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Nine Aggies selected for preseason all-conference team


NORFOLK, Va. – The North Carolina A&T football was perfect again. All nine players they nominated for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason all-conference teams were voted on by the conference’s football head coaches and sports information directors including seven who were named first team.

The MEAC announced their preseason team on Friday, July 27, during their media day at the Hilton Norfolk The Main Hotel.

Quarterback Lamar Raynard, a 6-4, 195, R-SR, from High Point, N.C., led the way. He was predicted to repeat as offensive player of the year as a preseason first-teamer. Joining him on the first team are running back Marquell Cartwright a 5-8, 203, R-SR, also from High Point, N.C.; cornerback Frank “Mac” McCain a 5-11, 173, R-SO, from Greensboro; left tackle Marcus Pettiford a 6-4, 293, R-JR, from Durham, N.C.; wide receiver Elijah Bell a 6-1, 221, JR, from Wheeling, WVa.; cornerback Timadre Abram a 5-10, 168, R-Sr. from Lakeland, Fla.; Darryl Johnson, Jr. a 6-5, 232, R-Jr. and tight end Leroy Hill a 6-3, 247, R-SR, from Smithfield, N.C.

Defensive tackle Julian McKnight a 6-3, 287, R-SR, from Conyers, Ga. was a second-team selection.

Raynard comes into the season with a 26-0 record as a starter. He has a chance to continue his pummeling of school records this season. After breaking numerous single-season school marks last season, Raynard could end his career owning many career records. He enters the 2018 season needing 1,942 yards, 195 completions, 2,590 total yards of offense and 12 touchdown passes to become the Aggies all-time leader in those categories. He also needs 11 more touchdowns (passing or rushing) to become the Aggies all-time leader in touchdowns responsible for.

In 2017, he broke single-season school records in passing yards (2,932), passing TDs (27), touchdowns responsible for (31), completions (209), attempts (328) and passing efficiency. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes to come less than a percentage point away from breaking his own single-season school record for completion percentage (64.6). Raynard was one of four finalist for the 2017 Deacon Jones Award given to the best Black college football player in the nation by ranking in the top-35 nationally in passing efficiency (6th, 161.7), yards per pass attempt (7th, 8.94), passing touchdowns (11th, 27), points responsible for per game (13th, 15.7), passing yards (17th, 2,932), passing yards per completion (18th, 14.03), passing yards per game (19th, 244.3), total offense (22nd, 259.8) and completions per game (35th, 17.42).

Cartwright helped the Aggies produce their seventh 1,000-yard rusher in eight seasons. He comes into this season with 1,778 career rushing yards. Another strong season could see him rank in the school’s top-5 in rushing all-time. Last season he ranked in the top-20 nationally in five statistical categories including rushing touchdowns (5th, 14), total touchdowns (6th, 15), rushing yards (7th, 1,190), rushing yards per game (12th, 99.2) and scoring (16th, 90).

In addition to leading the conference in rushing, he also led the league in rushing touchdowns, rushing yards per game, scoring and total touchdowns. He had five 1,00-yard rushing games including a career-high 176 yards at Morgan.

McCain had a fabulous freshman season where he earned All-America honors from the Associated Press (third team), Phil Steele Magazine and BoxToRow. He made six interceptions and returned three of those picks for touchdowns. He had a game-winning pick-6 in the Aggies upset win over Charlotte last season and he returned an INT 100 yards at Morgan State.

Pettiford will fill in for Parker who is now an NFL tackle. Pettiford played 649 snaps with 24 knockdown blocks and had an average grade of 83.3 percent. In one of the biggest games of the season, Pettiford graded out with an 87 against Bethune-Cookman. The Aggies offense complied 5,122 yards of offense and surrendered only 11 sacks all season.

Bell was 47 yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving, caught a school-record 11 touchdown passes and he is seven touchdown receptions away from breaking the school’s career mark with two years of eligibility remaining. Before his career is over, he could be considered the undisputed greatest receiver to ever play at N.C. A&T. He comes into the 2018 season with 1,584 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns on 99 receptions. He is 718 yards shy of breaking Herbert Harbison’s career receiving mark at N.C. A&T. He is seven touchdown receptions shy of breaking Denzel Keyes’ career mark and he needs 74 receptions to break the career marks of Harbison and Wallace Miles. Last season he had the second most catches for an Aggie in a season (64) and the second most receiving yards (953).

Abram is the other first-team corner. Abram was challenged multiple times last season because he was playing opposite of McCain. Abram responded by breaking up eight passes last season. He was 13th in the MEAC in passes defended. He also made 29 tackles (20 unassisted).

Johnson returns as the Aggies starting defensive end after a career season that saw him earn first-team All-MEAC honors. In addition to making 40 tackles (25 unassisted) last season, Johnson also had 15.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was fifth in the conference and 37th in the nation in tackles for loss. He finished 12th nationally and third in the MEAC in forced fumbles.

Hill will return to his prominent role as the Aggies’ lead tight end after a season where Trey Scott was the lead man at the position, earning first-team All-MEAC honors. Scott earned a free agent opportunity with the Tennessee Titans. His production will be hard to replace but it will be made easier by the fact Hill was a first-team All-MEAC selection in 2016 after making 17 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown.