Three-Peats. A feat that has been the norm within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this past decade. Bethune-Cookman did it from 2012 to 2015. Ok, that’s four straight. I know. Let’s move on. In-state rivals North Carolina Central (2014-2016) and North Carolina A&T (2017-2019) accomplished the same feat over the next six seasons. Yes Aggies, I am aware that A&T was also co-champions in 2014 and 2015.
My point is that the MEAC has seen three different teams end the season as the best in the league for at least three consecutive years over a ten-year span. The question is will the 2021 Celebration Bowl Champions, South Carolina State, become the fourth?
Here’s a look ahead at the players to know in the MEAC and our predicted order of finish.
Returning All-Conference Players
From last season’s All-MEAC Team
South Carolina State – 11: LB B.J. Davis (1st Team), DL Jeblonski Green (1st Team), RB Kendrell Flowers (2nd Team), DL Patrick Godbolt (2nd Team), DL Octaveon Minter (2nd Team), OL Nick Taiste (2nd Team), TE Yancey Washington (2nd Team), OL Eric Brown (3rd Team), WR Shaquan Davis (3rd Team), QB Corey Fields, Jr. (3rd Team), OL Cam Johnson (3rd Team)
Delaware State – 10: LB Ronald Holmes (1st Team), P Matt Noll (1st Team), DL Isaiah Williams (1st Team), C Dillon Marshall (2nd Team), DB Charles Peeler (2nd Team), OL Brandon Bradford (3rd Team), DB Jawain Granger (3rd Team), LB Ronald Holmes (3rd Team), LB Brooks Parker (3rd Team), DL Marcus Winfield (3rd Team)
Howard – 8: DL Darren Brokenburr (2nd Team), OL Anim Dunkwah (2nd Team), DB Kenny Gallop (2nd Team), RB/RB Ian Wheeler (2nd Team/3rd Team), OL Darius Fox (3rd Team), WR Antoine Murray (3rd Team), RB Jarett Hunter (3rd Team)
Norfolk State – 6: C Colby Byrd (1st Team), RB J.J. Davis (1st Team, ROY), DB Brandon Savage (1st Team), LB Marquis Hall (2nd Team), LB Tyler Long (2nd Team), DB Justin Toler (2nd Team)
North Carolina Central – 6: RS Brandon Codrington (1st Team), OL Corey Bullock (2nd Team), PK Adrian Olivo (2nd Team), QB Davius Richard (2nd Team), DL Jessie Malit (3rd Team), DB Manny Smith (3rd Team)
Morgan State – 1: DB Jae-Veyon Morton (2nd Team)
Returning HERO Sports All-Americans
From last season
South Carolina State – 2: WR Shaquan Davis (Soph.), DL Jeblonski Green (Soph.)
North Carolina Central – 2: K Adrian Olivo (Soph.), DL Jaden Taylor (Fr.)
Delaware State – 1: DB Esaias Guthrie (Fr.)
Teams With The Most D1 Transfers
Norfolk State – 10 (5 FBS, 5 FCS)
Morgan State – 2 (2 FBS)
North Carolina Central – 2 (2 FBS)
Names To Know
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: J.J. Davis, Norfolk State RB — Last season’s Rookie of the Year led the conference with 887 yards on 123 carries while averaging 7.2 yards per rush, compiling 10 touchdowns, and finishing 2021 seventh in the MEAC in total offense. Look for him to compete with SC State RB Kendrell Flowers (857 yards, ten TDs in 2021) and the quarterback quartet of SC State’s Corey Fields, Jr., DSU’s Jared Lewis, NCCU’s Davius Richard, and Howard’s Quinton Williams for the MEAC’s top offensive honor this year.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Jeblonski Green, South Carolina State DL — A member of the Bulldog defense that led the MEAC in rushing defense (121.8 yards per game) and ranked second in total defense in 2021, Green led the league in tackles for loss with 17.5 for a total of 97 yards and was also top-10 in the conference in sacks with 2.5 per game.
TOP NFL PROSPECT: Shaquan Davis, South Carolina State WR — The 6-foot-5, 215-pound wideout led the conference in total receiving yards (864) and receiving yards per game (86.4) while pulling in eight receiving TDs, including his three TD performance against Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl.
Other Players to Watch: DE Darren Brokenburr (Howard), OT Anim Dunkwah (Howard), DE Jeblonski Green (South Carolina State)
HERO Sports’ Predicted Order of Finish
1. South Carolina State
2. North Carolina Central
3. Delaware State
4. Norfolk State
6. Morgan State
Buddy Pough and the Bulldogs’ run at a potential three-peat will be strenuous. Last season’s HBCU National Champions won four of their five conference games by an average of 5.5 points in 2021, including a narrow three-point victory over NC Central.
Delaware State is upset with their predicted fourth-place finish, even though the league’s top-ranked defense will be returning all 11 starters. Norfolk State has not forgotten how their three-game downward spiral eliminated them from title contention late last season. Howard looks to have an improved offense with the return of the longest-tenured signal caller in the MEAC, all-conference performers at the skill positions, and an improved defense. This might be the most competitive this conference has been in a long time.