One thing there is no shortage of this year in black college football is playmakers. And, as usual, one of the primary keys to how the year goes is play at the quarterback position. North Carolina Central’s Malcolm Bell, Prairie View A&M’s Trey Green, Tuskegee’s Kevin Lacey, Virginia Union’s Shawheem Dowdy, Miles’ David Whipple and Norfolk State’s Greg Hankerson are prolific, experienced starters and seniors to keep your eyes on. Bethune-Cookman’s Larry Brihm and Alcorn State’s Lenorris Footman are talented back-ups from a year ago moving to the fore to lead their teams this year. Coming onto the scene at the controls will be playmaking A&T sophomore Kylil Carter and heralded Ole Miss transfer Deonte Kincade at Grambling.
But they are hardly the only players to watch. If excitement is your thing look no further than A&T’s Tarik Cohen. The 5-8, 180-pound senior dynamo enters the season looking for his fourth straight 1,000-yard season and needing just under 650 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in MEAC history. Of his 15 touchdown runs a year ago, the miniature Adrian Peterson had five of over 30 yards.
Excitement also comes in the small package (5-8, 175) of Grambling do-everything back Martez Carter, the HBCU returning leader in all-purpose yards (153.8 ypg.). Carter also scored 15 TDs – nine by ground, four by air and two on returns. Speaking of returns, no one was better than A&T’s Khris Gardin – all 5-7, 164 pounds of him – who set a new FCS record with 740 punt return yards and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.
Virginia Union sophomore running back Hakeem Holland is only slightly bigger at 5-10, 180 pounds. He burst on the scene last year rushing for over 1,000 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 12 TDs. Prairie View’s Green, a 6-3, 220-pound senior, returns at the helm of the most prolific offense in HBCU football at 488.3 yards per game. Green leads the Prairie View squad that averaged 44.9 points per game, tops in the FCS last season. Another sophomore, West Virginia State’s Matt Kinnick, is the only returning passer to top 3,000 passing yards last season. Norfolk State senior Greg Hankerson rushed for 423 yards and passed for over 2,000 yards in his first season with the Spartans. He was only outdone as a dual-threat quarterback by Alcorn State’s Footman who ran for 1,023 yards and 11 TDs and passed for 1,160 yards and 12 TDs while only starting eight games!
If you like players with gaudy stats, try Lincoln (Pa.) senior running back Stephen Scott who carried for a workman-like 304 times last season including three games with over 40 carries. Bowie State wide receiver Nyme Manns – all 6-4, 212 pounds of him – stretched out his lanky frame to haul in a hefty 82 balls last season, a black college best 6.8 catches per game. Tennessee State junior wideout Patrick Smith fell just four yards short of 1,000 receiving yards (996) but averaged a 18.4 yards per catch to lead the returnees at 99.6 receiving yards per game. Or how about Texas Southern’s 6-7, 230-pound wideout Derrick Griffin who had just 36 catches but nearly one in three, 11, went for touchdowns. Griffin made just as many plays as a TSU center in basketball winning SWAC player of the year honors as a double-double machine.