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2019 Southern Conference Superlatives: Chattanooga

By Matthew Golden
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With the 2019 season behind us, we take a step back to reflect on the individual superlatives for each team within the Southern Conference.

Offensive MVP: Nick Tiano, QB, Senior

Nick Tiano ended his career at Chattanooga on a very strong note. On January 18th, Tiano took part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a premier postseason all-star game for draft eligible players. After leading the American team to victory, he took home the premier’s MVP award. The former Mississippi State transfer has already made some noise ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft, still yet to perform in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. During his 2019 campaign, the Moc’s signal caller threw for just over 2200 yards, becoming one of three quarterbacks in the SoCon to throw for over 2000.Tiano’s 14 touchdowns put his career total at 35, tying him with Mickey Brokas for sixth place in school history. He’ll be a player to keep your eye on at the next level, already showing the ability and poise to lead an offense through the duration of a season.

Defensive MVP: Devonnsha Maxwell, DL, Sophomore

Maxwell elevated his game in 2019, picking up right where he left off . As a freshman, Maxwell was named to the Phil Steele FCS Freshman All-American First Team after posting 5.5 sacks in nine contests. This season, the disruptive pass rusher led the conference with seven sacks, adding 13 tackles for loss to his resume. After the 2019 season, the former Valdosta Wildcat was named to the All-Southern Conference  First Team, joining defensive back Brandon Dowdell to represent Chattanooga. With seniors Joseph Randolph II and Nasir Player moving on, Maxwell is poised to be the top defensive lineman in the conference entering the 2020 season.

Intriguing returner: Ailym Ford, RB, Freshman 

SoCon Freshman of the Year, Ailym Ford, had a record shattering 2019 campaign. The former West Florence High School standout finished second in the conference in rushing yards (1081), also tying a school record with six 100+ yard rushing performances. Ford  would lead all freshman in the FCS and FBS in rushing yards per game, making noise on a national level. One of the most interesting stats on Ford is that he’s only the sixth running back to rush for over 100 yard in a game against Wofford since 2013, becoming the only freshman to do so. With Tiano’s departure, I’d expect Ford’s load to increase, along with his production. Chattanooga’s success could rely greatly on Ford becoming a workhorse back.

Hardest departure: Marshall Cooper, LB, Senior 

Cooper joined the Chattanooga program as a walk on from Carson Newman as a sophomore. Since then, he’s been the epitome of a student athlete. Making the dean’s list, A.D. Honor Roll, and SoCon Honor Roll multiple times was just the tip of the iceberg for Cooper, who was also named to the All So Con  Second Team due to his performance on the gridiron. In 2019, Cooper finished with 105 total tackles, making him one of six defenders in the conference to do so. Chattanooga’s linebacker group takes a blow with his departure but has promising underclassmen to help fill the void.