Ten (10) SC State University players have been named to the 2017 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Preseason All-Conference team, while Coach Buddy Pough’s team has been picked to finish third in the race for the league title, as voted on by MEAC head football coaches and sports information directors.
Bulldog All-America and All-MEAC linebacker Darius Leonard, a redshirt senior, was named MEAC preseasons Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and was one of five Bulldogs earning All-MEAC First Team honors. It was the third such honor for the Lake View native.
The announcements were made Friday (July 28) at the MEAC's annual Football Press Luncheon held Friday at the Norfolk Marriott Waterside Hotel.
North Carolina Central, the defending champion, was chosen as the preseason favorite to win the MEAC, followed by North Carolina A&T State and SC State. Bethune-Cookman and Hampton rounded out the top five spots of this year’s preseason predicted order of finish.
Leonard (6-3, 235), the 2016 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year lived up to expectations last season, finishing with a MEAC-leading and career-high 124 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss and four (4) forced fumbles. He collected a season-high 19 tackles in a loss against FBS National Champion Clemson last September.
Also last season, Leonard was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in the FCS and was well-recognized on the postseason awards circuit, earning All-American honors from STATS FCS, AFCA Coaches, Sheridan Broadcasting Network (SBN), Box-to-row, and HERO Sports.
In addition, Leonard was named the Mel Blount National Defensive Player of the Year as selected by SBN, Box-to-row National Defensive Player of the Year, and become the fourth straight Bulldog player to win the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
During this year’s preseason, he was previously selected as the MEAC Defensive Player to Watch by Athlon Sports in May and had been named a finalist for this year’s Butkus Award, honoring the nation's best linebacker.
The four other Bulldogs earning preseason All-MEAC First Team honors included redshirt senior linebacker Dayshawn Taylor, graduate defensive back Jason Baxter, and senior offensive linemen Robbie Stephenson and Justin Evans.
Offensive lineman Victor Ishmael, Jr., kicker Tyler Scandrett, defensive lineman Greg Newell and defensive back Devondre Powell, all seniors, all earned preseason All-MEAC second team honors, while senior defensive end Ty Cravens was named to the All-MEAC Third Team.
The Bulldogs open the 2017 season on Sept. 3 in Baton Rouge, LA against Southern University in the annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge, which will be televised live on ESPN2. Kick-off is 1:30 p.m.(CT) and 2:30 p.m. (ET).
Season tickets to SC State home games are still available for more information go online to www.scsuathletics.com or contact the SC State Ticket Office at 803-536-8579 or 1-800-298-9157.
Listed below are the 2017 MEAC Preseason Predicted Order of Finish and Preseason All-MEAC teams:
2017 MEAC FOOTBALL
PRESEASON PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. North Carolina Central
2. North Carolina A&T State
3. South Carolina State
6. Florida A&M
7. Norfolk State
8. Morgan State
10. Savannah State
11. Delaware State
2017 BULLDOG PRESEASON ALL-MEAC HONORS
First Team Offense
QB Lamar Raynard Jr. North Carolina A&T State High Point, N.C.
RB Anthony Philyaw Sr. Howard Los Angeles, Calif.
RB* Yahkee Johnson Sr. Hampton Richmond, Va.
RB* Ramone Simpson Jr. N.C. Central Wilmington, N.C.
WR Elijah Bell So. North Carolina A&T State Wheeling, W. Va.
WR* Brandon Norwood Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
WR* Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
TE Leroy Hill Jr. North Carolina A&T State Smithfield, N.C.
C Darriel Mack Sr. North Carolina A&T State Clio, S.C.
OL Brandon Parker Sr. North Carolina A&T State Kannapolis, N.C.
OL Nick Leverett So. N.C. Central Concord, N.C.
OL Robbie Stephenson Sr. S.C. State Fairburn, Ga.
OL Justin Evans Sr. S.C. State Florence, S.C.
PK Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.
First Team Defense
DL* Kevin Thompson R-Sr. Bethune-Cookman Baltimore, Md.
DL* Chris Lee Sr. Norfolk State Woodbridge, Va.
DL Ja’Quan Smith Gr. N.C. Central Miramar, Fla.
DL Antonio Brown Sr. N.C. Central Jacksonville, Fla.
LB Darius Leonard R-Sr. S.C. State Lake View, S.C.
LB Dayshawn Taylor R-Sr. S.C. State Lincolnton, Ga.
LB Reggie Hunter Sr. N.C. Central Henderson, N.C.
DB Alden McClellon Jr. N.C. Central Lake Butler, Fla.
DB* Jason Baxter Gr. S.C. State Manning, S.C.
DB* Diquan Richardson Sr. Bethune-Cookman Alvin, S.C.
DB Zerius Lockhart Sr. North Carolina A&T State Auburn, Ala.
P Nathaniel Tilque Sr. N.C. Central Charlotte, N.C.
RS Khris Gardin Sr. North Carolina A&T State Morganton, N.C.
* - Indicates tie
Second Team Offense
QB Larry Brihm, Jr. Sr. Bethune-Cookman Delray Beach, Fla.
RB Herb Walker, Jr. Sr. Morgan State Cleveland, Ohio
RB Mike Waters So. Delaware State Philadelphia, Pa.
WR Kyle Anthony So. Howard Miami, Fla.
WR Mason Rutherford Sr. Delaware State San Bernardino, Calif.
TE Demetrius Ferebee Sr. Norfolk State Roanoke, Va.
C Victor Ishmael, Jr. Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
OL Osman Aguilera Sr. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
OL Loubens Polinice So. Florida A&M Palm Coast, Fla.
OL Joshua Fala So. Delaware State Manteca, Calif.
OL Cade Pedro So. Delaware State Kailua, Hawai’i
PK Tyler Scandrett Sr. S.C. State Barnesville, Ga.
Second Team Defense
DL Steven Smith Sr. Hampton Norfolk, Va.
DL* Jai Franklin Sr. Morgan State Clinton, Md.
DL* Greg Newell Sr. S.C. State McDonough, Ga.
DL Julian McKnight Jr. North Carolina A&T State Conyers, Ga.
LB Trenton Bridges Jr. Bethune-Cookman DeLand, Fla.
LB* Malik Harris Sr. Delaware State Washington, D.C.
LB* Marcus Albert Jr. North Carolina A&T State College Park, Ga.
DB Brendan Cole Sr. Hampton Hampton, Va.
DB Orlando McKinley Jr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
DB Terry Jefferson So. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
DB Devondre Powell Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
P Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.
RS Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
* - Indicates tie
Third Team Offense
QB Ryan Stanley So. Florida A&M Pembroke Pines, Fla.
RB Dorrel McClain Jr. N.C. Central Cary, N.C.
RB Brycen Alleyne Jr. Delaware State Wilmington, Del.
WR Jalen Wilkes Jr. N.C. Central Greenville, S.C.
WR Jawill Davis Sr. Bethune-Cookman Miami, Fla.
TE Desmond Noird Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
C Phillip Norman Sr. Bethune-Cookman Sebastian, Fla.
OL Obinna Nwanko So. Florida A&M Miramar, Fla.
PK Wizdom Nzidee Sr. Delaware State Stone Mountain, Ga.
Third Team Defense
DL* Stefen Banks Jr. Savannah State Columbus, Ohio
DL* Elijah Price Sr. Florida A&M Jacksonville, Fla.
DL* Kenneth Melton Sr. North Carolina A&T State Elizabeth City, N.C.
DL Tyberius Cravens Sr. S.C. State Austell, Ga.
LB Kyle Archie Sr. Norfolk State Virginia Beach, Va.
LB Mulik Simmons Sr. Savannah State Savannah, Ga.
LB Brian Cavicante So. Delaware State Portsmouth, Va.
DB Carl Garnes Jr. Morgan State Columbus, N.J.
DB Keyjuan Selby Jr. Delaware State Bear, Del.
DB Darius Johnson Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md.
DB Davanta Reynolds Jr. N.C. Central Tucker, Ga.
P Fidel Romo-Martinez So. Delaware State Banning, Calif.
RS William King Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md.
* - Indicates tie