For most college football teams, the season is winding down and with that in mind, it's recognition time. In the MEAC and SWAC, there are some terrific players and coaches who had big years. It wasn't easy picking just one person in each category.
Coach of the year: Buddy Pough, South Carolina State. Pough got off to a great start defeating Grambling State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge this season. The Tigers were the defending SWAC and National Black College Champions. Pough has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back MEAC championships. South Carolina State finished the season with an impressive 10-1 record. The Bulldogs' only loss was to FBS South Carolina. S.C. State also compiled an 8-0 conference record. Pough will lead his team to its second consecutive FCS playoff appearance against Appalachian State. The No. 6 Mountaineers will host the No. 7 Bulldogs in the first round of the tournament Saturday (ESPNU, noon ET).
Offensive player of the year: Will Ford, South Carolina State running back. Ford became the MEAC's all-time leading rusher this season. He rushed for 156 yards in a win over North Carolina A&T to give him 4,649 for his career, surpassing Hampton's Alonzo Coleman (2003-06) who held the record with 4,648. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior finished with 1,010 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Ford has been one of the best running backs in the country over the last four years. He should be playing on Sundays next season.
Defensive player of the year: Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State defensive back. Whitehead is one of the best cover guys in college football. He had five interceptions and 37 solo tackles this season. Moreover, most teams tried to stay away from Whitehead because of his playmaking skills. And still, he had a brilliant year. He was a big reason why Norfolk State had the second best defense in the MEAC.
Special teams player of the year: LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M return specialist. Vann had an unbelievable year as a punt and kickoff returner. He set NCAA records for single-season and career punt returns, single-season TD punt returns, single-season and career combined kick returns and combined kick return yards. He had 28 punt returns for 462 yards (16.5 yard average). He returned three punts for touchdowns, including one for 92 yards. Vann returned 28 kicks for an incredible 1,121 yards (29.5 yard arverage). He also returned three for scores, including one for 99 yards.
Coach of the year: Henry Frazier III, Prairie View A&M. Frazier led Prairie View A&M to an undefeated conference record and are a win away from capturing the SWAC title for the first time since 1964. The Panthers (7-1 overall, 6-0 SWAC) will face Alabama A&M for the SWAC championship on Dec. 12. Frazier has taken a once struggling football program and turned it into a nationally-recognized team in just six years. Prairie View A&M suffered just one loss this season to FBS New Mexico State. The Panthers dropped a narrow 21-18 decision to the Aggies.
Offensive player of the year: Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M running back. Banks is the real deal. He's a great all-around running back. He had 194 carries for 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards a carry and 101.4 yards a game. Ball control is key to the success of Alabama A&M. Banks played a huge role in leading his team to the conference title game.
Defensive player of the year: Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M defensive end. It's not easy to contain Maddox. He led the conference in sacks with 10, and is tied for second in FCS. He also had 16.5 tackles for loss, which leads the SWAC.
Special teams player of the year: Ari Johnson, Grambling State field goal kicker. Johnson led the SWAC in field goals made with 17. He also had a league-leading 77.3 percentage, including a season-long of 47 yards.
The SBN Black College Football Poll
1. South Carolina State
2. Prairie View A&M
5. Florida A&M
6. Grambling State
8. Alabama A&M
9. Norfolk State
10. Albany State
Tuskegee will face Alabama State on Thursday in the Turkey Day Classic.
Grambling State will clash with long time rival Southern University in the Bayou Classic from the Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff will battle Texas Southern in the Dallas Lonestar Classic in Dallas on Saturday.
Alabama A&M (7-4 overall, 4-3 league) will face Prairie View A&M for the SWAC Conference championship on Dec. 12 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
The Russell Athletic HBCU Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 19 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. The game will be a showcase for the top black college football prospects. The game will feature an East/West format. The East will feature players from the CIAA and MEAC. The West will be comprised of players from the SWAC and SIAC.
South Carolina State's Will Ford was named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Ford had 156 yards on 23 carries to lead South Carolina State over North Carolina A&T.
Norfolk State defensive back Terrell Whitehead was selected as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Whitehead intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble to help Norfolk State beat Winston-Salem State.
K.J. Black, Prairie View A&M quarterback, was named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Week. Black completed 23 of 27 passes for 312 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in the Panthers' 49-17 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Devin Boyd, Prairie View A&M defensive tackle, was chosen as the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Boyd made six tackles (three for loss) with two sacks and one forced fumble in the Panthers victory over the Golden Lions.
Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.