MEAC teams averaged 21.3 points per game, which was over 2.7 points fewer than teams from the second-lowest-ranked FCS conference. In addition, the MEAC was last nationally in offensive yards with its teams averaging less than 313.3 per game.
It doesn’t help matters that quarterback is a fairly inexperienced position across the 11-team MEAC this year. Bethune-Cookman, which returns its starter, and South Carolina State, which doesn’t, remain the teams to beat after they shared last year’s conference title.
A look across the conference with spring practices getting underway around the nation:
Hampton (Connell Maynor), Morgan State (Lee Hull) and North Carolina Central (Jerry Mack) are all getting settled with new head coaches.
As other MEAC teams develop their quarterbacks, Howard returns perhaps the best one at the position, senior left-hander Greg McGhee.
Bethune-Cookman has won three MEAC titles in coach Brian Jenkins’ first four seasons. But his squad is vulnerable after losing key seniors as well as safety Nick Addison to an early entry into the NFL Draft.
North Carolina A&T, coming off a 7-4 season, may have a Caucasian starting quarterback, Frank Foster, for the first time in school history. The transfer accounted for 28 touchdowns (18 passing, 10 rushing) at Southwestern College last year.
MEAC power South Carolina State will have a sophomore or freshman as the starting quarterback. Coach Buddy Pough hasn’t had enough consistency at the position since Malcolm Long directed three straight MEAC championship squads from 2008-10.
Florida A&M’s proud program, coming off a 3-9 season, will try to get back on track behind second-year coach Earl Holmes. The Rattlers’ mantra for 2014: Set the Record Straight.
North Carolina Central’s Adrian Wilkins might be the best returner in the FCS. He had a national-high five special teams return touchdowns, three on kickoffs and two on punts, and all went for at least 73 yards.
Howard is thrilled to have another season from safety Julien David, who missed last season after tearing his right pectoral muscle. He is an All-MEAC first- teamer.
Savannah State wants to see less of linebackers Marquis Smith and Justin Dixon than more after they were on the field enough to collect 124 and 122 tackles, respectively, last season. The Tigers were outscored, 517-174.
South Carolina State returns its entire starting defensive line, led by All- MEAC first-team selections Andrew Carter and Alex Glover, from a defense that ranked No. 1 in the FCS in total defense.
Last season, Hampton unleashed a terrific pass rusher in defensive end Miles Grooms. He had 18.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks as a sophomore.
Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming was the MEAC’s 2013 preseason co- offensive player of the year, but slumped through a difficult season. He expects to rebound as a senior.
Morgan State’s Lamont Brown III was impressive as a redshirt freshman, rushing for 705 yards and five touchdowns.