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2020 Shrine Bowl Day 1 Takeaways

The 2020 East West Shrine Bowl got underway on Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field, in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. Sitting in the stands, and standing on the field, were scouts and personnel executives from all 32 NFL teams, as well as both CFL and XFL scouts. In what was a long first day, as it usually is, over 100 pro prospects put on a show in front of both media and scouts alike.

East Team

RB Adrian Killins Jr. – 5’7 164, Central Florida: The speed and quickness in what he displayed in the passing game, really stood out at practice.
QB Kevin Davidson – 6’4 225, Princeton: I thought he threw the ball extremely well throughout the day. Davidson also showed a lively arm, as he was able to drive the football wherever he wanted to on the field.
WR Aaron Parker – 6’1 205, Rhode Island: Impressive speed, acceleration and body control. I thought Parker was able to smoothly get in-and-out of his breaks, creating separation from the defensive back with ease. He also showcased those great hands that made him such a star at Rhode Island.
WR Malcolm Perry – 5’9 190, Navy: Perry, the former option QB, looked as natural as a receiver could look on Monday. This was impressive to see as he spent the majority of his career at QB and slot back for the Midshipmen. Perry just has a different level of explosiveness at the position.
OL Cameron Clark – 6’4 300, Charlotte: I like Clark’s ability to control a DL once engaged. His POA strength was extremely impressive.
OL Steven Gonzalez – 6’4 346, Penn State: Gonzalez had a strong showing in 1-on-1s. I thought his footwork was where it needed to be.
OL Jon Runyan – 6’4 319, Michigan: Speaking of performing well during 1-on-1s, it seemed as if it was Runyan’s drill as he won the majority of his reps in a convincing fashion.
OC Darryl Williams – 6’2 306, Mississippi State: Williams, to me, was the most impressive of the interior lineman on Monday. He dominated 1-on-1s, and was strong during both the Inside Run and Team-vs-Team periods of practice.
DT Mctelvin Agim – 6’3 300, Arkansas: I thought at times he looked unblockable. Agim has a great first step and explodes off the ball into the OL’s chest.
DE Alex Highsmith – 6’3 244, Charlotte: Explosive off the edge, showing very good body lean to dip under OTs. He started off 1-on-1s with a great example of those traits.
DE Austin Edwards – 6’3 280, Ferris State: The D2 product had a solid first day, showing a good blend of speed and finesse coming off the edge.
CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver III – 6’1 185, FIU: For a taller corner, Thomas-Oliver definitely has great body control and was in the hip pocket of receivers all day long.
CB Nevelle Clarke – 6’1 185, Central Florida: Another one of these taller corners who performed really well was Clarke. There’s no wasted movements when he gets out of his break to drive on the ball. He had an excellent day.
S Rodney Clemons – 6’0 205, SMU: Clemons show good ability in coverage vs TEs on Day 1. Didn’t panic, stayed patient and made some plays.

East Team Practice Highlights

WR/DB 1-on-1s

OL/DL 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team

West Team

QB Tyler Huntley – 6’1 205, Utah: I thought Huntley looked sharp in Pass Skel and Team-vs-Team, putting all of his skills on display as a guy who can play on-schedule, who can improvise in the pocket, and one who can use his legs to pick up yards.
WR Binjimen Victor – 6’4 199, Ohio State: Victor had the best day of the WRs on the West Team. He’s a very fluid route runner that shows a lot of nuance in that regard. He also caught the football extremely well.
RB James Robinson – 5’9 219, Illinois State: Robinson’s game reminded me of Aaron Jones in how fluid he is running the ball. He also has very good acceleration to hit his top speed pretty quickly.
RB LeVante Bellamy – 5’8 171, Western Michigan: His speed is just different. Period. Bellamy was a tough cover in 1-on-1s, but also looked explosive during Inside Run periods.
WR Juwan Johnson – 6’4 231, Oregon: Johnson definitely passes the “off the bus” look, as his physical stature is impressive. He had a really good day catching the football.
TE Ben Ellefson – 6’4 245, North Dakota State: Every time you looked up, #81 was making a grab against a defender. Ellefson showed comfort in catching the ball away from his body, over his shoulder and while being draped by a defender.
OG Kevin Dotson – 6’4 324, Louisiana: Dotson has tremendous technique, and because of that, in conjunction with his power and explosiveness, he clears lanes in the run game. During 9-on-7 and Team-vs-Team, this was very evident. Also, in 1-on-1s, he showed great ability in mirroring DL, not giving up any pressures.
OG Calvin Throckmorton – 6’4 316, Oregon: Again, another lineman with great functional usage at the POA. No wasted movements, no wasted reps, Throckmorton looked really good in 1-on-1s and in the Team periods.
DL John Penisini – 6’1 324, Utah: I like the quickness and explosiveness off the ball shown on Monday by Penisini. He also is a great hand fighter as well, using them to quickly disengage from an OL. He had a disruptive day.
DL Bryce Sterk – 6’3 257, Montana State: I like the athleticism he showed coming off the corner. Sterk showed that he is more of a fluid athlete than given credit for.
CB Luq Barcoo – 6’0 175, San Diego State: Barcoo had himself a strong day in coverage, in all aspects of practice: 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and Team Periods.
CB Keith Washington II – 6’0 177, West Virginia: I thought he was the best man-to-man cover guy on Day 1. Had a couple of interceptions and was plastered across receivers throughout the day.

West Team Practice Highlights

WR/DB and RB/LB/TE 1-on-1s

OL/DL 1-on-1s

Inside Run

Team-vs-Team

CGS All Star Day 3: Wranglers Practice Takeaways

Wranglers Group Begin their Quest to Impress Scouts

7-on-7 Pass Skell

I wasn’t able to snag video of the Pass Skell period, but I most definitely paid close attention to a good portion of it.

QB Roland Rivers III (6’2 242), Slippery Rock: Rivers gets very good velocity on his passes and had success throwing over the middle of the field and made a few excellent “bucket throws” as well.

QB Jalen Morton (6’3 237), Prairie View A&M: Morton excels on anything in-breaking: Slants, Bang 8s, Dig routes, pinpoint accurate with outstanding velocity. He had a beautiful deep ball attempt that the wideout just couldn’t haul in.

WR Hunter Register (6’3 203) Southern: Register had a couple of nice catches deep down the field. His acceleration to create separation was something that stood out today.

TE Nakia Griffin-Stewart (6’5 260) Pitt: He’s not listed on the roster, but it was hard to ignore “the Pitt TE” who made a ton of catches, both during this period and during TE/LB 1-on-1s that kept everyone checking their roster to find out who he was. NGS had a great day.

WR Dontavion “Lucky” Jackson (6’0 193) Western Kentucky: Lucky was consistent throughout the entire day, but in 7-on-7, you saw him consistently find ways to get open and have success.

WR Micah Simon (5’11 195), BYU: He plays bigger than his listed size, and showed no fear sacrificing his body for the catch. I thought he displayed strong hands at the catch point as well.

WR Kristian Wilkerson (6’1 200), SE Missouri State: Wilkerson stunned defensive backs with the strength that he has. I thought a lot of defenders didn’t expect him to be THAT strong of a receiver. Well, they learned today.

S Ayron Monroe (6’0 204), Temple: It wasn’t all offense during 7-on-7, Temple’s Ayron Monroe had himself a really good period in coverage.

CB Greg Liggs (5’10 198), Elon: So did Greg Liggs of Elon. He’s got really good matchup skills and spatial awareness. Impressive day for him as well.

Offensive Line vs Defensive Line Period

It was a good day overall for the offensive line during this period, as their defensive counterparts had to work hard to find success.

OL Lachavious Simmons (6’4 305), Tennessee State: He competed today as if the opposing defender did him something personally. Just loved the way he competed during this drill, and you can tell that momentum carried itself throughout the day.

OL Scott Frantz (6’5 309), Kansas State: You can tell that he was well coached at K-State. Frantz remained technically sound throughout the period, making it very difficult for a defender to get around him. He had a counter for every counter it seemed like.

EDGE Reuben Jones (6’2 248), West Virginia: If there was one defender who gave the offensive line fits, it was the former Mountaineer. Jones just has a different ‘get off’ than most, and it showed up a ton during 1-on-1s.

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1 Highlights

Wide Receivers vs Defensive Backs 1-on-1s

WR Sean Riley Jr. (5’8 180), Syracuse: It’s hard to catch Riley once he gets past you. The diminutive wideout displayed excellent quickness off the LOS, great acceleration into his route, and made a few spectacular grabs.

CB Prince Robinson (5’9 187) Tarleton State: Fluid hips and mirroring skills shown by Robinson. I thought he won most of his reps today. Very impressive skill set he has.

CB Charles Oliver (6’1 196) Texas A&M: Rarely do you see a CB thrive in 1-on-1s, as it’s a drill that heavily favors the offensive side of the ball. But, Oliver is a different animal with regards to that theory, as his press man skills made it very difficult for receivers to win reps against him.

TE Jared Rice (6’4 232) Fresno State: I liked his route running and his ability to track the football is what stood out to me the most. He was strong on deeper, outbreaking routes.

LB Brandon Wellington (5’11 230), Washington: This was Wellington’s day in my opinion. He had an interception during 1-on-1s, and in 9-on-7 drills, he made plays consistently. He impressed a lot of scouts that were sitting nearby.

9-on-7 Inside Run Period

I thought the Wranglers defense won the day during 9-on-7, with stellar play from a few linebackers

We already spoke about Brandon Wellington of Washington, who was a constant nuisance. The other problem defender for the offense was Indiana State’s LB Jonas Griffith (6’3 247). Griffith had numerous big hits in this period that drew a lot of rave from scouts.

LB Jeff Gemmell (6’2 236), Charlotte: Gemmell was another backer who made the most of his reps during the day. He’s got good form when he meets the ball carrier in the hole.

DL Maurice Jackson (6’1 275), Richmond: Jackson’s quickness made him tough to block, and also allowed him to consistently be in the backfield throughout the period.

OLB Mekhi Brown (6’4 234) Tennessee State: He’s a heavy handed edge player that has great length. He showed the ability to be a factor in chasing down the run from the backside.

9-on-7 Inside Run Highlights

CGS All Star Day 3: Desperados Practice Takeaways

Day 3: Desperados Group Gets Underway

On Day 3 of the 2020 College Gridiron Showcase, the Desperados group began their week of work in front of a bevy of NFL/CFL scouts on hand at McNair Stadium. Here is a look at some of the takeaways from Monday’s workouts.

Short/Long Pass Skell Period

While I don’t have the video of this portion of practice, there were a few players that I observed who had a handful of standout plays that caught my attention.

QB Jacob Park (6’3 232), Missouri Southern St.: Park has a legit cannon and the right amount of fearlessness in his game. He throws with confidence and decisiveness, which helped him complete some impressive throws today.

LB Chase Johnston (6’4 240), Pittsburg State: His length and athleticism shows up in the passing game often. Made a great diving PBU during this period.

CB Jordan Semanat 6’2 195, Texas A&M Kingsville: He’s showing good ability in both man and zone coverage. He’s got the length at the position, and definitely knows how to use it.

OL/DL 1-on-1s

Warhawks Workin’

All three UL-Monroe offensive linemen, Bobby Reynolds (6’2 285), Trace Ellison (6’5 300) and Brandon Jones (6’3 320) had strong performances during this period. Reynolds and Jones both anchored well and didn’t allow the DL to get even close to the QB.

OG Jalen Allen – 6’3 290, Charlotte: I came away impressed with how consistent his hands were during the drill. His punch packs a lot of power.

#74 Balled Out

There were two players wearing #74 along the offensive line, and both had a really good showing in 1-on-1s. Lindenwood’s Jaylen Flye (6’6 329) and Cam Carter (6’5 315), Murray State did great work. Flye, participated in the Marshals group and earned a call-up to the Desperados.

Speaking of another call-up from the Marshals group who did well, University of Delaware OL Kevin Ezeuzoh (6’3 290), had himself a stellar period as well.

Gophers Rowing the Boat in Fort Worth

I was impressed with the efforts and energy of both University of Minnesota defensive linemen Tai’yon Devers (6’4 245) and Winston DeLattiboudere (6’3 260). Both guys won their fair share of battles and definitely made their reps count.

SMU DT Christopher Biggurs (6’2 295) consistently was able to explode off the ball and walk the OL back into the QB.

LB Dominique Ross (6’4 228) North Carolina: He explodes off the ball and has the lean and length to make blocking him off the edge difficult.

EDGE Tomas Wright (6’1 238) Bryant: Wright is probably one of the more versatile defenders here, and had a solid day in both 1-on-1s and 9-on-7.

OL/DL 1-on-1 Highlights

WRs-vs-DB 1-on-1s

I thought the day was one by the defense during Monday’s 1-on-1 period between the WRs and DBs.

Abilene Christian’s Adonis Davis (5’10 180), set the tone for the entire group today. His mirror-and-match skills were impressive, and rarely found himself out of position.

You can see the savvy in the game of Isiah Swann (5’11 190) from Dartmouth. He is a very patient player who clicks-and-closes really well to the receiver, making a play on the ball.

Florida Tech’s Tyrone Cromwell (5’10 190) is having himself a tremendous all-star circuit. He stood out at the FCS Bowl in December, and started off the CGS All-Star event with a strong showing in 1-on-1s.

Safety Coray Williams (6’1 215) from Wesley College looks like he can be trusted to cover 1-on-1. I thought he looked natural in that regard, which is impressive for a player his size.

Duquesne’s CB Reid Harrison-Ducros (5’10 187) is arguably the most explosive CB in attendance in my opinion. He’s such a fluid athlete, and that fluidity is able to keep him on the plus side of plays vs the WR.

From the WR side of things, Minnesota State’s Shane Zylstra (6’4 220) and Youngstown State’s Jermiah Braswell (6’0 210), proved to be a tough cover throughout the period.

Another double number duo in Nathan Stewart (5’11 183) of Sam Houston State & Indiana (PA) wideout Joseph Gause (6’1 220), both wearing #14, finished with an impressive showing as well.

I thought Lamar FB Case Robinson (6’1 250) and Southern Miss LB Darius Kennedy (6’2 232), were the standouts in the RB/TE vs LB 1-on-1s. Robinson, was another call-up from the Marshals group.

WR/DB 1-on-1 Highlights

9-on-7 Inside Run Game

This is my favorite period of any practice, because it’s just straight downhill, mano-y-mano, power football! Inside Run period is where your point-of-attack players can standout.

Here are some of the players who made the most of this portion of practice:

RB Dawonya Tucker (5’6 170), Prairie View A&M: Tucker wasn’t afraid to run downhill, and ran with good power and burst. Quietly, he also showed to be one of the better pass protectors out of the group during the RB/LB blitz pickup portion of the day.

Fullbacks Case Robinson & Mikey Daniel 6’0 235 (South Dakota State): Robinson & Daniel are just sensational Iso blockers. I like how Daniel also caught the ball well in 1-on-1s.

EDGE Chris Livings (6’2 235), McNeese State: It’s hard for OL to contain Livings quickness and burst off the edge. You can say he made a “Livings” in the opposing backfield.

RB Carlos Blackman (6’0 220), Central Arkansas: Big back who runs with great pad level and a purpose.

RB Ty Flanagan (5’10 205) Idaho State: Flanagan was another back who ran well, but who also did a tremendous job in blitz pickup.

OL Dylan Giffen (6’8 350) Western University: It’s hard to miss the 6’8 Canadian OL, and he did a great job playing with good pad level, getting consistent movement up front.

OL James Officer IV (6’3 320) Olivet Nazarene: Hands and feet were constantly working in unison.

DT Ricky McCoy (6’2 305) Fresno State: There was one play where he just exploded into the backfield, and subsequently into the RB.

LB Cooper Edmiston (6’3 237) Tulsa: I thought he did a really good job getting through the trash and finding the ball carrier.

DL Marcus Willoughby (6’2 248), Elon: Didn’t allow himself to get walled off or kicked out, made a few plays during this period.

9-on-7 Inside Run Highlights

FBGP’s 2020 College Gridiron Showcase Coverage: Marshals Group

The 2020 edition of the College Gridiron Showcase got underway on Saturday, kicking off the 2020 NFL Draft scouting all-star game circuit. What makes CGS a unique event, is that it is broken up into 3 different groups: Wranglers, Desperados and Marshals. The latter is mainly your small college group, who are given a chance to play into the aforementioned two groups. So, on Saturday and Sunday over 100 prospects competed in a practice on Day 1, and a scrimmage on Day 2.

We took a look at what to expect here this week in Fort Worth with our 2020 CGS Preview

Here are some of the highlights and takeaways from the 1st two days worth of practices

Marshals Group Standouts

DE Marques Ford – 6’2 248, Bethune Cookman: Ford was excellent throughout both days here, as he was disruptive in both 9-on-7 drills and in the scrimmage. He is one of the 14 players who earned a call-up to the Wranglers/Desperados group.

OT Jake Marotti – 6’6 290, Lafayette: During the OL/DL 1-on-1 period, I thought Marotti had a solid performance. I liked how his technique was able to stay consistent each time.

OT Jaylen Flye – 6’6 329, Lindenwood: Flye had himself a day in OL/DL 1-on-1. Tremendous punch, even was able to put a guy on the ground during one rep.

OL Zach Sammartino – 6’3 319, Dartmouth: Sammartino looks to be more of a guard than a tackle, even working on some snaps at Center to further add to his repertoire.

QB Jacob Park – 6’3 232, Missouri Southern State: The football just fires off of the hand of Park, who had the strongest arm out of the QB group. He was able to put the ball in very tight windows at all levels of the field. 7-on-7 is where he was able to shine.

QB David Tammaro – 6’1 210, Johns Hopkins: I thought Tammaro was able to quickly develop the timing with the receivers, which is very tough to do at an all star game. His placement on his passes were also consistent, giving his receivers a great chance to make a catch.

Other Players who Stood Out with their Play

RB Domenic Cozier – 5’8 181, Holy Cross
RB Jaquan Hemphill – 5’9 179, Hardin-Simmons
QB Donovan Isom – 6’3 250, Texas Wesleyan
QB Connor Kaegi – 6’7 221, Ottawa University
FB Case Robinson – 6’1 251, Lamar
TE Shawn Clark – 6’7 230, Monmouth
WR Joseph Gause – 6’2 220, IUP
WR Richard McCauley – 5’10 190, Kansas Wesleyan
WR Daylon Person – 5’10 176, Langston
WR Kentrez Bell – 6’2 173, NW Oklahoma State
CB Arthur Sherman – 5’10 178, Friends
LB Chris Hoad – 5’11 229, UT-Permian Basin
LB Nickolas Pridgeon – 6’3 234, Winona State
LB/S Jamal Ware – 5’11 199, Maryville College
DL Nick Wheeler – 6’2 255, Colgate
DL Tomas Wright – 6’1 238, Bryant
S Jarey Elder – 5’9 193, West Chester
S Artevius Smith – 5’9 179, East Tennessee State

Day 1 Practice Highlights: OL/DL 1-on-1

Day 1 Practice Highlights: WR/DB 1-on-1

Day 1 Practice Highlights: TE/RB vs LB 1-on-1

Day 2 Marshals Scrimmage

Florida A&M Watching the Celebration Bowl Closely

Rattlers Looking to Strengthen Claim of 2019 HBCU National Champions
Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

For the past four seasons, the HBCU National Champion has been decided at the Celebration Bowl, where the best from the SWAC, matches up against the MEAC’s finest. However, when Alcorn State kicks off versus North Carolina A&T this Saturday at Noon EST on ABC, they may be doing so dealing with the reality that the best HBCU team is not present.

Over the past two seasons, Florida A&M’s 12 conference wins is on par with both A&T and Alcorn. This year, they have widely been recognized as the best D1 HBCU team in the country, but they still are not in Atlanta. That is because they self-imposed a ban for infractions that occurred at the university before most of the athletes on the team was even there. As a result, their 7-1 conference record this season does not yield a recognized championship. Instead they have to watch that title go to the Aggies between the Aggies. The Rattlers also have to watch their Celebration Bowl birth be claimed by a team they defeated 34-31 in overtime.

But do they have a legitimate argument to be named HBCU National Champs? Let’s take a look.

FAMU lost to a better team than both Alcorn or A&T. Bethune-Cookman was one of the better teams in their conference this season, though the same can not be said about Grambling and Morgan State. Grambling had a down year by their standards and Morgan State only won three games all season. While A&T has the highest scoring average of the three (35.7) Alcorn and FAMU are right behind them (32.8, 32.7 respectively).

If the Braves are finally able to defeat the Aggies, then there will be a collective cheer for Alcorn State finally overcoming, and winning their first HBCU National Championship since this new format was implemented. However, if they fall again to A&T, there will be a conversation, especially from Tallahassee, that FAMU is in fact the best HBCU in all of the land because they hold the only head-to-head victory of the three schools.

So while you are watching the 5th installment of the Celebration Bowl, keep in mind that the results may have implications beyond the two teams on the field.

And if you’re Bowie State…then, well, that’s an entirely different conversation all together!

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons
Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

SWAC and MEAC Teams Gearing Up for Celebration Bowl Run

Celebration Bowl May Soon Enjoy Parity
Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

As the North Carolina A&T Aggies prepare to participate in their fourth Celebration Bowl, and Alcorn State Braves get ready for their third, the rumblings around the HBCU landscape is that there is no parody with regards to the HBCU football elite, at least at the FCS level. However, this assessment would be wrong and is strictly based off looking at the current participants, and not into the individual conferences.

There are other teams coming and the question could quickly become, “Is this enough?”

Yes, while A&T has represented the MEAC in four of the five Celebration Bowls, it could have easily been a different team.

In 2015, the conference title was split between the Aggies, Bethune-Cookman, and North Carolina Central. A&T won the tiebreaker that allowed them to represent the MEAC. After a one-year hiatus, thanks to NC Central, the Aggies were back, bringing an undefeated record with them heading into the bowl game. In 2018, it took a win over NC Central, and a Florida A&M loss to Bethune-Cookman in the annual Florida Classic, to get A&T back to Atlanta for a second consecutive year.

This season, the only reason the Aggies are representing the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl, is because FAMU, who has the best record of any D1 HBCU, is on a self-imposed, one-year postseason ban. So, as a result, A&T won the conference title because of their 22-20 victory over South Carolina State. And to the larger point, had the Bulldogs been able to pull of that victory, they would’ve have represented the MEAC in Atlanta this weekend!

Although this is the third appearance for Alcorn State, the road to Atlanta has never been easy for the Braves. Fellow SWAC frontrunner Grambling, has been the conference representative twice. Last season, the Braves barely squeezed by a Southern team that was hungry to make their first Celebration Bowl appearance.

What has been impressive for both the Braves and Aggies during this era of the Celebration Bowl, is that they’ve done it with two separate Head Coaches. Jay Hopson led Alcorn State to the inaugural game back in 2015, and after he left for the Southern Miss job, Alcorn alum Fred McNair took over, bringing his squad to two bowl games. While in Greensboro, legendary head coach Rod Broadway took the Aggies to the inaugural game, and led them to the 2017 game as well; which was his last as a collegiate coach, retiring afterwards. Current Aggies head coach Sam Washington took over an experienced squad in 2018, leading them to the Celebration Bowl, defeating Alcorn and is hoping to repeat the same feat on Saturday.

Contrary to popular belief, the MEAC and SWAC have always been highly competitive conferences. And while there has been a little luck involved with A&T and Alcorn’s consistent presence in the Celebration Bowl, others challengers are coming.

The MEAC is a grinder. There are legitimately 4-5 teams that can win the conference every season. FAMU has no intentions of going backwards with Head Coach Willie Simmons leading the way. South Carolina State, with legendary Head Coach Buddy Pough, was just knocking on the door this season. And Head Coach Terry Sims at Bethune-Cookman is always hovering, proving to be a constant nuisance to both A&T and Florida A&M. North Carolina Central knows what it takes to get there, having played in the game 3 years ago and 2nd year Head Coach Trei Oliver had an impressive 1st season at his alma mater. Norfolk State Head Coach Latrell Scott has quietly developed a solid program, and his Spartans took both FAMU & South Carolina State to the brink this season. Also, don’t sleep on the Morgan State Bears, who are a sleeping giant in the conference, with Tyrone Wheatley at the helm, building a bully in Baltimore; And Delaware State is in good hands under Head Coach Rod Milstead, who has done fantastic work on the recruiting front for the Hornets.

The SWAC has definitely been wide open and now with Southern, under Head Coach Dawson Odums, and Prairie View A&M, with Head Coach Eric Dooley, joining Broderick Fobbs and Grambling as legitimate contenders in the West Division, as well as Alabama A&M, who has the Top QB in the SWAC, Aqeel Glass, who is also an NFL Prospect, returning next season. Quietly, Jackson State, along with Alabama State, continues to get better in the East Division and played with a lot of youthful talent in 2019, will make getting to Atlanta in 2020 a daunting task for Alcorn St.

There is no doubt that the Celebration Bowl has resulted in improved competition in both conferences. The additional national exposure gives FCS HBCU teams ammunition to use in the recruiting wars. That has allowed these teams to be more visible to recruits, and is going to continue to raise the profile and talent level of these teams.

So if you are tired of seeing North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State in this bowl game, then you might want to simply enjoy it this year, because there’s a good chance you won’t see these two again in 2020.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

The Celebration Bowl is a Success

HBCU Post Season Soiree is a Hit
Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

When the SWAC and MEAC agreed to create the Celebration Bowl, which would essentially serve as an HBCU National Championship Game, you could understand why the decision was so divisive. There were logical points on both sides of the topic. 

For those who did not support the move, they pointed to the limitations of just one bowl game. It’s only an award for two teams, despite the fact that multiple teams might be worthy of some type of post-season play. Others wondered why HBCUs would eliminate the opportunity to play in the FCS playoffs. It is already difficult enough to garner the same level of respect as Predominantly White Institutions on the field, this bowl game essentially eliminates the chance to play PWIs in the FCS and prove their equality.

People who supported the move, pointed to the irrelevance of HBCU football programs.

In years prior to the Celebration Bowl, the SWAC or MEAC, would never advance in the FCS playoffs. It was almost as if they were consider an ‘automatic victory’ for their 1st round opponent. The last HBCU to advance past the first round of the playoffs, was Tennessee State back in 2013. But, Tennessee State is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, which isn’t an HBCU conference. The thought process behind creating the Celebration Bowl, was to create an event that could celebrate everything people love about HBCU football, which would yield better postseason notariety nationally. After all, it is the only championship game on that day. Plus there are the financial ramifications of playing the game which is a much needed influx of money into both conferences.

Over the past five years, despite some of the same teams representing (North Carolina A&T ’15, ’17, ’18, ’19 and Alcorn State ’15, ’18, ’19), the Celebration Bowl has been a huge success. The attendance in the inaugural game was over 35,000 fans. In 2016, the attendance was 31,000, proving that year one was not just an anomaly. The following year, in 2017, saw the attendance dip to 25,873. But in 2018, that number was back over 31,000. These numbers dwarf the average SWAC or MEAC home game attendance combined! The 1.6 rating the game received last season, according to www.sportsmediawatch.com, drew over 50% more viewers than the FCS National Championship Game.

So as for now, the initial idea of, and the actual game, is a success. There are butts in the seats and eyes glued to televisions, and it’s not just to watch the bands perform. The question now becomes, will this be enough for HBCU programs? As they begin to grow stronger, what will be the next thing that’ll allow them to mature back toward the level of PWI programs on the field?

Will an HBCU team ever want to test themselves against the very best that the FCS has to offer?

That question remains unanswered.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com