Top MEAC Defense of HBCU Gameday Era

Darius Leonard

MEAC teams in general pride themselves on defense, but which defensive unit has been the best since 2012?

Certain leagues are known for certain things. The MEAC has been a decidedly defensive conference for the most part since the sun set on Billy Joe’s Gulf Coast Offense.

We’re taking a look back at the best MEAC defenses of the HBCU Gameday Era. Instead of ranking them, we figured we’d let the numbers speak for themselves and allow the fans to debate amongst themselves.

To be sure, there are other defenses that bare mentioning. North Carolina Central’s defense made several big plays during its three-year MEAC run from 2014 through 2016, although the offense allowed it a cushion that some of the other squads on this list didn’t have. The same goes for the Bethune-Cookman defenses of the Brian Jenkins Era. The Norfolk State defenses with Deon King and Lynden Trail on opposite ends probably could have put up much better numbers if they had more competent offenses, but that just wasn’t the case.

Passing on the 2012 Aggies was a risky proposition.

2012 NC A&T

The first great Rod Broadway defense laid the foundation for what was to come. The offense was still a work in progress, but the defense was already playing at championship level.

  • Allowed just 14 ppg (154 points all season)
  • Allowed just 14 touchdowns
  • Averaged 252.9 yards per game
  • Allowed just 8 rushing touchdowns
  • Allowed just 2.7 yards per rush
  • Allowed just 6 passing TDs all season
  • Picked off 15 passes and returned 4 for those TDs

Stars: DB Travis Crosby (87 tackles) D’Vonte Grant (88 tackles, ) DB D’Vonte Graham (4 INT) Tony Clodfelter (69 tackles), Ayodeji Olatoye (3 INTs)

2013 SC State

You’d be hard pressed to find a more talented defensive group in the MEAC or in the recent FCS. Pressure from the front seven made moving the ball on this unit unbelievablely difficult as running was nearly impossible and passing wasn’t any easier.

  • Allowed 15.2 ppg
  • Allowed 18 TDs
  • Allowed 238 yards per game
  • Allowed 2.8 yards per rush
  • Allowed 8 passing TDs in 13 games
  • Held opponents to 47.8 percent passing
  • Picked off 12 passes
  • Racked up 62 sacks

Stars: Joe Thomas (116 tackles, 19 TFL, 7.5 sacks), Javon Hargrave (52 tackles, 5.5 sacks), Andrew Carter (11 sacks), Alex Glover (14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks)

2014 NC A&T

Several of the emerging stars on the 2012 defense came of age this season to help A&T improve to 9-3 overall and gain a share of the MEAC title. The defense came up with three shutouts, including back-to-backs against Morgan State and Delaware State.

  • Allowed 13.9 points per game (167 total)
  • Allowed 21 touchdowns in 12 games
  • Allpwed 317.2 yards per game
  • Allowed just 10 passing TDs
  • Picked off 21 passes
  • Recovered 15 fumbles
  • Opponents rushed for just 10 TDs in 12 games
  • Racked up 36 sacks
  • Turnover margin of +12

Stars : LB D’Vonte Grant (81 tackles,16.5 TFL, 5 sacks), LB Denzel Jones (70 tackles), DL Marquise Ragland (69 tackles, 8 sacks), DB Donald Mattocks (7 INTs), DB Tony McRae (5 INT)

2015 SC State

Javon Hargrave was always a problem for the offensive line, but as a senior he was absolute murder. The numbers speak for themselves. This was also the year Darius “The Maniac” Leonard came into his own as a name to watch in the MEAC and for NFL Scouts.

  • Allowed just 15.2 points per game (167 points)
  • Allowed 21 touchdowns
  • Allowed 10 passing TDs all season
  • Allowed just 1,537 passing yards
  • Picked off 14 passes
  • Put up 46 sacks in 11 games
  • Defense was on the field over half the game

Stars: Javon Hargrave (59 tackles, 22 TFL, 13.5 sacks), Darius Leonard (70 tackles, 5 sacks), Dayshawn Taylor (73 tackles) Reggie Owens (19 TFL, 7 sacks)

2017 NC A&T

This team has a great argument as the best all-around squad on this list. Freshman Franklin “Mac” McCain was a virtual shut down corner and Jeremy Taylor made plays in the run game and passing game as well. Add in a solid pass rush from Sam Blue and a sophomore D.J. Johnson and just getting to the endzone was a problem as opponents averaged less than two attempts per game. And of course, the 12-0 record speaks for itself.

  • Allowed just 12.4 points per game (149 total)
  • Allowed just 18 touchdowns
  • Allowed 258.4 yards per game
  • Held opponents to 82.1 yards rushing per game
  • Allowed just 11 passing TDs all season
  • Picked off 17 passes, returned four for TD
  • Led MEAC with 38 sacks
  • Had + 17 turnover margin
  • Allowed league low 21 red zone chances

Stars: Mac McCain (6 INTs, 3 TDs), DJ Johnson (6.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles), Jeremy Taylor (69 tackles, 5 INTs), Sam Blue (6.5 sacks).

MEAC Defenses NCAT

2018 NC A&T

The latest edition of the Aggie defense allowed a few more points per game and had two more losses than the previous season, but one could argue it was in the same ballpark. The pass rush wasn’t as fierce, and the picks weren’t as plentiful and the turnover margin wasn’t as plentiful, but this unit always seemed to make big plays when the game was on the line. All-American Mac McCain missed the final month of the season and the A&T defensive backfield didn’t skip a beat.

  • Allowed 14.2 points per game (170 total)
  • Allowed just 14 touchdowns in 12 games
  • Allowed just 270.7 yards per game
  • Allowed 93.9 rushing yards per game (3 yards per rush)
  • Allowed just 6 passing touchdowns all season
  • Allowed just 8 passing touchdowns all season
  • Picked off 12 passes
  • 24 sacks

Stars: DJ Johnson (50 tackles, 19 TFL, 10.5 sacks), LB Antoine Wilder (67 tackles), LB Deion Jones (55 tackles), DB Timadre Abram (4 INTs), DB Mac McCain, Sam Blue (11.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks)

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