He has 117 tackles this season, including two sacks, and he’s returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns.
The six second-team members from UAPB are: junior running back Justin Billings, junior wide receiver Ladarius Eckwood, senior offensive lineman Terron Armstead, junior offensive lineman Kenny Eagle, senior defensive lineman Robert Dorsey and junior linebacker Jer-ryan Harris.
The number of All-SWAC players for UAPB is a big improvement from last year, when it had only one first-teamer and three second-teamers. Anderson was named Newcomer of the Year then.
“When you win, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” Coleman said. “To be 9-2, we had to have some players do well. Every one that got it deserved it.”
Jackson State senior wide receiver Rico Richardson was named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year. He is the only player in the conference with more than 1,000 yards receiving (1,081) and has 10 touchdowns this year.
Alabama State sophomore Isaiah Crowell is the SWAC Newcomer of the Year, and Prairie View A&M kick return specialist Johnta Hebert is the Freshman of the Year.
The All-SWAC teams are selected by the head football coaches and sports information directors of the conference. The SWAC Coach of the Year will be determined by the winner of Saturday’s SWAC championship game between Coleman’s Lions and Rick Comegy’s Jackson State Tigers in Birmingham, Ala. Kickoff is set for noon and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Any interest in A-State opening?
The new coaching vacancy at Arkansas State means a new opportunity for a coach.
Could that coach be Coleman?
The head Lion, who’s finishing the fifth and final year of his contract with UAPB and has publicly said he would like an extension, was asked about possibly considering the vacancy at A-State. His son, Kyle, is a sophomore safety for the Sun Belt Conference champion Red Wolves.
“No comment at this time,” Coleman said, letting out a laugh as soon as he heard the question.
UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy said he and Coleman have had discussions about an extension, but they’re “not at a point where he can divulge any information” regarding the contract. Hardy said he plans to talk more with Coleman about an extension after the SWAC championship game and hopes to have a deal made before UAPB employees go on their holiday break later this month.
ALL-SWAC FIRST TEAM
QB, Ben Anderson, sophomore, UAPB
RB, Kaderius Lacey, senior, Alabama A&M
RB, Isaiah Crowell, sophomore, Alabama State
WR, Rico Richardson, senior, Jackson State
WR, Lee Doss, junior, Southern
TE, Dezmond Beverly, junior, UAPB
OL, Terren Jones, senior, Alabama State
OL, Zion Pyatt, senior, Jackson State
OL, Stephen Capler, senior, Jackson State
OL, Christopher Wilson, senior, UAPB
OL, Jamal Johnson-Webb, senior, Alabama A&M
DL, Joseph LeBeau, senior, Jackson State
DL, Brandon Thurmond, senior, UAPB
DL, Robert Simpson, junior, MVSU
DL, Jimmy Daniels, senior, Alabama State
LB, Brandon Roberts, senior, Alabama State
LB, Keven Woods, senior, MVSU
LB, Bill Ross, senior, UAPB
DB, Kejuan Riley, senior, Alabama State
DB, Qua Cox, junior, Jackson State
DB, Vernon Marshall, senior, Alabama A&M
DB, Ryan Shaw, junior, UAPB
PK, Tyler Strickland, sophomore, UAPB
P, Bobby Wenzig, junior, Alabama State
KR, Spencer Nelson, senior, Prairie View A&M
ALL-SWAC SECOND TEAM
QB, Dray Joseph, junior, Southern
RB, Justin Billings, junior, UAPB
RB, Brandon Stansell, senior, MVSU
WR, T.C. McWilliams, senior, Alabama State
WR, Ladarius Eckwood, junior, UAPB
TE, Bobby Goldsby, senior, Alabama A&M
OL, Chris Brown, senior, Southern
OL, Terron Armstead, senior, UAPB
OL, Tre Glover, sophomore, Prairie View A&M
OL, Kenny Eagle, junior, UAPB
OL, Jonathan Smith, sophomore, Jackson State
DL, Johnathan Billups, senior, Jackson State
DL, Robert Dorsey, senior, UAPB
DL, Javaris Fritz, senior, MVSU
DL, Preston Nelson, senior, Alabama A&M
LB, Anthony Balancier, junior, Southern
LB, Jerome Howard, sophomore, Prairie View A&M
LB, Jer-ryan Harris, junior, UAPB
DB, Vigil Williams, junior, Southern
DB, Marquez Floyd, senior, MVSU
DB, Brian Medlock, senior, Prairie View
DB, Carlos Hollis, senior, MVSU
PK, Chris Barrick, sophomore, Prairie View
P, Robert Hersh, senior, Texas Southern
KR, Johnta Hebert, freshman, Prairie View A&M