North Carolina A&T, who has earned a share of the last two MEAC football titles, has been picked by conference coaches and sports information directors to come away with the 2016 title in results unveiled during the league’s Preseason Football Media day here Friday.
With 13 first-place votes and a total of 489 points,the Aggies were voted over 2015 co-champs Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central who finished second and third respectively. NCCU had four first-place votes to three for B-CU but the Wildcats garnered 447 points overall to outdistance the Eagles for second, who tallied 388 total points. N.C. A&T running back Tarik Cohen was selected as the MEAC preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard was selected as preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Cohen, the two-time defending MEAC Player of the Year, totalled 1,543 rushing yards in 2015 leading the conference with 123.6 rushing yards per game, carrying the ball 264 times with 15 touchdowns in 12 games. He finished first in the MEAC all-purpose yards (148.8 ypg.). He capped the season with a 295-yard, three touchdown performance in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
Leonard was named to the 2015 All-MEAC First Team, as a linebacker. Leonard finished the season recording 70 total tackles, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble, two quarterback hurries, four passes deflected and two breakups. He notched two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Leonard was second on the team in sacks (5.0) and interceptions.
The voters picked first, second and third all-conference teams. Bethune-Cookman led the way with 15 selections, seven first teamers. NC A&T had 13 overall selections and six on the first team. NCCU had 10 total and four on the first team. SC State had nine overall selections and four first teasers. Last week’s MEAC Football Media Day wrapped up the four HBCU conference preseason events.