By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
During the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) football media day in Norfolk, VA, it was clear the league’s coaches and sports information directors had a great deal of respect for the talent pool at Howard and Morgan State. With a total of 18 preseason all conference players between the two teams, there is acknowledgment that each school has enough talent to contend for a championship.
However, when the predictions were announced as to how each team would fare at the end of the regular season, only the Bison were given a remote chance at winning the MEAC championship.
Two teams with first year head coaches go into preseason camp in the dubious category of respected but not contenders. Howard was picked to finish fourth and Morgan is expected to finish eighth, one spot ahead of Delaware State, who was picked last.
Bison quarterback Cailyn Newton was selected as MEAC Preseason Player of the Year and, according to most experts, is the reason they could be a champion. The 2018 Player of the Year finished his sophomore season as the MEAC’s top passer with 2,629 yards and 22 touchdowns, he combined for 532 total yards of offense, which was the third-highest output in program history at Ohio University in their season opener. Newton completed his second year leading the nation passing yards per completion at nearly 17, while his 313.3 yards per game of total offense was seventh.
Cam Newton’s little brother is season ticket worthy, but Howard has to get better defensively in order to contend despite one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Receivers Kyle Anthony and Jequez Ezzard are projected as all-MEAC first teamers along with return specialist Dedric Parson.
There’s no doubt who wears the Superman emblem on his chest at Howard but their kryptonite was the defense, who couldn’t make enough stops last year. Nonetheless, Howard features a quartet that will have to raise the defense with them. Marcellous Allison was a third team All-MEAC linebacker in 2018. The conference is also watching defensive linemen Zamon Robinson, defensive back Tye Freeland, and Aaron Walker.
Morgan State placed nine players on the MEAC’s preseason team led by senior linebacker Rico Kennedy and sophomore tight end Xavier Gravette who were first-team selections.
The Bears were built to play defense and lean heavily on a strong running game under former coach Fred Farrier. Kennedy, senior linebacker Ian McBorrough, junior defensive back Donte Small and redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Devan Hebron will pose a challenge for teams to score on.
Senior running back Josh Chase and junior offensive lineman Stefan Touani were second-team picks, redshirt-junior offensive lineman Bruce Trigg, redshirt-senior Dominick Trigg were selected to the third-team.
Chase has emerged from the shadows to become one of the most consistent backs in the MEAC. He is physical enough to run between the tackles, but has enough speed to make game-changing plays. The Bears have also built depth in reserve on the offensive line.
MSU needs to find a quarterback, who can manage the game and not make the big mistakes which have hurt them over the past two years. Their inability to overcome turnovers and the absence of a consistent passing game are where they must get better.
However, there are wildcards on both sidelines with first year head coaches who have major college pedigree. Howard’s Ron Prince and Morgan’s Tyrone Wheatley have worked at the University of Michigan under Jim Harbaugh recently. The two rookie head coaches hope to duplicate the first year success of predecessors such as Lee Hull in Baltimore and Mike London in D.C.