Who stood out in MEAC, SWAC?
As the season winds down, it's time to hand out some awards in the MEAC and SWAC. Both conferences have a number of outstanding players and there were some great coaching performances as well.
MEACCoach of the Year: Brian Jenkins, Bethune-Cookman
Jenkins had a tremendous season as a first-year head coach. In just one season, he took Bethune-Cookman to not only the top of the MEAC standings -- but to the No. 1 spot in black college football. The Wildcats (10-0 overall, 7-0 league) have been sensational behind quarterback Matt Johnson. Jenkins and his staff have played a huge role in Johnson's success.
Bethune-Cookman has already clinched a share of the MEAC title. Of course, Jenkins has to face rival Florida A&M (7-3, 6-1) in the legendary Florida Classic this weekend. Nevertheless, Jenkins should get some major consideration for other coach-of-the-year honors in the FCS. There aren't many coaches in college football who have done as well as him in his first season.
Offensive player of the year: QB Matt Johnson, Bethune-Cookman
Johnson has engineered one of the most high-powered offenses in the country. Under his direction, the Wildcats have averaged 41.1 points a game, which leads the MEAC. Johnson has completed 122 of 189 passes for 1,724 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has 119 carries for 643 yards and seven rushing TDs. His arm and legs have made him the best offensive player in the conference.
Defensive player of the year: LB Keith Pough, Howard
It's been a real struggle for Howard this season. The Bison has a 1-9 overall record, including an 0-7 mark in the MEAC. But they have a real bright spot in Pough, who has been all over the field this season. He is a real hitter with great anticipation and has totaled 92 total tackles, including 54 solo, this season. He also leads the MEAC with 8.5 sacks. His tackling and pass-rushing skills make him a huge threat. You have to know where he is at all times.
Freshman of the Year: LB Dominick Bryan, Morgan State
Bryan is one of the bright young defensive players in the MEAC. He plays extremely well against the run and has 50 total tackles, including 25 solo. He has a chance to be a big-time player because of his instincts and because he has a nose for the football. Morgan State has a good foundation to build around with him on the defensive side of the ball.
SWACCoach of the year: Reggie Barlow, Alabama State
Barlow has Alabama State heading back to Birmingham for the SWAC championship game. This will be the Hornets' first trip to the title game since 2004. Alabama State clinched the Eastern Division crown with a 21-19 win over Southern. This is a huge accomplishment for the program. Barlow was able to get some steady play from quarterback Devin Dominguez and some timely plays from his defense.
Offensive player of the year: RB Frank Warren, Grambling State
Warren is a running back who can run inside as well as outside. He averages 6.8 yards a carry, and whenever Grambling State needed a first down or a touchdown, the Tigers called his number. Warren has rushed for 1,431 yards on 211 attempts while scoring 15 touchdowns. He is one of the Tigers' all-time leading rushers with 3,743 career yards.
Defensive player of the year: LB Dejuan Fulghum, Texas Southern
Fulghum is a big reason why Texas Southern has an opportunity to win the SWAC's Western Division. He's been making a lot of plays for head coach Johnnie Cole's defense. Fulghum is very difficult to block with his strength and quickness. He has 78 total tackles and 47 solo and leads the SWAC with eight sacks.
Freshman of the year: LB Jerryan Harris, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Harris leads the SWAC in total tackles (108 total tackles, 45 solo) and is always around the football. He's one of those players who is only going to get better as his career develops.
• The HBCU All-Star Bowl will be played on Saturday, Dec. 18 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game features the top senior players from the MEAC, SWAC, SIAC and CIAA. The rosters can be found on its website.
• Texas Southern RB Marcus Wright has been named the SWAC offensive player of the week. He rushed for over 100 yards for the fifth straight game in helping lead the Tigers to a 41-34 overtime win against Grambling State.
• Jackson State DB Donovan Robinson picked up the league's defensive honors after recording nine tackles (two solo) with four tackles-for-loss (24 yards) and two sacks (19 yards). With the Tigers holding a 31-30 lead late in the third quarter, he set up the game-sealing touchdown with a sack and forced fumble that led to a turnover. Jackson State defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 52-30.
• Norfolk State RB DeAngelo Branche was selected the MEAC offensive player of the week. Branche ran for a career-high 212 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns in the Spartans' 31-21 win over Delaware State.
• Bethune-Cookman LB Reggie Sandilands has been named the MEAC defensive player of the week. He helped the Wildcats clinch a share of the conference title by collecting 10 tackles, five solo, with two for a loss of 10 yards. He also had a interception and fumble recovery in the victory over Howard.
• South Carolina State LB David Erby showcased his defensive prowess by recording a career-high 15 tackles, including four solo, in a win over Morgan State.
• Florida A&M RB Philip Sylvester rushed 24 times for 129 yards and one touchdown in the Rattlers' 17-12 win over Hampton.
• With Texas Southern's 41-34 overtime win against Grambling State, Bethune-Cookman becomes the new No. 1 team in the Boxtorow.com/BASN media and coaches poll.
Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. His HBCU Notebook on ESPN.com can be found here. Got a story idea for Hunt? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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