Monday, August 8, 2011

MEAC 2011 Preview

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
2010 Record: 10-2
The Wildcats had their best season ever behind a 1st year head coach, and made an appearance in the FCS playoffs for their efforts. While true, they did fall short in their appearance, and they do lose QB Matt Johnson, the future still looks bright. Brian Jenkins has this team running straight ahead, and are as ranked as high as 19th in some pr-season polls. Enter Jackie Wilson at QB, who will try to build on what Johnson was able to put together last fall. He will All-American Natiel Curry blocking for him on the line, and that's a tremendous start. Isadore Jackson will probably be asked to shoulder a bigger load at RB, as the senior rushed for 514 yards last season to go with his 8 TDs. Look for more carries. Jonathon Moment will probably see an increased workload as well. Eddie Poole will provide a dependable target for Wilson at WR, as he caught 8 TD passes last fall. Pat Brown joins him as a starter after catching 30 passes as a freshman in 2010.
Top tackler Ryan Lewis returns at LB after collecting 81 tackles last fall. Reggie Sandilands also returns at LB, and collected 80 stops of his own last season. Ryan Davis will fill out the LBs, as he led the team with 6.5 sacks last fall. Lewis and Davis combined for 28 TFLs on the year, but could really use some help from an under productive line. Sandilands added another 11.5 TFLs. The Wildcats lose significant depth in the secondary and are rebuilding there, but they do return Dion Hanks, who defended 8 passes as a freshman last fall.
Another run to the top appears likely, but SC State will stand in the way on 9/10.
2011 Schedule: 9/4 @ Prairie View, 9/10 South Carolina State, 9/24 Hampton, 10/1 @ Miami, 10/8 @ North Carolina A&T, 10/15 Fort Valley State, 10/22 @ Norfolk State, 10/29 @ North Carolina A&T, 11/5 Morgan State, 11/12 Savannah State, 11/19 @ Florida A&M

Delaware State Hornets
2010 Record: 3-8
The Hornets are hitting the reset button after some serious recent struggles have buried them in the lower half of the MEAC. Kermit Blount is the latest in a line of coaches coming in to try to right the ship, but was barely passable at Winston-Salem State. Nick Elko takes over at QB, and had some flashes in limited action in relief last fall. He tossed 7 TDs to 3 picks, so he has promise. Jaashawn Jones returns at RB after rushing for 738 yards and 4 scores, but the Hornets need more out of James Rosseau, who only carried the ball 49  times in 2010. Justin Wilson led the MEAC with 937 yards receiving and 11 TDs last fall, and he returns to give Elko a solid threat in the passing game. Darius Jackson caught 37 passes off of the bench last fall, and will step into a starting role. Donnell Dixon and Travis Tarpley provide depth.
The Hornets need a renewed effort up front, as they got chewed up to a tune of 196 yards rushing per game. Brandon Harvey returns at LB after a solid season, and will be the man to center this unit. He needs some other to step up around him, as the defense lacked talent, and now lacks returning depth up front. Olusegun Ayanbiola led the team with 5 sacks as a sophomore DE, and the Hornets need more from him. He also finished with 10 TFLs, but the loss of Andre Carroll up front leaves a huge void. Matt Spicer will attempt to anchor a secondary left vulnerable by losses and lack of talent.
Winning right away does not look to be in the cards, but there is some depth on offense that leads me to believe that we could see improvement right away.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ VMI, 9/10 Shaw, 9/17 @ Delaware, 9/24 @ South Carolina State, 10/1 @ Florida A&M, 10/8 Norfolk State, 10/15 @ North Carolina A&T, 10/29 Morgan State, 11/5 North Carolina Central, 11/12 @ Hampton, 11/19 Howard

Florida A&M Rattlers
2010 Record: 8-3
The Rattlers were as pesky as ever in 2010, and look to be so again in 2011, but BC and SC State stand in the way. Martin Ukpai returns at QB, but is mainly there to be the trigger man in the option. He has to limit his mistakes and improve his ratio as he tossed 5 picks to just 4 TDs last fall when he did pass, which was fairly rare. Lavante Page becomes the main back after losing Philip Sylvester, and he ran for 6 scores last season in relief. Antonio Lawrence and Kevin Elliott return at WR when Ukpai is asked to go into passing mode. Demarius Folsom returns at LB to lead the charge, but improvement against the run up front is a must after allowing 152 yards rushing per game last fall. Jerry Willis will be tasked on the line with improving upon his 4.5 sacks of last season from his DE spot. Jerral Stewart and John Ojo are decent in the secondary, but can certainly get better. The secondary will likely face depth issues all season, but luckily, the MEAC is not a passing league.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Fort Valley State, 9/8 @ Hampton, 9/17 @ South Florida, 9/24 @ Southern, 10/1 Delaware State, 10/8 Howard, 10/15 @ Savannah State, 10/22 @ SC State, 11/5 NC A&T, 11/12@ NC Central, 11/19 Bethune-Cookman

Hampton Pirates
2010 Record: 6-5
The Pirates are at a crossroads, as they have been stuck in neutral for 4 years. It's time to turn a corner, but the odds are stacked against them, as the top three clubs in the league, BC, SC State, and Florida A&M, have all risen to new heights. David Legree will return at QB, but only managed to toss 9 TDs to 7 picks last fall. Antwon Chisolm had some solid moments as a freshman, but if the passing game is dry, he needs to do better than 607 yards and 4 scores. Javaris Brown returns as the top WR after finishing 3rd in the MEAC with 639 yards and 5 TDs, but there is very little depth behind him.
Defensively, you could not have asked much more out of the Pirates than what they provided last fall. That being said, the Pirates lost their top 5 tacklers from last fall, and it's all going to fall on sophomore LB Delbert Tyler to take up a leadership spot up front. Micah Pellerin was outstanding against the pass last fall, as he defended 14 passes on the season. James Butts will return in the secondary as well, but the Pirates need him to step up from where he was a year ago.
I don't see the depth necessary for the Pirates to break out of their general funk this season. Could be another frustrating season.
2011 Season: 9/3 Alabama A&M 9/8 Florida A&M, 9/17 @ Old Dominion, 9/24 @ Bethune-Cookman, 10/8 Princeton, 10/15 @ Norfolk State, 10/22 NC Central, 10/29 @ Savannah State, 11/5 Howard, 11/12 Delaware State, 11/19 @ Morgan State

Howard Bison
2010 Record: 1-10
No doubt about it, the Bison are a joke. They have been losers for a very long time, and the addition of Gary Harrell will likely make no difference. Casey Council will likely be the new QB, but he brings no real experience to the role. Justin Duncan is the leading returning rusher, but he only carried 65 times last fall. Willie Carter is the lone bright spot on offense, as he collected 563 yards receiving last fall.
LB Keith Pough is the closest thing that the Bison have to a star, after he collected 100 tackles last season. Pough led the league with 10.5 sacks on the season, and was responsible for a truly whopping 28.5 TFLs last season. Sackie Kurkulah added some energy at DE after he collected 13 TFLs on the season. The secondary actually does have some decent depth, as they return DeCarlos Knight, Lanny Kelly, and Curtis Simmons, who combined for 23 passes defended last season.
No major improvement expected, but the defense could be fun to watch at times.
2011 Season: 9/3 @ Eastern Michigan, 9/10 Morehouse, 9/17 Norfolk State, 9/24 Morgan State, 10/1 @ Savannah State, 10/8 @ Florida A&M, 10/15 Georgetown, 10/22 @ NC A&T, 10/29 SC State, 11/5 @ Hampton, 11/19 @ Delaware State

Morgan State Bears
2010 Record: 4-7
Another traditional cellar dweller. The Bears have a QB spot up for grabs, and they bring no real experience from last season to the mix worth getting excited about. David Brown led the team in rushing, but only carried the ball 77 ties last fall, so that's not going to work. Jourdain Brooks carried 95 times, but couldn't get out of his own way most games. Brian Mann adds "depth", but the Bears have to figure out who amongst this group will be the guy. if anyone can be. Chuka Okakpu and Winfred Diggs return at receiver after combining for 57 receptions last fall, but they also only combined for 5 scores.
The Bears bring back their top three tacklers from last season in LB Allen Stephens, LB Dominick Bryan, and DB Reshaude Miller, so depth is not an issue here. Bakari Smith helps Stephens in pressuring the backfield from his DE spot, as he collected 9.5 TFLs, with Stephens leading the team with 11.5. Joe Rankin made a splash at CB with 9 passes defended as a freshman, and he will be joined by Janary Gray as returnees in the secondary.
The Bears may be able to return to 4 wins, but the offense was abysmal last fall. With more output from that side of the ball, the Bears have the defensive depth to surprise. Without an improved offense, 4 wins would be successful.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Towson, 9/10 @ Bowling Green, 9/17 Robert Morris, 9/24 @ Howard, 10/1 NC A&T, 10/8 Savannah State, 10/15 @ NC Central, 10/29 @ Delaware State, 11/5 @ Bethune-Cookman, 11/12 Norfolk State, 11/19 Hampton

Norfolk State Spartans
2010 Record: 6-5
The Spartans have never been a major player in the MEAC since rising from the D2 level. What they have been is a team that kind of hangs in the middle and makes life miserable for those at the top. The Spartans will take another crack at it, but they need to get out of the gate strong, rather than waiting to make a run at the end of the season, which has become their MO. Chris Walley returns at QB, and he was the second best passer in the league, despite a 10/8 TD to pick ratio. The loss of DeAngelo Branche at RB will be a tough void to fill, and they hand the ball now to junior Takeem Hedgeman. The Spartans return their best receivers in Victor Hairston and Reggie Garrett, so Walley should have a better showing.
LB Corwyn Harrison returns at LB to lead a solid defense, and the Spartans also return number 2 tackler DB DeVonte Reynolds from last season. DE Josh Turner will try to bring some pressure up front, as he led the team with 12 TFLs last fall. The secondary will be in rebuild mode after losing their top 2 pass defenders from last season.
NSU should basically be hanging in the middle once again, as there are major improvements to be made on the offensive side of the ball. Walley must be more effective.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Virginia State, 9/10 @ West Virginia, 9/17 @ Howard, 9/24 @ Charleston Southern, 10/1 South Carolina State, 10/8 @ Delaware State, 10/15 Hampton, 10/22 Bethune-Cookman, 10/29 NC A&T, 11/5 @ Savannah State, 11/12 @ Morgan State

North Carolina A&T Aggies
2010 Record: 1-10
The Aggies were at one time a power in this conference, but they are currently an absolute train wreck, and a new coach enters in Rod Broadway, who has a decent track record at NC Central and Grambling. Finding a new QB will be job number one. RB Mike Mayhew is the focal point of the offense, as he led the team in rushing with 1082 yards and 7 scores. If a passing game develops, Mayhew could be even better. Wallace Myles and Torrian Warren return at WR to give the Aggies some quality to build around. Justin Ferrell returns at DB after collecting 79 tackles last fall, but the Aggies lose their two best tacklers from last season. D'Vonte Graham will join him in the secondary as he defended 8 passes as a sophomore. Tony Mashburn will return at LB, but there is limited depth up front.
The Aggies have some nice pieces on offense, and hiring Broadway was a quality move, but there is way to much of a void of talent on defense to allow the Aggies too much improvement in year one. This is going to take some time to rebuild.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Virginia-Lynchburg, 9/10 @ Appalachian State, 9/24 Coastal Carolina, 10/1 @ Morgan State, 10/8 Bethune-Cookman, 10/15 Delaware State, 10/22 Howard, 10/29 @ Norfolk State, 11/5 @ Florida A&M, 11/12 @ SC State, 11/19 NC Central

North Carolina Central Eagles
2010 Record: 3-8
The Eagles struggled their way through last fall, and they decided to make another change at head coach by hiring Henry Frazier, who built Prairie View from nothing, to run the show. It's a great move for the Eagles, but is this a stronger program than the one he leaves?
Step on...find a QB...there isn't one. Step two...pick a RB...the Eagles split carries between Tim Shankle and Tony McCord last fall, to very mixed results.
The defense gave up 347.7 yards per game, with 200 yards coming against the pass, so that will be an area of concern, as the Eagles are finally eligible to compete for the league title after transitioning from D2.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Rutgers, 9/10 @ Central State, 9/17 Elon, 9/24 Savannah State, 10/8 @ SC State, 10/15 Morgan State, 10/22 @ Hampton, 10/29 Bethune-Cookman, 11/5 @ Delaware State, 11/12 Florida A&M, 11/19 @ NC A&T

Savannah State Tigers
2010 Record: 1-10
The Tigers start over in more ways than one this season, as first, they bring in Steve Davenport as the latest guinea pig of a head coach to find something that works where nothing has worked since the 80s. Second, the Tigers have finally found a conference home in the MEAC, and will be in their first season in the league. The problem is, the Tigers don't have nearly enough talent to compete in this league, nor do they have what it takes as a program to be competitive on the FCS level.
Last season, the QBs combined for 6 TDs and 13 picks. So, we know where the project must begin. The offense was a wreck last fall, as the Tigers only averaged 225.8 yards per game.
The defense was also a wreck, as the Tigers allowed 453.7 yards per game, allowing 54 TDs in 11 games.
To leave it off with a laugh, new head coach Steve Davenport voted the Tigers number one in the MEAC at Media Day. Way to start it off humble.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Albany State, 9/10 @ SE Louisiana, 9/17 @ Applachian State, 9/24 @ NC Central, 10/1 Howard, 10/8 @ Morgan State, 10/15 Florida A&M, 10/29 Hampton, 11/5 Norfolk State, 11/12 @ Bethune-Cookman, 11/19 SC State

South Carolina State Bulldogs
2010 Record: 9-3
The Bulldogs joined Bethune-Cookman in making MEAC history by being the second team fro the conference to make the playoffs. SC State looks primed to make that run again this fall, as I have selected them as my favorite to unseat the Wildcats as MEAC champs for 2011.
It will fall on the shoulders of junior QB Derrick Wiley, as he moves into the starting job if he can win the job in fall camp. Asheton Jordan will take over the lead job at RB after rushing for 622 yards and 5 scores. Chris Merrill and Devon Whitney will add depth to the backfield. Lennel Elmore returns as the top receiver on the roster, and will be joined by Tyler McDonald, who caught 33 passes last fall.
The Bulldogs do have questions on defense, as they lose their top two tacklers. Pat Washington will return up front, after posting 8 sacks last fall. Ronnell Ferguson will try to step up his effort from last season, as he recorded 4 sacks. Washington is a pressure machine, as he recorded 17 TFLs last fall. Christian Thompson will return to action after having posted 7 defended passes last fall, and Josh McFadden joins him.
Despite depth issues on defense, the Bulldogs should be able to pull it off with a strong offense. They will find themselves in what should be the same three team race as last fall with the Rattlers and Wildcats.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Central Michigan, 9/10 @ Bethune-Cookman, 9/17 @ Indiana, 9/24 Delaware State, 10/1 @ Norfolk State, 10/8 NC Central, 10/15 Georgia State, 10/22 Florida A&M, 10/29 @ Howard, 11/12 NC A&T, 11/19 @ Savannah State

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