HBCU Sports previews the 2022 MEAC football season and provide insight on what players, teams, and storylines you should follow in the fall.
South Carolina State deserves more respect
South Carolina State put the whole HBCU football world on notice when they beat the heavily-favored Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl.
While the win might have been considered a huge upset to some, it might have been a sign of things to come for South Carolina State.
Despite the win over Jackson State, it could be argued that South Carolina State has not received the respect a champion should command. The biggest example of this is the Bulldogs not being ranked in the STATS Perform FCS Preseason Top 25 poll.
This will only add fuel to the fire for the defending MEAC champs in their request to repeat.
On paper, SC State has the most talented team in the conference with a number of game-changing players from their championship unit returning this season.
The roster includes MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Jeblonski Green, All-MEAC linebacker BJ Davis, All-MEAC defensive lineman Octaveon Minter, leading rusher Kendrell Flowers, and leading receiver Shaquan Davis.
Who will challenge South Carolina State?
With South Carolina State entering the season as the prohibitive favorite to win the conference, the rest of their MEAC foes will be looking to play spoiler.
North Carolina Central came the closest to winning the MEAC last season, but a 27-24 loss to South Carolina State ended their hopes of representing the conference in the Celebration Bowl.
The Eagles are looking for sophomore quarterback Davius Richard to lead the offense to success this season. He will have a pair of sophomore receivers in Andrew Smith and Devin Smith to help him out in the passing game along with junior running back Latrell Collier.
The NCCU special teams will also be a key to their success with one of the top return specialists in the country Brandon Codrington. He was named an FCS All-American in a season that saw him record a punt return touchdown and two blocked kicks.
Norfolk State will look to bounce back from a disappointing end to its 2021 season in which it lost its last three games after a 6-2 start.
Their offense will be led by MEAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year JJ Davis, who led the conference in rushing touchdowns last season.
The Spartans’ defense will be headlined by a secondary featuring two of the top leaders in interceptions in the MEAC last season in Justin Toler and Brandon Savage. In addition, ball-hawking defensive back Devyn Coles returns to the back end.
Delaware State is aiming to snap an eight-season streak in which they have finished below .500 in conference play.
Their defense is loaded with top defensive backs including Esaias Guthrie, Charles Peeler, Jawain Granger and Romell Harris-Freeman.
Howard hopes to continue to grow as a team under second-year coach Larry Scott. The Bison will be fueled by quarterback Quinton Williams along with running back duo Jarrett Hunter and Ian Wheeler.
Rounding out the field, the Morgan State Bears are under completely new leadership with an entirely new coaching staff taking over led by former Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson.
The offense will be led by running backs Alfonzo Graham and Jabriel Johnson. The Bears’ defense feature some players you’ll want to look out for, including sophomore defensive lineman Elijah Williams and defensive back Jae’Veyon Morton.
How much will offseason roster losses matter?
With many of the MEAC’s top players either having graduated or transferred, there is a potential for some under-the-radar talents to make a name for themselves. However, there is also a chance these losses could affect teams more than they realize.
South Carolina State will be missing a number of players from their defense, including MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Decobie Durant, All-MEAC defensive back Zafir Kelly, and All-MEAC linebacker Chad Gilchrist. The Bulldogs’ offense also took a slight hit as they will be without receiver Will Vereen.
Norfolk State will be looking to replace Juwan Carter. On defense, the Spartans no longer have two of their top pass rushers Chris Myers and De’Shaan Dixon.
Delaware State’s offense will look quite different without their two leading receivers from last season Trey Gross and Kwannah Kollie as well as their leading rusher Sy’veon Wilkerson.
Finally, North Carolina Central will have a completely different offense without top running back Isaiah Totten, receiver Ryan McDaniel and tight end Isaiah Macklin.
There are a lot of unknowns heading into the start of the 2022 season and that is something MEAC football fans should be excited about.