GREENSBORO – In a season where five teams, including North Carolina A&T, shared the MEAC football title, it is only fitting that the conference’s top offensive award was also shared. A&T sophomore running back Tarik Cohen (5-6, 172, Bunn, N.C.) was named co-offensive player of the year by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference on Saturday. Cohen will share the award with preseason offensive player of the year Greg McGhee from Howard University.
S.C. State defensive lineman Javon Hargrave earned defensive player of the year, Morgan State’s Darren Pinnock earned offensive lineman of the year and the rookie award went to S.C. State linebacker Darius Leonard. Morgan State first-year head coach Lee Hull was named coach of the year.
The conference also released its all-conference teams on Saturday. Seven Aggies, including Cohen earned first-team honors. The Aggies other first-team All-MEAC selections are starting cornerbacks Donald Mattocks (R-Sr., 5-8, 178, Burlington, N.C.) and Tony McRae (Jr., 5-9, 175, Laurinburg, N.C.), left guard William Ray Robinson III (R-Sr., 6-3, 307, Clinton, Md.), center Ronald Canty (R-Sr., 6-0, 277, Chester, S.C.), linebacker D’Vonte Grant (R-Sr., 5-10, 195, Charlotte, N.C.) and placekicker Cody Jones (So., 5-11, 136, Gastonia, N.C.).
McRae was a second-team selection as a return specialist, and was joined by nose guard Marquis Ragland (So., 6-3, 265, Fayetteville, N.C.). Wide receiver Desmond Lawrence (Sr., 5-10, 181, Durham, N.C.), quarterback Kwashaun Quick (Jr., 6-0, 188, Laurinburg, N.C.) and left tackle Brandon Parker (R-Fr., 6-7, 280, Kannapolis, N.C.) were third-team selections.
“He is without a doubt one of the best running backs in the nation,” said head coach Rod Broadway about Cohen. “He is one of those special players who you get to coach maybe once in a lifetime. He’s special. He’s a warrior, and he gives us an opportunity to win every ballgame. He is going to always hang in there and give you a chance to win.”
Cohen is the second Aggie to win co-offensive player of the year during the four-year Broadway era after running back Mike Mayhew earned co-honors in 2011. Cohen rushed for 1,340 yards and 15 touchdowns on 197 carries. It was the second-highest single-season rushing performance in Aggies history. Cohen also caught 25 receptions for 237 yards and a touchdown. He had seven 100-yard games and two 200-yard games during the course of the season.
Cohen currently leads the conference in rushing (Morgan State’s Herb Walker, Jr., is still playing games), scoring (8.7 ppg), touchdowns scored and is second in all-purpose yards (143.4 ypg). Nationally, Cohen is second in the nation in yards per carry (6.8), 10th in rushing yards per game (121.8), 13th in rushing TDs and 18th in all-purpose yards.
A big part of Cohen’s success was his offensive line. Robinson and Canty, both of whom were starters when Mayhew won his offensive award, have been a major part of the Aggies rushing efforts for a long time.
Robinson earned his second first-team All-MEAC honor after winning his first in 2012. In 2013, he was a second-team selection. This season he earned first-team honors for the first time as a left guard after playing his previous three seasons as the Aggies left tackle. Robinson played 42 games with 41 starts during his career.
Canty was also a reliable lineman who played multiple positions throughout his career. He consistently graded out between 80-90 percent during the 2014 season. He recorded 21 pancake blocks this season and 53 for his career. Canty played every snap this season and made all the calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage for the Aggies offensive line.
“Those guys are the leaders on our team and we’re going to miss that,” said Broadway about his fifth-year lineman. “When you have success on offense, it starts with those big guys in the trenches.”
While the Aggies offense was much improved in 2014, defense has been the cornerstone of the A&T’s resurgence. Grant, a four-year starter under Broadway, has been key to that reputation. Grant led the Aggies in tackles the first three years of his career and was one tackle shy of leading the team in tackles in 2014. He was 11 tackles shy of becoming the Aggies all-time leader in tackles. Grant ended his career with 45 straight starts, 362 tackles, nine interceptions and he has four career defensive touchdowns. This is Grant’s first, first-team selection after being selected for the second team twice.
The Aggies defense leads the nation in takeaways and their starting cornerbacks are a big reason why. Mattocks is fourth in the nation in interceptions and leads the conference with seven total and 0.6 per game. Mattocks recorded a single-season school record three interceptions in one half during the Aggies 59-0 win over Chowan on Sept. 20. Mattocks earned defensive player of the week honors for his efforts and was third in the conference in passes defended.
McRae was No. 2 in the conference behind his teammate in interceptions with five total and 0.4 per game. McRae was second in the MEAC in passes defended and 11th nationally. The speedy McRae also made 62 tackles and he broke up a career-high five passes at Elon on Sept. 13.
Jones closed out the first-team selections. Jones made 15 of 19 field goals and 45 of 47 extra points in 2014. At one point in the season, Jones made 12 straight field goals from Oct. 18-Nov. 22. His streak ended at N.C. Central on a 30-yarder. Jones was 3-for-5 on field goals of 40 yards or more. He also took over the Aggies’ punting duties after Dominic Frescura missed the Aggies final seven games with a knee injury.
“I’m really happy for our fifth-year seniors,” said Broadway about the four fifth-year seniors who earned recognition on Saturday. “These guys were a part of a program that was 1-10 and so to see the joy on their faces, you can’t buy that. That’s special.”