S.C. State favorite in MEAC

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NORFOLK, Va. – For the second consecutive year, South Carolina State has been picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football championship, edging out defending champion Delaware State. The announcement was made at the league’s annual Football

NORFOLK, Va. – For the second consecutive year, South Carolina State has been picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football championship, edging out defending champion Delaware State.

The announcement was made at the league’s annual Football Press Luncheon.

Also, the Bulldogs placed 11 players on the pre-season All-MEAC squad, among them junior running back Will Ford, tabbed as preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and one of five South Carolina State players earning first-team honors.

In being named as the team to beat in the MEAC again, Coach Buddy Pough’s South Carolina team, which tied for runner up in the league the last two seasons, received 272 points to 252 for head coach Al Lavan and the 2007 champion Hornets.

Norfolk State, the team that tied the Bulldogs for second in the league standings last year, was third with 216 points, followed by Hampton with 214, Morgan State 170, Florida A&M 120, Bethune-Cookman 91, Howard 85 and North Carolina A&T 35.

Pough, whose team has not won an outright MEAC title in his six previous seasons, was mildly surprised that his team earned the preseason nod from the voting panel made up of league head coaches and sports information directors.

“It (winning the title) will be a challenge,” Pough said. “I thought Delaware State would be the odds on favorite, but we have a good team coming back and I hope we can get over the hump this time.

“We’ve had good teams in the past and came close more than once, but couldn’t quite get the job done. I hope this year will be different.”

The Bulldogs return 44 letter winners from last season’s team. Sixteen starters, including nine on a defense that was second in the MEAC in fewest yards allowed, are among the returnees.

The South Carolina State offense, with seven regulars back, led the league in rushing offense and total offense but will be without record-setting quarterback Cleve McCoy and All-America offensive lineman James Lee, now on the Cleveland Browns’ roster.

Sophomore Malcolm Long, the top backup to McCoy last year, is expected to win the battle for signal-calling duties this year but will receive stiff competition from red shirt freshman DeWain Clark.

“We expect Long to be a dynamic leader for us this year,” Pough said. “He’s talented enough to take us to the big dance (playoffs), but he will have to earn the job over DeWain Clark. Malcolm is a passer who can run a little, just the opposite of McCoy, who was a great threat as a runner and could pass some. It’s a big difference in style, but I’m excited about Long.

“And, we do have Will Ford, an outstanding running back,” continued Pough. “If we can get him through the season healthy and our offensive line holds up, that will take some of the pressure off our quarterback.”

Two Bulldogs players who accompanied Pough at the luncheon, said the choice of South Carolina State as the pre-season favorite demonstrates the respect people around the league have for the team, however, they also noted that it puts a target on their backs but expressed confidence that the squad would live up to the challenge.

Senior center Raymond Harrison, who joined Ford and junior guard Devon Dawson on the pre-season first team offense, said, “I feel proud that our team was picked to win, although we were not the returning champion.

“We will have a target on our back for a second straight year, but I think we can live up to challenge. I’m a senior, and it would be great to go out a champion and getting to the playoffs for the first time in a long time.”

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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