#32 North Carolina A&T FCS Football 2016 Preview

North Carolina A&T Aggies
Overall Rank: #32
By winning the inaugural Celebration Bowl, North Carolina A&T could not have had a better 2015 season. The Aggies lost an early game at North Carolina and then proceeded to dominate the MEAC by winning their next eight games in a row. A loss to North Carolina Central to end the regular season ruined their perfect conference record, but did not cost them a shot at Alcorn State, the SWAC champion, in the Celebration Bowl. And North Carolina A&T managed to slip past Alcorn State 41-34.
2015 Record: 10-2, 7-1
2015 Postseason: Celebration Bowl vs. Alcorn State (W 41-34)
Coach: Rod Broadway (37-19 at North Carolina A&T, 105-42 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Hester
Defensive Coordinator: Sam Washington
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tarik Cohen, RB, 1,543 yards
Passing: Lamar Raynard, QB, 632 yards
Receiving: Denzel Keyes, WR, 435 yards
Tackles: Tony McRae, DB, 55
Sacks: Angelo Keyes, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Tony McRae, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Khris Gardin, OL Brandon Parker, DL Marquis Ragland, LB Marcus Albert, DB Lorenz Suttles, LB Deion Jones, LB Julius Reynolds, DB Marquis Boyan
Key Losses: QB Kwashaun Quick, LB Denzel Jones, DL Michael Neal
North Carolina A&T does two things extremely well; run the ball and stop the run. Running back Tarik Cohen rushed for 1,543 yards and 15 touchdowns during his junior campaign and earned plenty of national recognition for his efforts. Behind a strong offensive line, led by Brandon Parker, expect another huge season from Cohen in 2016. On the other side of the ball, the Aggies ranked second in the FCS in rushing defense, allowing a mere 86.2 yards per game on the ground. Marquis Ragland is a great nose tackle in the middle of the line and he will again push around the opposing offensive linemen. Angelo Keyes figures to be the top pass rushing threat after recording 4.5 sacks and 16.0 tackles-for-loss last season. Linebackers Marcus Albert, Deion Jones and Julius Reynolds are all experienced players who will help keep North Carolina A&T among the best rushing defenses in the FCS.
The defensive secondary was pretty good last year and has the potential to be even better this year. But if somebody is going to beat the Aggies, it will likely have to come through the air. Tony McRae is a very good safety who led the team in tackles last season, while Lorenz Suttles and Marquis Boyan are both experienced seniors. The biggest concern on offense is finding a quarterback. Lamar Raynard threw for 632 yards and seven touchdowns in limited action last season. He will be pushed by fellow sophomore Kylil Carter, who also saw a little bit of playing time as a freshman. Whoever wins the job will have to hand the ball off to Cohen a lot and occasionally look down field for Denzel Keyes and Khris Gardin. Keyes is the top receiving threat after catching 39 passes for 435 yards and eight touchdowns. Gardin, who is also a superb return man, caught 28 passes for 318 yards and three scores. 
The Bottom Line:
The offense should be fine no matter who wins the quarterback battle. Raynard is a more proven option, but Carter can do more damage with his feet. As long as they can take advantage of having Keyes and Gardin at their disposal, it will be enough to open up holes for Cohen. And Cohen does not need much space to be extremely effective. Not only is this the team to beat in the MEAC, but North Carolina A&T is the early favorite to start a streak of Celebration Bowl victories.
Projected Postseason: Celebration Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 193.8 (28th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 131.6 (112, 10)
Total Offense: 325.4 (92, 6)
Scoring Offense: 30.9 (30, 2)
Rushing Defense: 86.2 (2, 1)
Pass Defense: 181.3 (19, 4)
Total Defense: 267.5 (2, 1)
Scoring Defense: 17.2 (7, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.58 (19, 1)
Sacks: 2.17 (52, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (60, 3)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#179 Kentre Grier