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In the FCS Huddle: 2013 MEAC Preview

8:07 AM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This could very well be the year for the Wildcats. Or the Eagles, or the Aggies, even the Rattlers.

It could be the year for any Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference team, really. Not just to win the league championship and earn a berth to the FCS playoffs. This could be the year - the first in over a decade - the MEAC could produce a contender.

For a conference that hasn't had a national playoff win since 1999, this year promises to be loaded with talent and depth.

Bethune-Cookman has reigned over the league in two of the past three seasons, and has the depth in 2013 to return to the playoffs. Led by all-conference preseason selections Isidore Jackson and Jarkevis Fields, the Wildcats come into this season loaded with leadership and playmakers.

Coach Brian Jenkins enters his fourth year with B-CU after having posted a perfect 8-0 conference record in 2012 for the first time. But he and his squad will certainly be challenged this upcoming season for the conference crown, as they have an enormous target on their backs.

Although North Carolina Central lost some key components, the Eagles come back reloaded with potential playmakers and a stud linebacker in Tazmon Foster. Last season was the first winning campaign for NCCU in five years, and the Eagles are only on the upswing.

Even a program like Florida A&M, which finished last season with a 4-4 conference record, has serious potential with an all-conference preseason selection quarterback, running back and wide receiver, among others.

MEAC teams will face stiff non-conference opponents in the first half of the year, including FBS matchups against Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Miami (Fla.), and Rutgers.

There doesn't appear to be much parity in the MEAC, and because of that, the conference winner should be battle-tested and ready for national competition come November.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 MEAC race.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Bethune-Cookman

2. North Carolina Central

3. North Carolina A&T

4. South Carolina State

5. Norfolk State

6. Florida A&M

7. Hampton

8. Howard

9. Delaware State

10. Morgan State

11. Savannah State

Team-by-team capsules:

1. BETHUNE-COOKMAN WILDCATS

LOCATION: Daytona Beach, Fla.

COACH: Brian Jenkins (27-8 in three seasons at Bethune-Cookman)

LAST SEASON: 9-3 overall, 8-0 MEAC; No. 22 TSN Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Isidore Jackson, Sr. (191 carries, 1,069 yards, 11 TD; 14 receptions, 148 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jarkevis Fields, Sr. (103 TT, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Quentin Williams, R-Jr. (85-of-142, 1,173 yards, 11 TD, 2 INT; 112 carries, 445 yards, 3 TD)

QB Brodrick Waters, Gr. (32-of-68, 314 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT; 70 carries, 574 yards, 5 TD)

RB Angelo Cabrera, Jr. (14 carries, 56 yards, 1 TD)

WR Eddie Poole, Gr. (32 receptions, 439 yards, 5 TD)

WR Preston Cleckley, Sr. (13 receptions, 234 yards, 2 TD)

OL Alex Monroe, Sr.

OL Rashard Brown, Sr.

DE LeBrandon Richardson, Jr. (53 TT, 8.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 7 QBH, 2 PBU, 2 FF, 2 FR, 1 BLK)

DL Tevin Toney, Sr. (31 TT, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 QBH, 2 FR)

LB Nesly Marcellon, Sr. (51 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3 QBH, 4 PBU, 2 FF)

LB Tavarus Dantzler, Jr. (32 TT, .5 sacks, 1.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 PBU)

DB Nick Addison, Jr. (68 TT, 2.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 INT)

DB Dion Hanks, Sr. (31 TT, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 INT)

K Sven Hurd, Sr. (6-of-13 FG, 45-of-46 PAT)

BIG LOSSES: LB Dawud Lane (62 TT, 1 sack, 8 TFL, 1 FF, 3 INT, 3 BLK) and P Kory Kowalski (57 punts, 36.7 average, 55 long)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 244.42 (10 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 144.75 (109 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Total Offense, 389.17 (49 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 29.42 (36 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 135.58 (37 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 165.83 (11 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Total Defense, 301.42 (7 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 18.25 (10 in FCS, 2 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Bethune-Cookman's dominance in the MEAC has been substantial over the past several years, with the Wildcats taking at least a share of two of the past three conferences titles. The nucleus of last year's MEAC championship team is back in 2013, led by Jackson in the backfield. The Wildcats still employ three different quarterbacks and plan to use all of them in different formats this year, making it hard for teams to defend against B-CU's attack. All three quarterbacks were used heavily in the run game, but defenses can't zero in on just the ground attack after Poole was granted a sixth year by the NCAA. Poole was the primary aerial threat, and will continue to be the favorite with targets sprinkled to Cleckley and junior Jhomo Gordon. As far as defensive leaders go, the Wildcats have each area covered with Richardson on the line, Fields anchoring the linebacker unit and Addison manning the secondary. B-CU athletic director Lynn W. Thompson said recently the school was looking to boost non-conference competition. Someone heard that request because the Wildcats have Florida State in Week 4.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1 - at Tennessee State

Sept. 7 - vs. Virginia Union

Sept. 14 - at FIU

Sept. 21 - at Florida State

Oct. 5 - at Delaware State

Oct. 12 - at Howard

Oct. 19 - vs. Savannah State

Oct. 26 - vs. South Carolina State

Nov. 2 - at North Carolina Central

Nov. 9 - vs. Norfolk State

Nov. 16 - vs. Hampton

Nov. 23 - vs. Florida A&M (at Orlando, Fla.)

2. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL EAGLES

LOCATION: Durham, N.C.

COACH: Henry Frazier III (8-14 in two seasons at North Carolina Central; 77-69 overall)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (6 offense/3 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Jordan Reid, R-Sr. (154-of-247, 1,594 yards, 13 TD, 12 INT; 72 carries, 3 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Tazmon Foster, Sr. (80 TT, 2 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 2 FR, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Andre Clarke, R-Jr. (68 carries, 349 yards, 9 TD)

RB Idreis Augustus, R-So. (missed 2012 season due to injury)

WR Marvin Poole, R-Sr. (29 receptions, 352 yards, 2 TD)

WR Lamar Scruggs, R-Sr. (16 receptions, 136 yards, 1 TD)

OL Charles Goodwin, R-Sr.

OL Michael Wells, Sr.

OL Zachary Giles, R-So.

OL Clevonne Davis, So.

DL Aaron Wallace, R-Sr. (31 TT, .5 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FR)

LB Ty Brown, R-Jr. (51 TT, 3 sacks, 8 TFL, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR)

LB Demontray Ryland, R-Jr.

LB Tyrique Williams, R-Sr. (33 TT, 1.5 TFL)

S Ryan Smith, R-So. (65 TT, 2.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 8 PD, 4 FR, 3 INT)

S C.J. Moore, Jr. (28 TT, 1 TFL)

K Oleg Parent, Jr. (11-of-21 FG)

BIG LOSSES: RB Arthur Goforth (146 carries, 575 yards, 3 TD), WR Geovonie Irvine (33 receptions, 402 yards, 3 TD) and DL Xavier Proctor (42 TT, 4 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 QBH)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 95.09 (112 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 173.82 (87 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Total Offense, 268.91 (116 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 28 (48 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 124.73 (22 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 214.55 (62 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Total Defense, 339.27 (32 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 28 (65 in FCS, 7 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Last year's 6-5 overall record for the Eagles marked the first winning season for the program since 2007. Winning may very well become the new trend in Durham because the Eagles return key pieces from last season's squad. Although playmakers Goforth and Irvine are gone, the QB Reid still has some weapons in his pocket. In his freshman year, Augustus led the NCCU ground game with 429 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He returns from an injury that sidelined him for all of 2012, and is coupled with Clarke, who scored nine touchdowns last season. The Eagles also lose Proctor, who recently signed a contract with the Detroit Lions, but return the highly touted Foster. Foster had to sit a portion of last season in order to be cleared as a transfer, then proceeded to average 10 tackles per game in eight contests. The Eagles open with fellow Durham occupant Duke, and also get the CAA's Towson on Sept. 21.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - at Duke

Sept. 7 - vs. St. Augustine's

Sept. 14 - at Charlotte

Sept. 21 - vs. Towson

Oct. 5 - at Howard

Oct. 12 - vs. South Carolina State

Oct. 19 - vs. Morgan State

Oct. 26 - at Savannah State

Nov. 2 - vs. Bethune-Cookman

Nov. 9 - at Hampton

Nov. 16 - vs. Norfolk State

Nov. 23 - at North Carolina A&T

3. NORTH CAROLINA A&T AGGIES

LOCATION: Greensboro, N.C.

COACH: Rod Broadway (12-10 in two seasons at North Carolina A&T; 80-33 overall)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 5-3 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: LT William Ray Robinson III, R-Jr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB/RS D'Vonte Graham, Sr. (18 TT, 8 PBU, 12 PD, 1 FR, 4 INT, 2 BLK; 12.4-yard punt return average, 1 TD)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Lewis Kindle, R-Sr. (119-of-214, 1.341 yards, 3 TD, 11 INT; 49 carries, 100 yards, 3 TD)

QB Kwashaun Quick, So.

RB Ricky Lewis, Sr. (97 carries, 437 yards, 6 TD)

RB Dominique Drake, Sr. (44 carries, 185 yards, 4 TD)

WR Darren Bullock, So. (20 receptions, 239 yards, 1 TD)

TE Devin Moore, Sr.

LG Danye Gorrell, Sr.

C Ronald Canty, Jr.

RG Timothy Sunkins, R-Sr.

DE Daniel Pinnix, So. (6 TT, .5 TFL)

LB D'Vonte Grant, Sr. (88 TT, 1.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 PD, 1 QBH, 2 INT, 1 BLK)

MLB Tony Clodfelter, Sr. (69 TT, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 2 QBH, 1 FF)

CB Ayodeji Olatoye, Sr. (39 TT, .5 TFL, 4 PBU, 7 PD, 2 FR, 3 INT)

SS Travis Crosby, Sr. (87 TT, 1 sack, 9 TFL, 8 PBU, 9 PD, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT)

FS Isaiah Martin, R-Jr. (40 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 PD, 2 INT)

BIG LOSSES: RB Mike Mayhew (198 carries, 848 yards, 7 TD) and K/P Zach Cimaglia (14-of-24 FG, 25-of-27 PAT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 169.18 (40 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 145.18 (108 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Total Offense, 314.36 (98 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 25.73 (61 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 92.73 (3 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 160.64 (6 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Total Defense, 253.36 (2 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 14 (2 in FCS, 1 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: The Aggies are in good position to make a run at the MEAC title, minus a few blips on the radar. Kindle, the senior quarterback, may miss time at the beginning of the season (or the season as a whole) due to a suspension for disciplinary reasons. His production dropped significantly from 2011 to 2012, so who knows what type of player he'd be in 2013 anyway. This leaves room for Quick to take the reins and develop into the Aggies' starter, but with fewer weapons than Kindle had last year. The Aggies will venture into uncharted waters this season, as they cope with life without Mayhew, the school's all-time leading rusher. A handful of new (and some experimental) receivers will arm Quick and/or Kindle as well. NCA&T adds track star Desmond Lawrence, who ran the fastest 100-meter time in the MEAC in 2012 (10.35 seconds) at receiver, along with Dequan Swan, who figures to be the opposite split end. A strong defense returns for Broadway, which will have its hand full in the opener at Appalachian State.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 7 - at Appalachian State

Sept. 14 - vs. Elon

Sept. 28 - vs. Howard

Oct. 5 - at South Carolina State (at Atlanta)

Oct. 12 - at Hampton

Oct. 19 - vs. Delaware State

Oct. 26 - at Florida A&M

Nov. 2 - vs. Virginia-Lynchburg

Nov. 9 - at Morgan State

Nov. 16 - vs. Savannah State

Nov. 23 - vs. North Carolina Central

4. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE BULLDOGS

LOCATION: Orangeburg, S.C.

COACH: Buddy Pough (88-39 in 11 seasons at South Carolina State)

LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 4-4 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (8 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Richard Cue, R-Jr. (144-of-290, 1,818 yards, 11 TD, 14 INT; 96 carries, 322 yards, 2 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Javon Hargrave, So. (45 TT, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 4 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB TeDarrius Wiley, R-Jr.

RB Julius Pendergrass, So. (57 carries, 273 yards, 3 TD)

RB Charles Brown, R-Jr.

WR Tyler McDonald, Sr. (34 receptions, 527 yards, 4 TD)

WR Caleb Davis, R-Sr. (35 receptions, 311 yards, 2 TD)

TE Temarrick Hemingway, R-Fr. (11 receptions, 164 yards, 1 TD)

C Tristan Bellamy, R-Sr.

LT Dominic Wilson, R-Jr.

OG Devin Flowers, Jr.

DL Andrew Carter, Jr. (41 TT, 4 sacks, 9 TFL, 2 QBH)

LB Justin Hughes, Jr. (78 TT, 5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 3 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT)

LB Joe Thomas, Sr, (39 TT, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF)

S Kimario McFadden, R-Sr. (54 TT, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 8 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR, 2 INT)

CB Steven Murphy, R-Jr.

K/P Nick Belcher, Sr. (8-of-15 FG, 24-of26 PAT)

BIG LOSSES: RB Jalen Simmons (131 carries, 512 yards, 4 TD) and LB Cortney Ingram (74 TT, 2 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 133.45 (81 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 174.55 (86 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Total Offense, 308 (99 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 18.55 (101 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 175.09 (76 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 188.27 (31 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Total Defense, 363.36 (53 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 27.55 (63 in FCS, 6 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Pough endured his first losing season in Orangeburg last year, but the Bulldogs are right on the cusp of breaking back into one of the top spots of the MEAC. They may remain a few pieces away. The loss of Simmons at the running back position leaves as big of a question mark as you'll find, even though Pendergrass saw limited time last season. It's tough to break into a feature role from a limited one, and who's to say he's ready for that as a sophomore? The wide receiving corps is solid and experienced, but lacking a big-play threat. And while the defense has some good pieces, the same can really be said about the lack of a veteran go-to leader. That being said, it's better to have a lot of pieces than no pieces at all. Like a few other teams in the league, SCSU averaged fewer than 20 points per game, which isn't desirable in a generally offense-heavy conference. The Bulldogs will have a big test early on when they travel to Clemson on Sept. 7 to play one of the nation's top teams at any level.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - vs. Coastal Carolina

Sept. 7 - at Clemson

Sept. 14 - vs. Alabama A&M

Sept. 21 - at Benedict (at Columbia, S.C.)

Sept. 28 - vs. Hampton

Oct. 5 - vs. North Carolina A&T (at Atlanta)

Oct. 12 - at North Carolina Central

Oct. 26 - at Bethune-Cookman

Nov 2 - at Savannah State

Nov. 9 - vs. Florida A&M

Nov. 16 - vs. Morgan State

Nov. 23 - at Norfolk State

5. NORFOLK STATE SPARTANS

LOCATION: Norfolk, Va.

COACH: Pete Adrian (47-43 in eight seasons at Norfolk State; 83-80-1 overall)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 2-6 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Brendon Riddick, So. (87 carries, 401 yards, 7 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Lynden Trail, R-Jr. (70 TT, 6 sacks, 17 TFL, 8 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Nico Flores, Sr. (99-of-175, 1,067 yards, 7 TD, 9 INT)

QB Malik Stokes, R-So.

QB Tyler Clark, R-So.

RB Aaron Daniels, R-Fr.

FB Conley Smith, So. (10 carries, 21 yards, 3 TD)

WR Derrick Demps, R-Sr. (42 receptions, 501 yards, 2 TD)

WR Kelvin Lewis, R-Sr.

TE Joseph Hawkins, R-Sr. (27 receptions, 322 yards, 1 TD)

LG Cameron Williams, R-Sr.

RT Jairus Spain, Sr.

C Mike Phillips, So.

DT George Riddick, Jr. (40 TT, 5.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 INT)

ILB Brent Singleton, R-Sr. (67 TT, 1.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR)

ILB Marcell Coke, Jr. (58 TT, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT)

S Keenan Lambert, Jr. (55 TT, 3 TFL, 6 PBU, 9 PD, 3 INT)

BIG LOSSES: WR Xavier Boyce (58 receptions, 623 yards, 4 TD), PK Everett Goldberg (11-of-18 FG, 18-of-23 PAT) and P Dylan Shaddix (53 punts, 40.5 average, 58 long)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 134.45 (78 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 181.91 (81 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Total Offense, 316.36 (97 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 18.82 (99 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 141.55 (42 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 136.55 (1 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Total Defense, 278.09 (3 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 24.18 (49 in FCS, 5 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: There's certainly a lot of talent returning to the 2013 Spartans roster, but some relatively large question marks lead to the fifth ranking in the MEAC. It isn't set in stone who will be manning the quarterback position once the fall season starts, although Flores is the leading candidate. He is being pushed by Stokes and Clark all the way through camp, and may very well end up sharing the job with at least one other player. The young and talented Riddick coming out of the backfield after gaining experience as a freshman last season will be a go-to option for Adrian. As for the receiving core, the loss of Boyce as a big-play threat hurts, but there's hope another player will step up his play. Defense appears to be the strong point for 2013, a group led by Trail, Singleton and Coke - the 1-2-3 finishers on the 2012 team in tackles. The Spartans lost All-MEAC kicker Goldberg and punter Shaddix after last season, and will look to a trio of young players to step up and compete for the jobs.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - vs. Maine

Sept. 7 - at Rutgers

Sept. 21 - vs. Charleston Southern

Sept. 28 - at Morgan State

Oct. 5 - vs. Savannah State

Oct. 12 - at Delaware State

Oct 19 - vs. Hampton

Oct. 26 - vs. Old Dominion

Nov. 2 - vs. Florida A&M

Nov. 9 - at Bethune-Cookman

Nov. 16 - at North Carolina Central

Nov. 23 - vs. South Carolina State

6. FLORIDA A&M RATTLERS

LOCATION: Tallahassee, Fla.

COACH: Earl Holmes (first season at Florida A&M - 1-1 as interim coach)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 4-4 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Damien Fleming, Jr. (214-of-308, 2,157 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT; 86 carries, 194 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: SS Jonathan Pillow, R-Sr. (66 TT, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB/RS James Owens, Sr. (65 carries, 341 yards, 5 TD; 39 rick returns, 904 yards)

RB Demont Buice, R-Jr.

WR Lenworth Lennon, R-Jr. (71 receptions, 699 yards, 4 TD)

WR Admasen Felix, R-Jr. (31 receptions, 368 yards, 1 TD)

WR Dewayne Harvey, Jr.

TE Michael Morris, R-So.

RG Kevin House, Sr.

C Douglass Almendares, Sr.

DE Frances Mays, Sr. (21 TT, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 QBH)

NT Michael Lovejoy, So.

LB Brandon Denmark, Sr. (54 TT, 4.5 sacks, 11 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 1 QBH, 2 FF)

LB Bobby Jackson, R-Sr. (22 TT, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

FS Devan Roberts, Sr. (59 TT, 3 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 6 PD, 2 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 BLK)

CB Devontae Johnson, Jr. (26 TT, .5 sacks, 3 TFL, 8 PBU, 10 PD, 1 FR, 2 INT)

K Chase Varnadore, Jr. (15-of-18 FG, 23-of-26 PAT)

BIG LOSS: WR Travis Harvey (65 receptions, 808 yards, 7 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 122.82 (91 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 236.18 (35 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Total Offense, 359 (70 in FCS, 3 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 20.36 (94 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 139.27 (40 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 182.09 (25 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Total Defense, 321.36 (20 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 23.09 (42 in FCS, 4 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Holy offense. The Rattlers are led by a three-headed offensive arsenal in 2013 of Fleming, Owens and Lennon, all of whom have been impact players on the squad in the past. The loss of Harvey and running back Eddie Rocker doesn't hurt nearly as bad when you return three All-MEAC preseason offensive players (and a preseason co-offensive player of the year in Fleming). Count RG House in on that preseason all-conference mix and you have one good-looking attack. But the complete package still escapes Florida A&M, which may be why it isn't ranked higher in the league. Couple that with a tough schedule, including an away game against Ohio State on Sept. 21, and a brand new coach - Holmes - entering 2013. But this more seasoned defense will look to remedy the 23.1 points per game average given up to opponents, which would put the Rattlers in the hunt.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1 - vs. Mississippi Valley State (at Orlando, Fla.)

Sept. 7 - vs. Tennessee State

Sept. 14 - vs. Samford

Sept. 21 - at Ohio State

Oct. 5 - at Morgan State

Oct. 12 - at Savannah State

Oct. 19 - vs. Howard

Oct. 26 - vs. North Carolina A&T

Nov. 2 - at Norfolk State

Nov. 9 - at South Carolina State

Nov. 16 - vs. Delaware State

Nov. 23 - at Bethune-Cookman (at Orlando, Fla.)

7. HAMPTON PIRATES

LOCATION: Hampton, Va.

COACH: Donovan Rose (21-22 in four seasons at Hampton)

LAST SEASON: 3-7 overall, 3-5 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/RS Andre Griffin, Jr. (25 receptions, 311 yards, 2 TD

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Delbert Tyler, Sr. (80 TT, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Brian Swain, So, (23-of-43, 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 27 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD)

QB Jaylian Williamson, So.

RB Anthony Chisholm, Sr. (19 carries, 103 yards)

WR Rayshad Riddick, So. 24 receptions, 255 yards, 1 TD)

WR Matrick Belton, So.

OL Kory Alpichi, Jr.

OL Ronald Rose, Jr.

DT Alveron Wright, So. (26 TT, .5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 FR)

DT Terrell Stewart, So.

LB Matthew Davis, Sr. (37 TT, 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 FF)

LB Denzel Heath, So.

DB Kambrell McGee, R-Jr. (32 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 2 INT)

DB Aaron Matthews, R-So. (19 TT, 9 PBU, 2 INT)

LS Dylan Kerns, Jr.

BIG LOSSES: QB Travis Champion (119-of-202, 1,237 yards, 8 TD, 11 INT), RB Jeremiah Schwartz (196 carries, 1,043 yards, 11 TD) and LB Lyndell Gibson (83 TT, 11 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 2 INT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 148.10 (64 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 169.10 (95 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Total Offense, 317.20 (96 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 21.70 (87 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 154.30 (55 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 207.90 (48 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Total Defense, 362.20 (51 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 30.40 (88 in FCS, 10 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Former offensive coordinator Earnest Wilson III seems to have departed Hampton during a transition time (although taking the head job at Savannah State doesn't appear to be much easier), as the Pirates will be on the lookout for their next signal caller. Swain saw the most action last season under center, although he only attempted 43 passes. The starting running back job is up for grabs, too, though Chisholm is the favorite to fill in after the departure of Schwartz. It'll be interesting for Hampton after losing three of the school's key contributors, especially Gibson on defense, who led the team in tackles and tackles for loss, and tied for the lead in interceptions. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome for the Pirates will be turnovers. Last season, Hampton players fumbled the ball 32 times and lost 16 of them, compared to opponents' 12 total fumbles and seven lost. Ball security can not be overemphasized if the Pirates wish to turn things around from a 3-7 season.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 29 - at Western Illinois

Sept. 7 - at William & Mary

Sept. 14 - vs. Tennessee Tech

Sept. 21 - at Coastal Carolina

Sept. 28 - at South Carolina State

Oct. 12 - vs. North Carolina A&T

Oct. 19 - at Norfolk State

Oct. 26 - vs. Delaware State

Nov. 2 - at Morgan State

Nov. 9 - vs. North Carolina Central

Nov. 16 - at Bethune-Cookman

Nov. 23 - vs. Howard

8. HOWARD BISON

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

COACH: Rayford Petty (interim) (25-30 in five seasons at Howard)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 6-2 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (5 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: LG Joshua Matthews, Sr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Julien David, Sr. (108 TT, .5 sacks, 9 TFL, 8 PBU, 2 FF, 1 INT, 2 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Greg McGhee, Jr. (99-of-191, 1.038 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT; 97 carries, 448 yards, 6 TD)

RB Aquanius Freeman, Jr. (77 carries, 441 yards, 5 TD)

RB William Parker, So.

WR Matthew Colvin, So. (23 receptions, 367 yards, 1 TD)

WR Jonathan Booker, So. (22 receptions, 279 yards, 2 TD)

TE David Wilson, Sr. (16 receptions, 220 yards, 3 TD)

LT John Smith, So.

RG Malcolm Rutledge, Jr.

DE Damon Gresham Chisholm, So. (41 TT, 5 sacks, 18 TFL, 9 QBH, 3 FF, 3 FR)

DE Toavan Sheats, Sr. (37 TT, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF)

DT Joseph Dillard, So.

LB Tabrian Resby, Sr. (82 TT, 3 sacks, 9 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)

CB Curtis Simmons, Sr. (34 TT, 7 PBU, 1 BLK)

CB Ademola Olatunji, Jr.

K/P John Fleck, So.

BIG LOSS: RB Terrence Leffall (219 carries, 1.106 yards, 7 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 221.55 (14 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 143.82 (110 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Total Offense, 365.36 (63 in FCS, 2 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 25.55 (64 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 173.55 (74 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 212.09 (58 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Total Defense, 385.64 (70 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 29.27 (75 in FCS, 8 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Petty, the defensive coordinator, previously was Howard's head coach from 2002-06 (compiling a 25-30 record) and is the interim coach while Gary Harrell (12-10 in two seasons) takes a leave of absence. Last year was a nice surprise for the Bison, finishing the year with a 6-2 MEAC record and at 7-4 overall. It will be difficult to duplicate that success with some new faces taking over the team and a very tough schedule. The offensive line took a bit of a hit and will rely heavily on the senior leadership of Matthews to keep things moving in the right direction. But the Bison return their starting quarterback in McGhee and a talented back who saw plenty of game action last season in Freeman. There's also a trio of standout defenders, anchored by Gresham Chisholm on the defensive line and supported by David manning the secondary. If the Bison can survive the first half of their schedule and make it past Oct. 12 relatively unharmed, it could be another good season in D.C.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - at Eastern Michigan

Sept. 7 - vs. Morehouse (RFK Stadium)

Sept. 14 - at Old Dominion

Sept. 28 - at North Carolina A&T

Oct. 5 - vs. North Carolina Central

Oct. 12 - vs. Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 19 - at Florida A&M

Oct. 26 - vs. Morgan State

Nov. 2 - at Delaware State

Nov. 9 - vs. Savannah State

Nov. 16 - at Texas Southern

Nov. 23 - at Hampton

9. DELAWARE STATE HORNETS

LOCATION: Dover, Del.

COACH: Kermit Blount (9-13 in two seasons at Delaware State; 100-100-3 overall)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (3 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: C Brandon Cunningham, R-Sr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Terrick Colston, So. (95 TT, 2.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 8 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Cory Murphy, R-Sr.

QB Esayah Obado, R-Fr.

RB Malcolm Williams, Jr. (90 carries, 437 yards, 2 TD)

RB Dae-Hon Cheung, So. (82 carries, 410 yards, 3 TD)

RB Nagee Jackson, So. (79 carries, 238 yards, 7 TD)

WR Milton Williams, Jr. (18 receptions, 70 yards)

RG Sal Carero, So.

DE Rodney Gunter, Jr. (49 TT, 5.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 3 QBH, 1 FF, 1 FR)

LB Ernest Adjei, Sr. (93 TT, 2.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 3 PD, 2 QBH, 1 INT)

FS Davon Moore, Jr. (97 TT, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 10 PD, 3 FF, 4 INT, 1 BLK)

DB Joe Boyd, Jr. (87 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 PD, 2 FF, 1 INT)

CB Cameron Judge, Jr.

K Mitchell Ward, Jr. (12-of-19 FG, 28-of-28 PAT)

P Marco Kano, Sr. (42 punts, 39.4 average, 62 long)

BIG LOSSES: QB Nick Elko (259-of-412, 2,828 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT), WR Travis Tarpley (86 receptions, 1,058 yards, 7 TD), and WR Justin Wilson (67 receptions, 816 yards, 6 TD)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 98.91 (109 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 257.09 (25 in FCS, 1 in MEAC); Total Offense, 356 (74 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 22.91 (80 in FCS, 5 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 165.27 (66 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 213.73 (60 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Total Defense, 379 (64 in FCS, 8 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 22.09 (36 in FCS, 3 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Delaware State has the daunting task of replacing four All-MEAC offensive first-teamers, including Elko, who was the conference's 2012 offensive player of the year. That list also includes top receiving targets Tarpley and Wilson, so Murphy or Obado (whoever wins the job) will have his hands full this season spreading the ball around. Neither quarterback saw any game action last year thanks to Elko's stellar play, so that remains the biggest concern for veteran coach Kermit Blount and the Hornets offense. Not to mention the three huge matchups to open the 2013 season - consecutive weeks against CAA opponent and intrastate rival Delaware, CAA power Towson and the two-time FCS defending champion and nation's top-ranked team in North Dakota State. The schedule gods decided not to make it easy for the Hornets in September. It isn't until the third-to-last weekend of the regular season that DSU gets a Saturday off, so expect the Hornets to be limping toward the finish line this season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 7 - at Delaware

Sept. 14 - at Towson

Sept. 21 - at North Dakota State

Sep 28 - at Savannah State

Oct. 5 - vs. Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 12 - vs. Norfolk State

Oct. 19 - at North Carolina A&T

Oct. 26 - at Hampton

Nov. 2 - vs. Howard

Nov. 16 - at Florida A&M

Nov. 23 - vs. Morgan State

10. MORGAN STATE BEARS

LOCATION: Baltimore

COACH: Donald Hill-Eley (54-69 in 12 seasons at Morgan State)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 2-6 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (6 offense/10 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Robert Council, R-Jr. (98-of-195, 1,115 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT; 80 carries, 302 yards, 3 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Christopher Robinson, R-So. (40 TT, 8.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Seth Higgins, Jr.

RB Tracy Martin, Jr. (20 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD)

WR Andrew King, Jr. (25 receptions, 334 yards, 2 TD)

WR/RS Chris Flowers, Sr. (16 receptions, 198 yards, 1 TD)

WR Tubotein Taylor, Sr.

TE Nate Ingram, Sr.

LG Clarence Swain, Sr.

RT Karim Barton, Sr.

NG Damarco Brisbee, R-So. (41 TT, 3.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 PD, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 1 BLK)

LB Cody Acker, Jr. (39 TT, 2.5 TFL)

LB Stephen Blissett, Sr. (15 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

CB Joe Rankin, Sr. (46 TT, 6 PBU, 11 PD, 5 INT, 1 BLK)

CB DeShaun Summers, So. (27 TT, 1 TFL, 6 PBU, 8 PD, 1 FF, 2 INT)

SS Nathan Ayers, Jr. (50 TT, 3.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 6 PD, 3 FF, 2 FR, 3 INT)

K/P Miguel Bernard

BIG LOSSES: RB Travis Davidson (206 carries, 1,023 yards, 12 TD), LB Elandon Roberts (107 TT, 1.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 1 INT) and K/P Earvin Gonzalez (14-of-23 FG, 25-of-26 PAT)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 149.73 (59 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 143 (111 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Total Offense, 292.73 (108 in FCS, 9 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 20.82 (91 in FCS, 7 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 177.73 (78 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 225.18 (79 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Total Defense, 402.91 (82 in FCS, 10 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 29.73 (81 in FCS, 9 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: The Bears were picked to finish 10th in the 11-team MEAC because there are still some pretty big questions to be answered. Council is the favorite to be the starting quarterback, but last season he saw spit time with Higgins, and could do so again if he underperforms. Then there's no telling what happens to them offensively if things fall apart from the quarterback position. There is also no go-to running back (or offensive playmaker, for that matter) in "Juice" Davidson this season, so the Bears will have to take a chance on Martin as the new feature back. Defensively, Morgan State has enough strong returners to keep Hill-Eley from overworrying, though the redshirt sophomore Robinson will likely be counted on to lead the unit. The Bears' non- conference schedule - all road games - will be a good indicator as to how this relatively young team will fare as the season plays out.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 30 - at Army

Sept. 7 - at Robert Morris

Sept. 14 - at Liberty

Sept. 21 - at Western Kentucky

Sept. 28 - vs. Norfolk State

Oct. 5 - vs. Florida A&M

Oct. 19 - at North Carolina Central

Oct. 26 - at Howard

Nov.. 2 - vs. Hampton

Nov. 9 - vs. North Carolina A&T

Nov. 16 - at South Carolina State

Nov. 23 - at Delaware State

11. SAVANNAH STATE TIGERS

LOCATION: Savannah, Ga.

COACH: Earnest Wilson III (first season at Savannah State)

LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 0-8 MEAC

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (10 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/RS Simon Heyward, Sr. (44 receptions, 751 yards, 6 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Wayne Burden, Jr. (75 TT, 2 sacks, 11 TFL, 1 FF, 2 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Antonio Bostick, Sr. (118-of-283, 1,629 yards, 8 TD, 13 INT; 149 carries, 345 yards, 5 TD)

RB Sheldon Barnes, Sr. (101 carries, 316 yards, 1 TD)

WR Dylan Cook, Sr. (37 receptions, 491 yards, 1 TD)

WR Kris Drummond, Jr. (21 receptions, 318 yards, 1 TD)

RG Devin Stainrod, So.

LG Epafara Moananu, So.

DE Micah Blount, Sr. (37 TT, 2.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 QBH)

DE Olajuwan Swearinger, So.

LB Terrance Slaughter, Sr. (39 TT, 4 TFL, 2 PBU, 3 PD, 2 FF, 1 INT)

LB Trevion Asjford, So.

CB John Wilson, Sr. (68 TT, 3.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 11 PD, 4 INT, 1 BLK)

S Vaughn Cornelia, Jr. (43 TT, 2 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 PD, 1 FF, 2 INT)

P Jacob Thomas, So.

BIG LOSS: DL Terrance Williams (70 TT, 7 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 BLK)

2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 82.55 (115 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Passing Offense, 169.73 (94 in FCS, 6 in MEAC); Total Offense, 252.27 (119 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Scoring Offense, 13.36 (118 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Rushing Defense, 286.55 (118 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Passing Defense, 179.45 (21 in FCS, 4 in MEAC); Total Defense, 466 (110 in FCS, 11 in MEAC); Scoring Defense, 44.91 (119 in FCS, 11 in MEAC)

OUTLOOK: Wilson's objective is simple for his first season as the Tigers' coach: score more points. Last year, the Tigers managed just 147 points on the season. That's an average of 13.4 points per game. Compare that to the 494 they gave up to opponents, or 44.9 points per game. The defense didn't lose much, aside from the second-leading tackler from 2012, and gained some valuable experience on the field. That experience should be enough to at least control the bleeding. Wilson's offense will likely feature more "air it out" plays in an attempt to stay on the field longer. When your quarterback is also your leading rusher, you know you put too much pressure on that one player. It's certainly not an easy start to the new season for Wilson, who has to travel to Georgia Southern and then play two FBS opponents in Troy and the University of Miami. The Tigers should at least be able to win at least one league game this season, though.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31 - at Georgia Southern

Sept. 7 - at Troy

Sept. 14 - vs. Fort Valley State

Sept. 21 - at Miami (Fla.)

Sept. 28 - vs. Delaware State

Oct. 5 - at Norfolk State

Oct. 12 - vs. Florida A&M

Oct. 19 - at Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 26 - vs. North Carolina Central

Nov. 2 - vs. South Carolina State

Nov. 9 - at Howard

Nov. 16 - at North Carolina A&T

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