FCS Spring Football: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Preview
The FCS is ready to get back on the field and command the college football spotlight this spring after conferences postponed their 2020 fall schedules due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not all schools have decided to play this spring. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has been hit hard by opt-outs, with only three of the nine programs moving forward with competition – Delaware State, Howard and South Carolina State. They’ll play each other in nonconference games after Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central chose not to have spring seasons.
Following is a capsule look at the three MEAC spring participants:
DELAWARE STATE HORNETS
LOCATION: Dover, Delaware
STADIUM: Alumni Stadium
HEAD COACH: Rod Milstead (5-18, third season)
2019 RECORD: 2-10, 1-7 MEAC (8th)
THE SKINNY: Progress has been slow at Delaware State, which hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2013, but Milstead has more pieces in place heading into his third season. In 2019, the starting quarterback (Tylik Bethea), leading rusher (Thomas Bertrand-Hudon) and leading scorer (wide receiver Bizzet Woodley) were freshmen. While Bethea went through growing pains, he’s helped by the return of his top wide receivers, Kwannah Kollie, Bizzet Woodley and Trey Gross. Leading tackler Brooks Martinez, a linebacker, anchors the defense. If there’s a negative, the Hornets are replacing the majority of their starting offensive and defensive linemen. Jose Romo-Martinez is an efficient 19 of 25 (76 percent) on career field goal attempts. In addition to home-and-home series with Howard and South Carolina State, Delaware State will host Delaware for the first time.
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
STADIUM: William H. Greene Stadium
HEAD COACH: Larry Scott (first season; 4-2 overall)
2019 RECORD: 2-10, 2-6 MEAC (6th)
THE SKINNY: Howard was desperate for a fresh start when it hired Scott, who was the interim head coach at Miami (Fla.) in 2015, and also had FBS stops at Tennessee, South Florida and most recently Florida. He can build around the young talent, especially sophomores named Williams – quarterback Quinton Williams played in eight games in 2019 and safety Ray Williams was the team’s leading tackler. The return of junior running back Josiah Crute is important considering the wide receivers unit is mostly inexperienced following the graduation of all-time receptions leader Kyle Anthony. Led by Ray Williams, the top seven tacklers are back from 2019. The difference in sacks was incredible: the Bison had only 13 and surrendered 59.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE BULLDOGS
LOCATION: Orangeburg, South Carolina
STADIUM: Oliver C. Dawson Stadium
HEAD COACH: Buddy Pough (133-73, 19th season)
2019 RECORD: 8-3, 6-2 MEAC (Tie/1st)
THE SKINNY: The Bulldogs earned a share of the 2019 MEAC title with North Carolina A&T and remain one of the conference’s stronger programs. Incredibly, Pough has finished .500 or better in conference games in 17 of his 18 seasons. Defense has long been the staple of the program, but the line needs retooling after stud defensive tackle Roderick Perry left via grad transfer. The two back units have experience, including linebacker Chad Gilchrist and defensive backs Decobie Durant and Zafir Kelley. Despite some key losses, the offense boasts two excellent sophomores in quarterback Corey Fields, the MEAC’s 2019 rookie of the year who had 15 TD passes, and 6-foot-5 wide receiver Shaq Davis. It appears the Bulldogs could sweep their series with Delaware State and Howard.