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Stan Becton | | August 23, 2022

7 storylines to watch in the 2022 HBCU football season

FCS football season preview: Players to watch, potential upsets and more

HBCU football returns in a matter of weeks as players, fans, students and alumni prepare to dive into a compelling season.

Here are seven preseason storylines to watch as the season approaches.

7 storylines to watch in the 2022 HBCU football season

1. How good will Jackson State freshman Travis Hunter be?

Jackson State freshman Travis Hunter enters 2022 as the highest ranked recruit — five stars — in FCS history, already earning preseason All-American honors. Hunter is expected to play wide receiver and cornerback this season after impressing during Jackson State's spring game, catching two touchdowns and an interception.

Hunter's already off to a great start in his collegiate career, and he hasn't played a regular season game yet. All eyes will be on the freshman in 2022.

2022 HBCU: Follow everything that happens in the 2022 HBCU football season

2. How will uncertainty at the quarterback position impact the season?

The majority of FCS HBCU football teams have a question about the quarterback position entering 2022. Only seven starters from last season are locked in their positions as returners in 2022. Here are the seven:

  • Shedeur Sanders | Jackson State
  • Andrew Body | Texas Southern
  • Corey Fields Jr. | South Carolina State
  • Davius Richard | North Carolina Central
  • Jared Lewis | Delaware State
  • Quinton Williams | Howard
  • Skyler Perry | Arkansas-Pine Bluff

That means 14 of the 21 teams don't have a returning starter or are having a quarterback competition. However, there is plenty of new quarterback talent waiting to emerge, whether it's new transfers or backups becoming starters.

Once the quarterback influx settles, this year's HBCU football landscape could be decided by how quickly new quarterbacks rise to the occasion.

ROAD TO ATLANTA: Check out the preseason 2022 HBCU power rankings

3. Will Southern live up to the hype?

After finishing 4-7 in 2021, Southern enters the new year as the favorite in the SWAC West. The Jaguars have a new head coach, Eric Dooley, who brings with him his coaching experience from leading last season's SWAC West-winning team at Prairie View A&M.

Dooley bolstered the Southern roster with impact transfers like All-SWAC defensive lineman Jason Dumas. Dumas will create a dynamic tandem with spring 2021 Buck Buchanan Award winner Jordan Lewis on the defensive line.

It's moves like that that have expectations high in Baton Rouge for 2022. In a competitive SWAC West, Southern will try to live up to the hype.

BIG NAMES: Top HBCU football players at every position entering 2022

4. Will North Carolina A&T bounce back?

In 2021, North Carolina A&T finished 5-6 in its inaugural season in the Big South. That marked the first losing season in Greensboro since 2011. However, the tables have turned for the Aggies in 2022 as they enter the year as the Big South preseason favorites.

If North Carolina A&T lives up to expectations, that means an HBCU will play in the FCS playoffs for the second consecutive year. To do so, the Aggies will have to navigate an offseason quarterback competition and a schedule that features reigning FCS national champion North Dakota State.

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5. How big is the Carolina-sized gap in the MEAC?

South Carolina State is the defending MEAC and Celebration Bowl champion. North Carolina Central finished as the MEAC's runner-up in 2021. Those two teams enter the 2022 season as the favorites to win the conference by a 12-point margin according to the MEAC's predicted order of finish.

Will any team close the gap with the Carolina schools?

Norfolk State and Delaware State enter the year as the next closest teams, but the Spartans ended 2021 on a three-game losing streak while it's been a decade since the last time the Hornets had a winning season.

There's also Howard and Morgan State. Those schools each only won one conference game last year.

While South Carolina State and North Carolina Central wait for the rest of the conference to catch up, the schools can look forward to their game Oct. 22 in Orangeburg.

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6. Will new coaches turn things around at their programs?

There are five new coaches in the FCS HBCU ranks in 2022. Take a look below:

New Head Coach School School's 2021 record
Eddie Robinson Jr. Alabama State 5-6
Hue Jackson Grambling State 4-7
Damon Wilson Morgan State 2-9
Bubba McDowell Prairie View A&M 7-5
Eric Dooley Southern 4-7

We've already mentioned the outlook for Southern and coach Eric Dooley, but what about the rest?

New Prairie View A&M head coach Bubba McDowell takes over a team that won the SWAC West division last year, but lost its final four games. Meanwhile, the other three new coaches all take over losing teams. 

If one of the new FCS HBCU head coaches can quickly turn things around, they may surprise in 2022.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

7. How will newcomers influence wins?

Travis Hunter is not the only newcomer expected to have an impact this season at an HBCU. There are several freshmen and transfers — both qualify as newcomers — that are expected to be major contributors in 2022.

Entering spring ball, HBCU programs accounted for five of the top 10 schools when it came to transfer portal acquisitions. With players that include the quarterbacks mentioned above and former all-conference players like Southern's Jason Dumas, newcomers could define the 2022 HBCU football season.

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