South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard was the most dominant defender of the players selected to the 2016 “Baad Team” of Black College Sports Page all-stars.
For that reason, he is the BCSP 2016 Defensive Player of the Year.
Leonard, a 6-3, 220-pounder who plays like a heat-seeking missile, led all black college defenders with 124 tackles, 11.3 per game. The total was sixth best in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) stats. His 7.1 solo tackles per game was fourth best nationally.
Leonard, who won the MEAC defensive player of the year award, served notice of his prowess with a 19-tackle game vs. Clemson. He also had 16 tackles in the season opener vs. Central Florida and failed to reach double-figure tackles in just four games. He also had two interceptions vs. Howard including one returned for a touchdown.
Leonard is joined at the linebacker position by senior Arkez Cooper of SWAC and national champion Grambling State and prolific Alcorn State senior Darrien Anderson. Cooper led the stingy G-Men’s defense with 74 tackles, 17.5 for losses including 7 sacks. Anderson led the Braves with 91 total stops, 18 for losses including a SWAC-best 13 sacks.
Up front on the first team defense is senior pass rusher Frederick Henry-Ajudua of national runner-up North Carolina Central, Virginia State standout Bryant Frazier, Grambling run stuffer Donovan McCray and outstanding Lane junior Whitney Richardson.
Henry-Ajudua (6-2, 245) totalled 8.5 sacks and 29 tackles overall for the Eagles. Frazier (6-2, 270) had 14.5 sacks, 55 total tackles among 24 tackles for losses to earn the CIAA defensive player of the year award.
McCray (6-3, 265) won the SWAC defensive player of the year award after anchoring the league’s best defensive unit. He finished with 35 tackles, 13.5 for losses including five sacks. He also had three fumble recoveries.
Richardson, a 6-5, 235-pound junior transfer from East Mississippi Junior College, topped all black college rushers with 17 sacks and 32.5 tackles for 184 yards in losses. He led the Dragons with 75 tackles.
The back end is led by Johnson C. Smith junior defensive back Carlo Thomas (6-2, 185), who led all NCAA Div. II and black college defenders for the second consecutive year in interceptions. Thomas picked off seven passes this season to tie for the black college lead with Southern DB Danny Johnson, a second team selection. Thomas also had 69 tackles to finish second on the Golden Bulls’ team.
Joining Thomas in the backfield are Grambling senior Guy Stallworth, Tennessee State senior Ezra Robinson and NCCU junior Mike Jones.
Stallworth (6-3, 215), a first team all-SWAC pick, was second for the G-Men with 70 tackles and had 6.5 tackles for losses. Robinson (6-1, 180) had 42 tackles and five interceptions for the Blue Tigers to earn first team Ohio Valley Conference honors. Jones (5-10, 190) was a first team all-MEAC pick after totalling 34 tackles and two picks. Texas Southern senior Erick Medina’s black college best 42.2-yard average garnered him the first team punting position.
Third-year coaches Broderick Fobbs of Grambling State and Jerry Mack of North Carolina Central share the 2016 BCSP Coach of the Year award.
Fobbs led the G-Men to a SWAC title, finishing 9-0 in conference play, and a national title by virtue of their 10-9 win over Mack’s NCCU MEAC championship team in the 2nd Annual Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. Grambling finished with an 11-1 record after running off 11 straight wins following a close 31-21 season opening loss to Arizona of the Pac-12.
Mack led the Eagles to their first-ever MEAC outright title after sharing the title in his first two seasons. The Eagles (9-3) ran the table in the MEAC winning all eight games including a 42-21 title-clinching win over rival North Carolina A&T in the final game of the regular season. NCCU came within a late game blocked PAT attempt of tying Grambling in the season finale.
Fobbs and Mack narrowly edged out Winston-Salem State head coach Kienus Boulware who led the Rams to their second straight CIAA title and first Div. II playoff berth since 2013.