Before the spring football season started, Alabama A&M senior quarterback Aqeel Glass was already one of the top players in college football. He was the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) preseason offensive player of the year, and he’s getting looks from NFL scouts after finishing the 2019 campaign as the league’s top passer.
Glass will get plenty of attention Saturday when Alabama A&M (2-0) travels to Jackson, Mississippi, to face Jackson State (3-2) and coach Deion Sanders for a 3 p.m. ET game that will be televised on ESPN. The game will be just the Bulldogs’ second this season because of COVID-19 postponements, cancellations and a forfeit.
In his first game on March 6, Glass guided Alabama A&M to a 31-7 victory over South Carolina State. He connected on 15 of 33 passes for 272 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
A year ago, he opened a lot of eyes throwing for 3,600 yards while completing 273 of 446 passes for 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. Glass, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, is excited about getting back on the field after not being able to play in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a preseason award,” Glass said. “So, it’s based on last year. I still got a lot of work to do. As far as the defense goes, I accept that challenge. I want them to give me different looks and challenge me. I liked to be challenged. I’m ready for it. Great competition always brings out the best performance.”
Glass has really picked up a lot of confidence over the years. A product of Lutheran High School North in St. Louis, he started nine games as a true freshman at Alabama A&M. His first year was a learning experience. He connected on 106 of 219 passes for 1,192 yards with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
But as a sophomore, he completed 194 of 346 passes for 2,421 yards, which included 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, emerging as the top passer in the SWAC. As a result, the Bulldogs had a winning season with a 6-5 overall record and a 5-3 league mark. Glass credits Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor and his coaching staff for his huge development and success.
“My main goal when I got here was to start,” Glass said. “I had a rough season freshman year, but the new coaching staff came in. Coach Maynor, it’s an honor to be coached by a great coach like that. Not only Coach Maynor, but Coach [Duane] Taylor [assistant head coach/offensive coordinator] and Coach [Jason] Mai [quarterbacks coach]. They all played quarterback at the highest level. They’ve all been there and done that. It’s great to be coached by them.
“I just try to soak up as much as I can. Every year I try to add something. This year I’ve been working on being precise and my footwork. I try to focus on the little things that I can get better at.”
Maynor has been very impressed with Glass’ work ethic. He believes that’s where Glass has made the biggest difference.
“He’s constantly working,” Maynor said. “You’re going to get out what you put in. Aqeel, when he first got here, he threw 10 interceptions that year and four touchdown passes. He’s done a 360-degree turn where he’s at now as far as touchdowns to interceptions. It’s going into year three in the system. He was a freshman his first year. He had time to grow, learn football, learn our system and what we’re trying to do.
“He really understands now that the game is really simple. When you prepare, it’s easy. When you’re not, you don’t really know the defensive coverage they’re in and where we want to go with the football. You see 11 people out there and it looks like 1,000 people, but when you understand the game, it slows down.
“You understand the defense and what we’re trying to do. It really slows down because now you’re only reading one person, possibly two, and the game just slows down and makes it so much easier. That’s kind of where he is right now.”
Offensively, Glass is really thrilled with the talent around him. The Bulldogs’ passing attack is led by wide receivers Zabrian Moore, Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, Brian Jenkins Jr. and Odieu Hilaire. Alabama A&M also has running back Gary Quarles, who can catch passes out of the backfield.
“I believe we’re six or seven deep at wide receiver,” Glass said. “We’re going to have to use each one of them. Maybe one game it’s Odieu Hilaire. Next game, maybe Brian Jenkins. Gary [Quarles] is doing a great job. Any time you’re coming in behind All-American and one of the best running backs in program history in Jordan Bentley. He had over 100 all-purpose yards [against South Carolina State].”
Glass has attracted some NFL interest with his play coming off a brilliant junior season. Josh Buchanan, a small-school draft evaluator for the NFL Draft Scout and Phil Steele Publications, saw Glass’ season opener against South Carolina State. The NFL draft will be held April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.
“He has the NFL size for sure and a strong arm. Productive guy but needs to cut down on puts [interceptions]. I saw him throw a few against SC State and they have not played another game. He could use the fall for a normal season and the added development. I have him as a free-agent grade who would at least get a tryout,” Buchanan said in an email statement.
Maynor believes Glass has the ability to play in the NFL. He has watched him raise his level of play in several aspects of the game.
“He has all the potential,” Maynor said. “He has the potential to play at the next level. He has the size. He has the arm. He’s a fast learner. He’s a competitor. He can definitely do it.”
On Saturday, Glass will get the chance to showcase his skills against a JSU defense that has given up the most touchdowns (14) in the SWAC this season.
“[It’s] going to be a big game,” said Maynor. “They’re still in it on our side.”
That was a reference to the SWAC East division. Jackson State is tied for second with Alabama State, and Alabama A&M leads the division despite playing only one game.
“They definitely have an offensive-minded coach, a quarterback that can spin it, some guys that can go down there and go get it,” Sanders said. “We have to challenge people on every single play to make you earn it.”