GREENSBORO – Over the course of seven straight weeks, North Carolina A&T freshman running back Tarik Cohen (5-8, 170, Bunn, N.C.) made such an indelible impression on the MEAC, the conference’s sports information directors and head coaches decided to make him the 2013 MEAC Rookie of the Year.
The conference announced its 2013 awards and all-conference teams on Friday. Howard quarterback Greg McGhee beat out Cohen and others for MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. S.C. State took away two awards with center Tristan Bellamy winning offensive lineman of the year and linebacker Joe Thomas being named defensive player of the year. Coach of the year honors went to Bethune-Cookman’s Brian Jenkins.
Cohen was the only Aggie to make first-team all-conference. Four Aggies – offensive linemen William Ray Robinson III and Nathan Isles, linebacker D’Vonte Grant and cornerback/return specialist D’Vonte Graham – earned second-team honors. Three other Aggies – strong safety Travis Crosby, defensive end Tyree Hearn and placekicker Cody Jones – made the MEAC’s third team.
“It’s wonderful to see eight of our guys recognized by the conference,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “It truly shows how far our program has come in three years and how hard these young men have worked to see this program have better days. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”
Cohen did not become the Aggies starter until Game 5 on Oct. 12 at Hampton. He made sure he would never leave the starting lineup again by rushing for 180 yards and compiling 119 yards receiving while scoring a pair of touchdowns. In his seven weeks in the spotlight, Cohen went on to earn MEAC Offensive Player of the Week honors three times and MEAC Rookie of the Week honors twice. He led the conference in rushing with 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns. He also made 11 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. He is the only Aggie freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Cohen is also a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award, an honor that recognizes the best FCS freshman in the nation. He is the second Aggie in four years to win rookie of the year after all-time leading rusher Mike Mayhew won it 2009.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Broadway about Cohen. “If he keeps his head on right, this kid is going to be unbelievable. He’s already unbelievable. A couple of years from now, this guy is going to be amazing.”
Grant (R-Jr., 5-11, 208, Charlotte, N.C.) recorded 102 tackles, 10.0 tackles for 32 yards lost, nine pass deflections, three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Grant also returned two turnovers for touchdowns, giving him four such touchdowns in his career. Grant has led the Aggies in tackles three straight years, and this is his second second-team All-MEAC selection after earning the same honor in 2012.
William Ray Robinson (R-Jr., 6-3, 305, Clinton, Md.), who earned preseason Lindy’s Sports Annual All-American honors, did another outstanding job of protecting the blindside of Aggie quarterbacks from his left tackle position. Robinson was a first-team all-conference selection last season. Before going down with a season-ending knee injury this season, he played in and started nine games for the Aggies. He played 633 snaps without surrendering a sack.
Isles (Sr., 6-5, 324, Atlanta, Ga.) was one of the main reasons behind Cohen’s success this season. Isles, the Aggies right tackle, has garnered some attention from pro football scouts for being an effective run blocker. The Aggies have possessed the MEAC’s leading rusher three out of the last four years behind Isles’ strong lead blocks.
Graham (Sr., 5-7, 160, Tallahassee, Fla.) once again earned two separate all-conference honors. Graham is now a three-time All-MEAC selection after winning first-team honors in two previous years as a cornerback. As a corner, Graham had two interceptions, nine pass deflections and he returned a fumble 25 yards. As a punt returner, he returned 27 punts for an average of 8.8 yards. In his career, he compiled 1,047 all-purpose yards, made 13 interceptions and returned one punt, one field goal, one interception and one fumble recovery for touchdowns.
Crosby (Sr., 5-9, 189, Charlotte, N.C.) made 96 tackles, 7.0 tackles for 23 yards lost, one sack and five pass deflections. Hearn (Sr., 6-1, 221, Durham, N.C.) earned his first-ever all-conference recognition. He made 38 tackles, 7.0 tackles for 24 yards lost, 2.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. Jones (Fr., 6-0, 205, Gastonia, N.C.) made 9 of 13 field goals, including one from 42 yards at Hampton. He also made 30 of 31 extra points and led the Aggies in scoring with 57 total points.