SWAC Notebook: Who should be more honored, Ben or Jerry?


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Prairie View A&M football coach Heishma Northern compared one favoring either his quarterback Jerry Lovelocke or Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Ben Anderson to picking a flavor of ice cream.

Apparently, Ben and Jerry have the right names for such comparison.

Anderson was named the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, it was announced at Friday’s SWAC Media Day, but that honor was voted on as a separate category from Preseason All-SWAC quarterback. Lovelocke was named a first-teamer in that category, with Anderson a second-teamer.

Lovelocke also is the 2013 second-team postseason All-SWAC quarterback, while Anderson did not make that list.

“I think (Lovelocke) can be the best quarterback in the conference, but if you look at it, Jerry is an outstanding football player,” Northern said. “(Mississippi) Valley, Jackson State and Alcorn State have guys who are returning at quarterback, so it’s good quarterbacks coming back who can throw the ball and run it. That may be why some people picked Ben over Jerry.

“Some people may have picked Alcorn’s quarterback over Jerry, so it just depends on what you like. Do you like chocolate, vanilla or caramel in there?”

Lovelocke had a higher pass completion rate (66.4 percent to 58.8 percent), more passing yards (2,838 to 2,787) and more touchdown passes (23 to 19) than Anderson last year, but Anderson — who played one fewer game than Lovelocke and took all but one UAPB snap — threw for more yards per game (253.4 to 236.5). Anderson also led the conference in total offense with 328.3 yards per game, while Lovelocke was fourth at 260.2.

Should Lovelocke not win SWAC offensive player of the year honors at the end of the season, Northern doesn’t think the senior will mind.

“He’s going to do what’s best for Prairie View,” Northern said. “Hopefully because the team does well, the individual accolades go up.”

In other Prairie View news, Northern said the university is expected to hold a ceremony honoring the start of construction for a new football complex at its last home football game of the season.

He said this will be the last season Prairie View plays home games in 6,000-seat Blackshear Stadium. The 54-year-old stadium has been plagued by an aging press box that has not been renovated to accommodate a large media pool and does not have a built-in concession stand.

Coaches’ offices are currently housed in temporary buildings near the stadium and will move into the new complex, which is expected to be completed in 2016. Northern did not say where the Panthers will play 2015 home games.

Mama called new Grambling coach home

Broderick Fobbs knew what he was inheriting when Grambling State hired him as head coach in December.

The 2013 Tigers were beset by a 1-10 record, two head coaching changes during the season and a boycott of the Jackson State game as players protested conditions of the football facilities and the firing of Doug Williams after two games. George Ragsdale was fired as the interim coach five games later and former UAPB assistant Dennis Winston was canned after finishing the season.

Fobbs, who will turn 40 on Aug. 2, said he didn’t focus on the Tigers’ recent history.

“All I focused on was that Mama called, and anytime Mama calls, you know you come home,” said Fobbs, who graduated from Carroll High in nearby Monroe, La., in 1992 and graduated from Grambling in 1997. “It’s just a great opportunity. You see a bunch of student athletes you want to help. You tell yourself you want to be effective when you become a coach. To be effective, you have to change lives, and we’re in the changing-life business and trying to get our student-athletes to be successful.”

Fobbs, who will turn 40 on Aug. 2, is one of four first-year coaches for a SWAC team in 2014. The others are Mississippi Valley State’s Rick Comegy, Jackson State’s Harold Jackson and Alabama A&M’s James Spady.

Jackson’s Jackson: No pressure

Harold Jackson isn’t worried about how long or short his first head coaching stint will be if he doesn’t lead alma mater Jackson State to a SWAC championship.

“When I played the game, I never had pressure,” the 68-year-old former NFL wide receiver said. “I never worried about nobody taking my job. I never worried about another receiver behind me. The only thing he had done was make me play better.

And that’s basically the same thing here. The only thing I can do is go out and have our guys go out and play mistake-free football.”

Jackson played for six NFL teams from 1968-83 and made five Pro Bowls. He has an extensive coaching resume which includes stops on the collegiate and professional levels, previously coaching the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League in 2012.

He replaced Rick Comegy, who was fired by Jackson State after two straight SWAC runner-up finishes despite a 55-35 record in eight seasons.

Psychology of a championship team

Southern is trying to defend the SWAC championship, but don’t tell coach Dawson Odums that.

“(We’re) getting our players to overcome the mindset of hearing the word ‘defend’,” said Odums, who took over the Jaguars in the middle of the 2012 season. “I think when you defend something, you get to keep it. If we’re defending the 2013 championship, that means at the end, somebody else is going to take it.

“That’s not the case. Each year, you get a new trophy. We try to get the mindset that, each year, we chase the same vision. We’re chasing that trophy in 2014. We’re not worried about 2013; it has nothing to do with 2014.”

Senior fullback Brian McCain and Odums credit Southern’s team psychologist with assisting the Jaguars maintain the right mindset.

“When you look at a team, we have over 100 guys with different personalities,” McCain said. “We have to adapt to one another. Having a psychologist present helps us get an idea of what that person is, whether that person is artistic or a critical thinker or different things like that.”

For laughs

After a reporter commented on Odums’ SWAC championship ring, he joked: “It’s for sale. We’re going to get another ring to replace this one. I don’t know when …”

Odums was then joking offered $100 for the current ring.

“That’ll only get you to look at it,” he said.