HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Norfolk State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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The MEAC (NSU was Tied for 8th in 2018)
COACH: Latrell Scott – At School: 5th year (16-28 record) Overall: 8th year (41-36)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2011 (lost 1st round to Old Dominion)
2018 OFFENSE: 18.8 ppg (107th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 27.3 ppg. (54th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 2 – vs. Morgan State: This homecoming game against a MEAC foe could be the determinant of whether Norfolk State breaks its habit of four-win seasons (see fact nugget below). Both these programs look better than they've been in recent years.
SUM IT UP: Last season marked the fifth straight season Norfolk State won four games, but there is reason to believe that trend can be broken. First of all, Norfolk State knocked off MEAC top-half programs like Howard and S.C. State last fall, certainly a sign of a spark within the program. Obviously the problem was dropping a contest to last place Savannah State, its lone MEAC win. With a little more consistency, the Spartans may have been an above .500 team last year. That's something to build on now that a young team has had a year to grow.
Offensively, the team struggled — let's not mince words. But QB Juwan Carter has shown he can be an exciting threat on offense, both in the passing game and with his feet. And he has four of his five starting offensive linemen back, so that's a start, along with his leading rusher returning (Aaron Savage). The four offensive linemen returning are the intriguing part of this equation — they combine for 84 career starts. Here's another nugget: The Spartans were 38th in the FCS last year in sacks allowed, a testament to this shifty quarterback and his offensive line. Look for this offense to improve by a touchdown per game, which sets up a defense that was decent last year and could be better in 2019.
Defensively, the strength of this returning collective comes in the linebacking corps and with its safeties. Statistics can be deceiving sometimes, but last year this group was a Top 10 defense against the pass. Speed is not going to be an issue with this group, and the scheme moves from three D-linemen to four to try to do a better job stopping the run. If this clicks? This could be interesting. And here's a fact to chew on: Eight of last year's top nine tacklers were underclassmen.
OUR TAKE: We just have a feeling that this year's Norfolk State and Morgan State teams are going to be spoilers in the MEAC. We're not predicting Celebration Bowl berths for these two programs, but we do think they'll be factors … and they're both going to go from the bottom of the league to a position where they ruin somebody's day within the league. Book that. Norfolk State certainly didn't schedule cream puffs in the non-conference schedule, with FBS teams Old Dominion and Coastal Carolina on the schedule, as well as FCS playoff team Montana State. That will toughen up the Spartans for league play, where they will do some damage. In this 12-game schedule, don't be surprised if this team hits the .500 mark with some true signature MEAC wins.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./LB Nigel Chavis (1st Team All MEAC- 71 tackles, 13 TFLsm 5.5 sacks, 8 hurries).
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DB Bobby Price (3rd Team All MEAC – 59 tackles, 8 PBUs); Jr./QB Juwan Carter (2,302 yards passing, 13 TDs; 338 yards rushing gained, 2 TDs); Sr./OL Craig Rodwell (23 career starts); Jr./OL Kenneth Kirby (3rd Team All MEAC in 2017); Jr./LB Tyre Givers-Wilson (38 tackles, 7 TFLs); Sr./RB Aaron Savage (last year's leading rusher — 400 yards rushing, 2 TDs); Sr./PK Josh Nardone (11 of 12 on field goals last year).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./WR Da'Kendall James (Coastal Carolina transfer saw time in 3 games for Chants before injury, played mostly on special teams against South Carolina, UAB and Campbell;, 3,126 career receiving yards in high school)
THE QUOTE: "We've put together a very difficult schedule. Our team is always up for a challenge and this year's non-conference schedule will provide us with several. Coastal Carolina has established a strong tradition in football, so we're looking forward to seeing how we measure up against another FBS opponent. The game at Montana State will give our players an opportunity to see a different part of the country and play a strong opponent from one of the top FCS conferences. We will definitely have an idea of what sort of team we are following those games." — Head Coach Latrell Scott said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Norfolk State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MEAC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast