Alabama A&M is hoping Deaunte Mason, Kaderius Lacey and an offense with every starter back can lead the Bulldogs back into the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.
The Bulldogs, who have been known more for defense in recent years, have perhaps the league's top backfield returning. Mason is the preseason All-SWAC quarterback and Lacey earned the honors at running back.
Mason threw for 1,996 yards and rushed for 512 last season, finishing third in the SWAC in total offense.
"He's the veteran quarterback that's been through all the battles," Bulldogs coach Anthony Jones said. "Now, he has to live up to that expectation to be the best in the conference."
Lacey finished with a school-record 1,143 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Alabama A&M lost to Grambling State in last season's SWAC championship game, but is now picked to finish third in the East Division.
All-SWAC offensive lineman Jamal Johnson-Webb leads the line and wide receivers G'Alonzo Milton (eight touchdown catches) and Montarius Smith (49 catches, 669 yards) return as two of Mason's top targets.
The Bulldogs, though, must replace three All-SWAC defenders in lineman Corey Hart, linebacker Willie Fuller and defensive back Rico Porch. Lineman Tim Tillman returns after forcing four fumbles and Denzel Cotton leads the linebackers.
Leading tackler Vernon Marshall is back in the secondary and is projected as a first-team All-SWAC performer.
"It's always been about defense at Alabama A&M, so hopefully we can continue the legacy," Marshall said. "We've had great players in the past with Robert Mathis, Johnny Baldwin, Corey Hart. Hopefully we can continue that. I look at it as a big opportunity for me, being a leader of our defense, to really light a fire under us and hopefully hold the offense up.
"We know they have 11 returning players so they're definitely going to put up some points. All we've got to do is stop some people."
All-SWAC placekicker Chance Wilson is back.