NCCU, Howard expected to battle for MEAC honors


NORFOLK, Va. – The defending co- champion Eagles of North Carolina Central are the preseason favorite to win the six-team Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) football title in 2023.

Head Coach Trei Oliver’s squad racked up 124 points and nine out of a possible 12 first- place votes in a poll conducted by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors (see below).

2022 co-champion Howard garnered one first-place vote and was picked to finish second behind NCCU. The Bison won a share of the 2022 crown after finishing with an identical 4-1 record as did NCCU in MEAC play.

NCCU earned the conference’s bid to the Celebration Bowl by virtue of its 50-21 head- to-head win over Howard in Durham early last November.

South Carolina State came in the third spot in the voting. Rounding out the predicted order of finish were Morgan State (one first- place vote), Norfolk State and Delaware State (one first-place vote).

NCCU and Howard were the dominant teams in the preseason all-conference team voting while the Eagles swept the top preseason individual awards.

Senior quarterback Davius Richard was named the offensive player of the year and teammate and defensive back Khalil Baker was named the top defender.

Richard was the 2022 MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (given to the top offensive player in all of FCS) after leading the Eagles to a 10-win season, MEAC championship and an overtime win over Jackson State in the Cricket Celebration Bowl.

He ranked 10th in the nation in total offense (287.4 ypg), 15th in passing touchdowns (25) and 28th in passing yards (2,661/221.8 ypg). With Richard behind center, the Eagles led the MEAC in both scoring offense (38.6 ppg) and total offense (445.3 ypg).

Baker was the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, and he was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given out to the nation’s top FCS defensive player. He tallied four interceptions and five pass break-ups last season, and he returned one of those picks for a touchdown in a win over nationally-ranked New Hampshire. He tied for the team lead with 61 total tackles, including two for a loss and a fumble recovery.

`Baker led an Eagles defense that ranked second in the MEAC in scoring (21.5 ppg) and total defense (333.7 ypg).

In an example of the strength voters felt about the Howard squad, the Bison had 14 players selected to first and second preseason all-MEAC squads, seven first-teamers. NCCU had 13 selections overall, and also seven first teamers.