#37 North Carolina A&T FCS Football 2017 Preview


North Carolina A&T Aggies


Overall Rank: #37


North Carolina A&T was in a unique situation at the end of last season. If they had beaten North Carolina Central in their regular season finale, they would have gone to the Celebration Bowl to face off against the SWAC champions. But with a loss, they had a shot at making the FCS Playoffs. They did lose that game and ended up traveling to Richmond for a playoff game, where they lost 39-10.
2016 Record: 9-3, 7-1
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Rod Broadway (46-22 at North Carolina A&T, 114-45 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Larry Hester
Defensive Coordinator: Sam Washington
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Amos Williams, RB, 221 yards
Passing: Lamar Raynard, QB, 1,489 yards
Receiving: Elijah Bell, WR, 631 yards
Tackles: Jeremy Taylor, LB, 79
Sacks: Kenneth Melton, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Jeremy Taylor, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Khris Gardin, TE Leroy Hill, LB Deion Jones, OL Brandon Parker, OL Darriel Mack, OL Daquan Blake, DB Zerius Lockhart, DB Marquis Willis, LB Kiaundric Richardson
Key Losses: RB Tarik Cohen, QB Oluwafemi Bamiro, WR Denzel Keyes, OL Wes Cole, DL Angelo Keyes, DL Marquis Ragland
The Aggies offense went through running back Tarik Cohen. He rushed for 1,588 yards and 18 touchdowns during his final season with North Carolina A&T and was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Replacing him will not be easy, but there are options. Junior Marquell Cartwright rushed for four scores and 174 yards on 32 carries and looked like a star in the spring. South Carolina transfer Jamar Smith should also help fill the massive void left behind by Cohen. Cohen grabbed all the headlines, but Lamar Raynard had a good year under center as well. He threw for 1,489 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing a few games. If he can continue to complete around 65 percent of his passes while the Aggies look to the air more often, Raynard will have a very good junior campaign. The return of big play receiver Elijah Bell will certainly help. Bell caught 35 passes for 631 yards and eight touchdowns. That is an average of 18 yards per catch. Khris Gardin, who caught 27 passes for 303 yards, will be the main option to replace the departed Denzel Keyes.
The defense was very good against the run in 2016, but equally bad against the pass. Overall the unit did their job and that should be the case again this year as long as the line can replace Angelo Keyes and Marquis Ragland. Keyes led the team with 6.0 sacks, while Ragland added 3.5 sacks and a team high 11.0 tackles-for-loss. Kenneth Melson figures to lead the new look pass rush. Jeremy Taylor, Deion Jones and Kiaundric Richardson lead a talented and experienced group of linebackers. Taylor led the team with 79 tackles and four interceptions last season, while Jones ranked second on the team with 65 tackles. The secondary is where this team really needs to improve and that should be feasible with Zerius Lockhat and Marquis Willis leading the charge.
The Bottom Line:
If the pass rush can remain strong, the Aggies should be better defensively. Of course, the offense will almost have to take a step back without Cohen on the field. Once again, it could come down to the season finale against North Carolina Central to decide who represents the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl. It is unlikely that a playoff bid will be on the line though, so this time North Carolina A&T will definitely want to beat their rivals.
Projected Postseason: Celebration Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 203.8 (26th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 198.8 (75, 3)
Total Offense: 402.6 (39, 1)
Scoring Offense: 35.2 (11, 1)
Rushing Defense: 101.2 (10, 1)
Pass Defense: 241.7 (88, 11)
Total Defense: 342.8 (27, 3)
Scoring Defense: 23.1 (28, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (54, 5)
Sacks: 3.17 (7, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (11, 1)