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2019 MEAC spring outlook

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - South Carolina State fans are thrilled coach Buddy Pough was retained for an 18th season.

A lot of the other MEAC coaches may want to lean on him for guidance.

Pough is the true dean of the conference with his experience more than the other coaches combined. Included are three new coaches after there were three new coaches last season.

The MEAC will be at nine teams because Savannah State is dropping from the FCS level back to Division II. The conference will return to an eight-game schedule after one season at seven games.

Following is a look across the MEAC with spring practices underway in college football:

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BETHUNE-COOKMAN

HEAD COACH: Terry Sims (27-17, four seasons)

2018 RECORDS: 7-5 overall, 5-2 MEAC (Tie/2nd)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 27-April 20

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: The Wildcats suffered some key losses at defensive end and are replacing both kickers.

NOTABLE: With six wins over their final seven FCS opponents, the Wildcats have momentum heading into the 2019 season. They had four kickoff returns for touchdowns and returned three PAT blocks for two points three times. They'll need senior quarterback Akevious Williams to come back strong after he missed the final four games.

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DELAWARE STATE

HEAD COACH: Rod Milstead (3-8, one season)

2018 RECORDS: 3-8 overall, 2-5 MEAC (Tie/8th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 20-April 13

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 17 (8 offense/9 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITY: Quarterback Jack McDaniels transferred after his sophomore season, leaving the Hornets to determine its new starter. Leading the way is senior Keenan Black, who has been a spot starter the last two seasons.

NOTABLE: It doesn't sound like much, but the three wins in Milstead's first season were the most by Delaware State since 2013. His background on the offensive line should aid him in strengthening the Hornets in the trenches (plus center Cade Pedro returns after missing last season with a knee injury). Senior linebacker Brian Cavicante is set to complete an outstanding career.

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FLORIDA A&M

HEAD COACH: Willie Simmons (6-5, one season; 27-16 overall)

2018 RECORDS: 6-5 overall, 5-2 MEAC (Tie/2nd)

SPRING PRACTICES: Feb. 28-March 28 (limited to 10 days dues to NCAA APR sanctions)

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: The Rattlers have to continue their maturation, and finishing out games, in Simmons' second season (they were in control of the MEAC title race before losing their final three games). They also have to replace top edge rusher Antonio Miller.

NOTABLE: Quarterback Ryan Stanley will be a fourth-year starter, leading an offense that was exceptionally young in the offensive skills positions last season. Junior Chris Faddoul returns after leading the FCS in punting average (46.8 yards per game).

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HOWARD

HEAD COACH: Ron Prince (first season; 17-20 overall)

2018 RECORDS: 4-6 overall, 4-3 MEAC (Tie/4th)

SPRING PRACTICES: TBA

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 8 (4 offense/4 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITY: With only eight returning starters, the new coaching staff has to fill plenty of positions while implementing new schemes.

NOTABLE: Prince, an offensive analyst on Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff last season, was 17-20 at Kansas State from 2006-08 in between Bill Snyder's two coaching stints. Dual-threat quarterback Caylin Newton was the MEAC's offensive player of the year as a sophomore and has plenty of offensive weapons, including senior wide receiver Jequez Ezzard and running back Dedrick Parson, the 2018 MEAC rookie of the year.

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MORGAN STATE

HEAD COACH: Tyrone Wheatley Sr. (first season)

2018 RECORDS: 4-7 overall, 3-4 MEAC (Tie/6th)

SPRING PRACTICES: No spring practices (NCAA APR penalties)

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 16 (9 offense/7 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITY: The Bears have to get physically better, but also mentally stronger as they learn to finish games better. They've lost 10 of their last 12 home games since 2016.

NOTABLE: Wheatley came on as a first-time head coach at Morgan State just last month and the Bears can't have spring practice due to NCAA sanctions. He inherits a team that upset North Carolina A&T on the road as well as won its final two games. Defensive end Malachi Washington returns as a redshirt senior after being injured last year.

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NORFOLK STATE

HEAD COACH: Latrell Scott (16-28, four seasons; 41-37 overall)

2018 RECORDS: 4-7 overall, 2-5 MEAC (Tie/8th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 12-April 12

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 17 (10 offense/7 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: Ball security is important for a team that turned the ball over 24 times just one season after the Spartans were plus-15 in turnover margin (losing just 11 turnovers). Usually defensively solid, the defense was vulnerable to the run a year ago.

NOTABLE: The Spartans have yet to turn the corner under Scott and face another tough schedule. Junior quarterback Juwan Carter enters his third season as the starter, set to work behind an experienced offensive line.

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NORTH CAROLINA A&T

HEAD COACH: Sam Washington (10-2, one season)

2018 RECORDS: 10-2 overall, 6-1 (1st)

SPRING PRACTICES: Feb. 27-April 6

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 8 (5 offense/3 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: Tied for the fewest returning starters in the conference, the two-time defending MEAC champ has to replace quarterback Lamar Raynard, who went 35-2 as a starter in his career, as well as the entire defensive line after end Darryl Johnson departed as an early entry candidate for the NFL Draft. Fifth-year senior Kylil Carter could be the answer behind center.

NOTABLE: The health of wide receiver Elijah Bell and cornerback Mac McCain will go a long way in a program full of talented players. A&T travels to Duke on Sept. 7, having beaten an FBS opponent in three straight seasons.

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NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL

HEAD COACH: Trei Oliver (first season)

2018 RECORDS: 5-6 overall, 3-4 MEAC (Tie/6th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 22-April 14

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 15 (10 offense/5 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: OIiver, a former N.C. Central player and assistant coach, is back at his alma after spending the last three seasons as Southern's defensive coordinator. He has to implement his new concepts and develop the offensive line, whose losses include Nick Leverett in a grad transfer to Rice.

NOTABLE: Quarterbacks Chauncey Caldwell and Nalil Ramadan both had their moments last season and will benefit from the return of an experienced offense. The Eagles aren't playing an FBS opponent, but their first three games are on the road.

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SOUTH CAROLINA STATE

HEAD COACH: Buddy Pough (125-70, 17 seasons)

2018 RECORDS: 5-6 overall, 4-3 MEAC (Tie/4th)

SPRING PRACTICES: March 19-April 13

PROJECTED RETURNING STARTERS: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES: The offensive line, although set back by injury, needs to be more productive, and it should with the return of Kendrick Hair. No player had more than 15 receptions, so the Bulldogs have to get stronger there.

NOTABLE: Pough's return was uncertain throughout last season, but South Carolina State announced it in January. He is rebuilding with a young nucleus that solidified in the second half of last season. Running-style quarterback Tyrece Nick should be improved as a junior.

Updated March 5, 2019

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