Rabalais: Celebration Bowl, improving APR scores give SWAC football a fresh start _lowres

Photo by Edison Hogan -- The Southern contingent answers questions at 2015 SWAC Media Day on Friday in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southern was not picked to win a third consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division title, even though the Jaguars placed four players on both of the preseason all-conference teams.

The coaches and sports information directors of the 10 SWAC schools selected four Southern players each to the first and second teams, though they picked Grambling to win the West. The Tigers, who had no first-team all-conference selections, had 93 points. Southern had 91.

“That says that we really have a balanced team,” said Grambling quarterback Johnathan Williams, who was joined on the second team by three teammates. “It’s not just one player or a couple of players. Everybody is putting in equally.”

JSU, Prairie View building up

Prairie View nickelback Damond Jackson looks forward to going out to practice this season and seeing the Panthers’ new stadium going up.

“Seeing bricks going up in the air, I know it’s getting closer and closer to being built,” he said.

A New Orleans native from Landry-Walker High School, the 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore was a first-team preseason All-SWAC pick Friday.

Jackson likened his play to that of former LSU nickelback and current Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who hails from his same neighborhood in New Orleans.

“It gives me more chances to make plays,” Jackson said of his hybrid position. “Unfortunately I have to take on 360-pound offensive linemen every play, but that’s part of the game.”

Baseball in New Orleans

Barring something unforeseen, the SWAC baseball tournament will return to New Orleans for a third consecutive year next May.

The MLB Urban Youth Academy has been the site of the last two tourneys, stepping in two years ago when the planned site in Fort Worth, Texas, was deemed unplayable.

SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said Friday the tourney will be in New Orleans “until someone says we want to go back on campus, but we haven’t heard that from coaches.”

Sharp added: “We talked to the coaches and they love New Orleans. The field drains so well, it can rain all day and rarely do we get too far behind schedule.

“They wanted a neutral site. We went to Fort Worth and that didn’t work out, then we went to New Orleans and I think that has worked well for everybody.”

Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.