Thurmond named SWAC Defensive Player of Year


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

Offense

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

Defense

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

Specialists

PK, Tyler Strickland, sophomore, UAPB

P, Bobby Wenzig, junior, Alabama State

KR, Spencer Nelson, senior, Prairie View A&M

ALL-SWAC SECOND TEAM

Offense

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

Defense

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

Specialists

PK, Chris Barrick, sophomore, Prairie View

P, Robert Hersh, senior, Texas Southern

KR, Johnta Hebert, freshman, Prairie View A&M