NORFOLK, Va. – With 13 first-place votes, North Carolina A&T received the top ranking in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s preseason poll for the 2016 football season.
The three teams (North Carolina A&T, Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina Central) that earned a share of the conference title last year took the first three spots of this year’s preseason predicted order of finish.
N.C. A&T running back Tarik Cohen was selected as the MEAC preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard was selected as preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
All votes are submitted by the MEAC’s head football coaches and sports information directors/football contacts.
Cohen, the two-time defending Player of the Year, led the MEAC in rushing with 977 total yards in 2015. A two-time MEAC Offensive Player of the Week, Cohen led the conference with 122.1 rushing yards per game, carrying the ball 183 times, with nine touchdowns in eight games. He finished first in the MEAC in touchdowns and all-purpose yards (141.1 avg./g). He helped lead the Aggies to a share of the conference title and a win at the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. Cohen rushed for 295 yards for three touchdowns during the nationally televised win over Alcorn State.
Leonard was named to the 2015 All-MEAC First Team, as a linebacker. A one-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Week, Leonard finished the season recording 70 total tackles, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble, two quarterback hurries, four passes deflected and two breakups. He notched two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Leonard was second on the team in sacks (5.0) and interceptions.
Complete Preseason Team
2016 MEAC FOOTBALL
PRESEASON PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1.) North Carolina A&T State (13)
2.) Bethune-Cookman (3)
3.) North Carolina Central (4)
4.) South Carolina State
5.) Hampton (1)
6.) Norfolk State
7.) Morgan State
8.) Florida A&M
9.) Delaware State (1)
11.) Savannah State