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N.C. A&T football: What you need to know about the 2021 Aggies
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N.C. A&T football: What you need to know about the 2021 Aggies

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NC A&T vs NCCU football 2019 (copy) (copy)

A&T running back Jah-Maine Martin during a game against N.C. Central in 2019.

A preview of the N.C. A&T football program going into its season-opening game at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Furman.

2019 record

9-3 overall, 6-2 MEAC

Coach

Sam Washington (19-5 in two seasons at N.C. A&T).

Last postseason appearance

2019, beat Alcorn State 64-44 in Celebration Bowl.

Strengths

Running back and offensive line feature veterans who are accustomed to winning conference titles and bowl games.

Weaknesses

An unproven quarterback will have to be addressed early.

Key losses

QB Kylil Carter, WR Elijah Bell, LB Antoine Wilder, CB Mac McCain III, OL Marcus Pettiford, DT Justin Cates

Keys to the season

Adjusting to a new conference in the Big South will be priority No. 1 after the Aggies left the MEAC. The offense will also need wide receivers to produce, but that could be easier because opponents will be focused on trying to stop running back Jah-Maine Martin.

They should beat ...

Furman, N.C. Central, Robert Morris, North Alabama, Hampton, Monmouth, Charleston Southern, S.C. State, Gardner-Webb

They’ll likely lose to ...

Duke, Kennesaw State

Breaking down the roster Offense Skill positions

Stars of the group: RB Jah-Maine Martin, WR Zach Leslie

Player primed for a step forward: QB Jalen Fowler

Assessment: When Jah-Maine Martin is effective, the entire offense opens up more. So the Aggies will try to use the same formula this season. Fowler, a redshirt junior, has been in the background, but that will change.

Line

Stars of the group: C Dacquari Wilson, RT Bilal Ali, RG Lawrence Lagrone

Player primed for a step forward: LT Ricky Lee, a transfer from N.C. Central

Assessment: Balance will be key but the line is established and ready to pick up where it left off from 2019. Lee gives the line a veteran presence that will help.

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Defense Line

Stars of the group: Jermaine McDaniel, Devin Harrell

Player primed for a step forward: Karta Kaba

Assessment: The two defensive ends, McDaniel and Harrell, were very good in 2019 and will need to continue to get better. Several younger players are ready to assume bigger roles.

Linebackers

Stars of the group: Kyin Howard, Joseph Stuckey, Jacob Roberts

Player primed for a step forward: Roberts

Assessment: The three starting linebackers were the top three tacklers from 2019 and only McDaniel is a senior. The three also combined for seven sacks in 2019.

Secondary

Stars of the group: Najee Reams, Stephen Davis Jr.

Player primed for a step forward: D.J. Crossen

Assessment: Reams was in on nearly 40 tackles and had four pass breakups in 2019 so his experience will be valuable. Crossen, a sophomore from Greensboro, will also help that unit.

Special teams

Star of the group: P Michael Rivers

Player primed for a step forward: Freshman Andrew Brown

Assessment: The Aggies lost a good one in kicker Noel Ruiz (23 of 27 field goals made in 2019) so Brown, a freshman from Lexington who is a graduate of West Davidson, assumes the place-kicking duties. Rivers averaged 41 yards per punt in 2019 but had two punts blocked.

Schedule

Sept. 4: At Furman, 2 (ESPN+)

Sept. 10: At Duke, 8 (ACC)

Sept. 25: N.C. Central, 6 (ESPN+)

Oct. 2: Robert Morris, 1 (ESPN3)

Oct. 9: North Alabama, 1 (ESPN+)

Oct. 16: At Kennesaw State, 5 (ESPN+)

Oct. 23: At Hampton, 2 (ESPN+)

Oct. 30: Monmouth, 1 (ESPN+)

Nov. 6: At Charleston Southern, 1, (ESPN+)

Nov. 13: At South Carolina State, 1:30

Nov. 20: Gardner-Webb, 1 (ESPN3)

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