By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Preview of The 2006 North Carolina A &T Aggies
NORTH CAROLINA — The biggest void new Aggie head coach Lee Fobbs and his staff must fill along the defensive line is finding someone to replace two-time All-MEAC selection Rickie Lewis.
Lewis led all MEAC defensive line in tackles for two straight seasons including many tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Even with Lewis, the Aggies allowed almost 5 yards per carry last year and over 200 yards per game on the ground.
Although they didnt have huge stats, the Aggies will miss the talent, athleticism and versatility of Marshall Glenn and Brandon Trusty. Both Glenn and Trusty were in the top 5 in rushing, passing and receiving on the team.
The biggest intangible will be the loss of their leadership on a very young and inexperience Aggie offensive unit this year. Trusty was by far the team’s leading receiver with 63 catches last season.
The key to success this year on offense for the Aggies is their quarterback position. Coach Fobbs will have a tough job this year with three freshman quarterbacks on the roster- two of them are redshirts.
Fobbs will have to implement a new system with inexperienced quarterbacks along with an offense that hasn’t ranked higher than fifth in the MEAC in the last four seasons.
The two men likely to battle to be the number one quarterback will be Wayne Campbell and Herb Miller. Miller was the No. 1 quarterback in the spring and started the Aggies annual Spring Game in April.
Miller, who was converted to a wide receiver when he arrived at N.C. A&T, was moved back to quarterback during his redshirt freshman season. Miller is very athletic and mobile.
He rushed for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Carver High in Winston-Salem. He also threw for 1,939 yards and 25 touchdowns and was a part of Carver’s 2002 State Championship team.
Campbell is a Division I transfer from Eastern Michigan. He too is a redshirt freshman after redshirting last season at Eastern Michigan. Campbell is big but not as agile.
At 6-foot-6, 215-pounds, he can see over most defenders and can throw the ball deep down the field. At Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla., he threw for a combined 3,451 yards and 37 touchdowns in his last two seasons.
When the Aggies had success on offense it was because of their balance. They averaged 138 yards rushing per game and 158 yards passing. All-Star candidate Brandon Sweeney returns after rushing for 877 yards and 8 touchdowns and averaging 5.2 yards per carry 205 yards against Morgan State at FedEx Field in Maryland.
They also have a very capable Quante Speight(407 yards rushing and a 5.6 yards per carry average). Having All-American candidate Andre Garth leads a talented list of players at wide receiver that should also help take some of the pressure and burden off the inexperienced quarterbacks the Aggies have.
Garth was an All-District and All-Division wide receiver out of Armory High in Fulton, Miss. He decided to attend Itawamba Community College for two seasons before transferring to N.C. A&T.
He is a big target for any quarterback standing at 6-5 and weighing 225 pounds. In two years at Itawamba, Garth caught 67 passes for 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Aggies also have talented pass catching tight ends. A year ago, Brian Johnson and Joshua King combine to catch 10 passes for 99 yards. It may not seem like an abundance of receptions but it’s significant considering the last time any Aggie tight end had double-digit receptions was in 2001.
If the Aggies are going to have success on defense, they must start with stopping the run. The Aggies allowed over 200 yards per game and almost 5 yards per carry on the ground. They also gave up 25 points per game and over 366 total yards of offense per game.
These are stats that will be hard to improve on with only so many starters gone from the defense this season. The Aggies return just one starter from their front seven and just two starters from the secondary.
The Aggies are inexperience but they brought in some talent and speed at defensive end. Junior College transfer Antonio Johnson and freshman Andre Thornton. Johnson, out of Palomar Community College, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and should give the pass rush a boost if the Aggies can put opponents in 3rd and long situations.
Thornton is from tradition-rich Independence High School in Charlotte. Three returnees should also compete for the job in Lionel Brown, Michael Haye and Justin Amos.
The interior of the line does have some experience. Senior Jermaine Brantley has been a situational player during his career at N.C. A&T, but has quickness and has seen significant game action. Brandon Reliford, a starter in 2004, is returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for the entire 2005 season.
Sophomore LaShawn McLean made five tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a redshirt freshman starter last season. The D-Line will also need to be strong in stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback to put the offense in good scoring position and protect an extremely young and inexperience linebacking corp.
The Aggies lost three excellent linebackers in Charmar Milton, Montray Jackson and Monte’ Daniels. Converted defensive back Brandon Long will play linebacker this season. Redshirt freshmen Darius Martin will see some time at linebacker as well. Highly touted and talented Quante Grant will see significant playing time at linebacker too.
Grant, from A.L. Brown high school in Kannapolis, North Carolina runs a 40 in 4.5 seconds and made 150 tackles as a senior and was an All-State player last season. He also played in the Shrine Bowl, a game that features the top football players in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Morgan Vincent is another talented freshmen who will get his chance at the lineback position. Vincent was the PAC-6 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Person County.
The secondary should be a solid area for the Aggies this season. The Aggies also signed to talented freshmen this off season in Quentin Caple and J.J.Yates. Caple, a freshman out of Morven, was a three-time all-conference selection at Anson County high school.
As a senior, Caple was an All-State player with four interceptions and 17 pass breakups.
Yates, another junior college transfer out of Itawamba, broke up 11 passes, intercepted five more passes and returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown for Itawamba. He also had two kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a TD.
Johnson and Billingsley are two-year starters at the free safety and strong safety positions respectively. Marques Ruffin also earned significant playing time at safety in 2005 and Jonathan Metcalf, who played a role on specials teams last season, could earn some minutes at the cornerback spot. In total, the Aggies signed eight defensive backs to help coach Thomas Lavigne’s defensive backfield.
The Aggies are very young and inexperience on both sides of the ball.Losing starters is one thing, but asking freshmen or inexperience players at key positions such as quarterback or linebacker is a lot to ask of young warriors like the Aggies have any when they are trying their very best to get the job done in a very touch conference like the MEAC.
With tough games at Division I Louisiana-Lafayette, a home game against Florida A&M and conference games on the road versus Hampton, Norfolk State and Bethune-Cookman and their traditional clash versus South Carolina State makes the road to a winning season extremely difficult for Coach Fobbs in his first year.
The Aggies will be competitive and Fobbs is a winner with a proven track record or working for and with winners and if given time he will have the Aggies on the winning road years to come. Unfortunately, not this year.
Head Coach: Lee Fobbs Jr.
Coaching record at North Carolina A & T State University: No record (1st year at the school)
Overall coaching record: 1st year as a head coach
2005 Record: 3-8 (2-6 IN THE MEAC)
Number of returning starters: 9 (3 on offense, 4 on defense and 2 on special teams)
Number of departures: 17 (8 on offense, 7 on defense and 2 special teams)
Key losses on offense: Marshall Glenn, Brandon Trusty
Key losses on defense: Rickie Lewis,Chamar Milton, Monta’ Daniels, Montray Jackson
Key losses on special teams: Joseph Arroyo, K, Dominique Brown, P
Players to watch: Brandon Sweeney, WR Andre Garth, J.J. Yates
All-Star Candidates: Brandon Sweeney, WR Andre Garth, J.J. Yates
All-American candidates: WR Andre Garth
Notes: 2006 marks a new era for Aggie football, new responsibilities for Lee Fobbs Jr., which is all designed to continue an old tradition at North Carolina A&T.Lee Fobbs Jr., became the 16th head coach in Aggie football history and his first head coaching job in his career. The two men who had taken the majority of the snaps for the Aggies over the past three seasons – Marshall Glenn and Rico Watkins – had completed their eligibility.
NOTE: Tommorrow, L.A. Batchelor takes a look at the Aggies’ new head coach, Lee Fobbs.