Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MEAC 2016 Preview

The MEAC is as strong as it has ever been entering 2016, with as many as four teams that could realistically take the league title and play in the second Heritage Bowl. That honor went to North Carolina A&T last fall, and they will strive to win the league once again. Expect pressure from North Carolina Central, Bethune-Cookman, and South Carolina State, all powers in their own rights. Here is my look at the MEAC in 2016:

Projected Order of Finish
1. North Carolina A&T
2. North Carolina Central
3. Bethune-Cookman
4. South Carolina State
5. Norfolk State
6. Hampton
7. Morgan State
8. Delaware State
9. Howard
10. Florida A&M
11. Savannah State

North Carolina A&T Aggies
Handing the ball to Tarik Cohen should be the only thing that matters for the Aggies in 2016. Of course, as we all know, yo have to be able to balance your offense out, but COhen is on pace to be named to his 3rd consecutive MEAC Offensive MVP award. He is just 643 yards away from becoming the MEAC all time leading rusher. Cohen will be very important early on as the Aggies look for a new QB. WHomever that is will have weapons at receiver in Khris Gardin and Caleb Gabriel will be joining Denzel Keyes as returning starters. Cohen will have a monster to run behind as well in all conference OT Brandon Parker.
NT Marquis Ragland will anchor the line for one of the best defenses in FCS football, which will be key in letting the offense loose.
Projected Win Total: 9

North Carolina Central Eagles
The Eagles picked up a share of the MEAC title last fall, but fell short of taking the Heritage Bowl bid. Malcolm Bell will have to have a big season if they are to steal the title from the Aggies in 2016. Bell returns at QB, and the key to his improvement will be at WR, where injuries effected WRs Quentin Atkinson and Khalil Stinson last fall. If they can stay on the field, expect the Eagle offense to soar. Dorrel McClain returns as a sophomore, and was named MEAC freshman of the year last fall. All of the pieces are in place, now they just have to shake the injury bug.
CB Mike JOnes is the star on defense, but he missed 8 games as well last fall. If he can stay on the field, the unit overall is strong. He just needs to lead the way.
Projected Win Total: 8

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
Terry Sims took over as head coach last season, and the Wildcats did not miss a beat, finishing with 9 wins and a share of the league title.
Larry Brihm has already been handed the job at QB, and he is solid enough to keep the high powered offensive attack moving. A big season will be needed at RB from Michael JOnes, who rushed for 8 TDs last season, but only rushed for 562 yards overall. Jawill Davis is back at WR as well, with another year of starting experience under his belt. He will be key.
Defense may be the reason why the Cats come up a little short this fall, as the front seven is full of holes. A strong secondary will have to pick up the pace for the rest of the unit until the group can gel as a whole.
Projected Win Total: 7

South Carolina State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs were the king of close losses in 2015, and that will be a key area to work on in camp heading into the 2016 season. Caleb York returns at QB, but he needs new weapons to come out of the pack, as there are losses all over the place. Dondre Lewis-Freeman and Justin Taylor should carry the load at RB, with Adrian Kollock, Dondre Brown, and Trey Samuel all vying for carries. Someone out of this group needs to emerge as a leader.
Lynard Jamison, Mykal Moody, and Quon Caldwell all need to move up the ladder in the receiving game and make an impact immediately.
Javon Hargrave is gone now, and that leaves the defensive leadership mantle in the lap of LB Darius Leonard.
Projected Win Total: 7

Norfolk State Spartans
Greg Hankerson is one of the better QBs in the league, and returns to try to move the Spartans forward in the standings. His main target  will be WR Marcus Taylor, but he needs to step up big as three receivers have departed. The main rushing threat returns in Gerard Johnson, and he needs a breakout season. Daniel Oladimeji returns to lead an improving offensive line.
The Spartan defense is loaded with nine players who gained starting experience a year ago.Chris Lee is the star up front after recording 6 sacks last season, but he will also have to up his production if the Spartans have any hope of clawing their way into the top 4 of the league.
Projected Win Total: 5

Hampton Pirates
Jaylian Williamson returns at QB after missing 2015, and has a top flight receiver coming back in Twarn Mixson, who caught 59 balls for 1029 yards and 7 scores. The line is in full rebuild mode, and several freshmen could see time there this fall. Christopher Dukes and Dwayne Garrett are back at RB, but someone has to step up big this season, which may be tough given the nature of the rebuild up front.
The defense has an issue much the same, as help is needed all over the field, especially up front. The goal this fall is just to get better, somehow, some way.
Projected Win Total: 5

Morgan State Bears
Lee Hull left as coach to take a job on the Indianapolis Colts staff. Fred Ferrier, the former OC, takes over a program in need of an identity.
Herb Walker looks to be eligible once again at RB, and he would be a shot in the arm for a struggling football team. Junior Orlando Johnson also returns at RB, giving the Bears depth there. The first major issue, however, will be finding a QB, where nobody has any real experience at all returning.
Defensively, Morgan State is in decent shape, with 7 starters returning. They will be led by LB Greg Gibson and DL Dalonte Jenifer.
Predicted Win Total: 4

Delaware State Hornets
The Hornets may be in shape to make a move after yet another terrible season in 2015. They have finally found a QB in Kobie Lane, and he has his two best receivers back as well in Aris Scott and Malik Golson. If they can find a run game worth anything this fall, they could be a threat rising from the bottom of the league.
The defense has some stars rising in DL Gabriel Sherrod, LB Rashawn Barrett, and LB Malik Harris. Any improvement is something, and this program could see some solid improvements this fall.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Howard Bison
Kalen Johnson is back at QB, but if the line does not show marked progress, it won't matter who is under center. There is extreme youth at RB with sophomores RicQuaz Brannon and Donnell Pleasant leading the way, but neither was much of a factor last fall. HOward could wind up using two sophomores at WR this season as well in Jalen Avery, Guy Lemonier, and Robert Mercer should also be in line for more time as a senior, but he caught just 15 passes last fall.
Craig Johnson is back to lead the defense, and the LB corps should be decent with the return of Devin Rollins and Jalen Day. Travon Hunt and Jalen Day lead the way in the secondary.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Florida A&M Rattlers
This program used to be the power in the MEAC, and now they are the cellar dwellers. Academic issues with APR scores killed the program, as they were prohibited from having a spring program. There are plenty of returnees to go around, but this team is largely a mess.
Carson Royal has the edge at QB heading into camp, but will be pushed by Kenneth Coleman. Both saw extensive time last season.
No returning RB had over 100 carries last season, so experience is thin, at best. Gerald Hearns leads the pack, but could get pushed by Hans Supre, or any number of others who really have no experience whatsoever.
WRs Montavious Williams and Brandon Norwood, both juniors this fall, show promise, so there is a bright spot.
Seven starters are back on defense, but nobody really stands out, so expect an influx of JC transfers to pick away at jobs all over the place.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Savannah State Tigers
It is beyond me as to why this program even still fields a division one program. There are not enough words to convey how bad this program is from top to bottom. Maybe this will do it...head coach Earnest Wilson bailed to take a D2 job at Elizabeth City State. Erik Raeburn was hired from Wabash, a D3 program, to take over.
Just like Florida A&M, Savannah State had incredibly poor APR scores, and therefore spring football was cancelled. If you can't even pick up your academics, the whole thing is lost.
Predicted Win Total: 0

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