For the second time in 32 years a piece of Baltimore’s football championship legacy bolted for Indianapolis. While Lee Hull, former head coach of Morgan State University, didn’t pack his Mayflower trucks and sneak off in the middle of the night, he did take the distinction of bringing Morgan State’s first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship since 1979 with him by taking his talents to Indiana to become the wide receiver coach with the NFL’s Colts.
Morgan’s linebackers are expected to play faster and more physical football this year. (Courtesy Photo)
Hull left an infrastructure of discipline and confidence that remains as the Bears get set to open a season where they are ineligible for the post season. Morgan failed to make the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements during the 2014 championship season and won’t be able to compete for the MEAC berth in the Celebration Bowl this year.
The APR violations sent a shakeup through the athletic department where veteran athletics director Floyd Kerr retired. There has been a new commitment to improving compliance as the University made the investment by adding staff and restructuring that division.
“It’s about establishing a new normal where we’re chasing 3.0 and 4.0 GPAs instead of doing just enough to stay eligible to play ball,” said interim head coach Fred Farrier. “We want our student athletes to be highly successful athletically and academically because that will translate to success as professionals and contributors to the community after they graduate”.
Farrier was Hull’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the championship run and looks to add his personality and build on what his former boss did. He was a graduate assistant under Alabama’s Nick Saban at Michigan State and has a knack for building prolific offenses at all stops throughout his career.
“A lot of what I do was taken from coach Saban since he was the guy who gave me my first chance to coach,” said Farrier. “The true value is developing a plan on Sunday through Friday so that when the time for competition comes you can perform at a peak level.”
Despite finishing 4-6 in 2015 and being ineligible for postseason there is still cause for optimism. Morgan was the fifth ranked offense in the MEAC last year averaging 330 yards per game. However, their inefficiency in the red zone and turnovers derailed them at critical times especially against Hampton, North Carolina Central, and Norfolk St. which was the difference in defending their MEAC title.
Those issues should be resolved by the return of an explosive rushing attack. The Bears lost their all-time single season rusher Herb Walker to an academic casualty last year and his replacement, Lamont Brown, was lost to a knee injury. Walker, Brown, and 2015’s leading rusher will play behind an inexperience offensive line that was forced to play earlier than expected but grew and should anchor the unit.
Chris Andrews, a graduate transfer from Wagner University, is working with the first team offense and appears to be the starting quarterback when the season opens. Receiver Thomas “T.M.” Martin could be his primary target, after missing last season due to academics, although the depth at that position will give him a multitude of options.
A concern will be depth on the defensive line – led by senior A.J. Agbelese – which could be a challenge in a conference whose contenders are among the national rushing leaders. Farrier wants linebackers, including Greg Gibson, Demarie Whitaker, and Malachi Washington “to play faster and more physical” this year.
Morgan’s schedule is favorable without facing defending champion North Carolina A&T. NC Central and Bethune Cookman also come to Baltimore. They can still be a championship team though not eligible for postseason.