NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College football program saw nine student-athletes recognized when the Phil Steele Preseason All-Northeast Conference teams were announced on Friday.
A trio of Merrimack defenders earned first team honors in junior Cory Hagerman, sophomore Nicholas Lenon and junior Darion McKenzie. Hagerman and Lenon landed on the first team from their defensive end positions while McKenzie earned first team honors as a punt returner. Defensive backs Jovan Grant and Caleb Holden collected second team honors as did offensive linemen Clay LeGault and Miles Cobb. Junior Rodney Samson also received second team accolades as a kick returner. Lastly, junior running back Matt Brehon earned a third team selection while McKenzie captured two third team honors from his primary defensive back position as well as at the all-purpose slot.
Hagerman is the NEC’s top returning sack artist, tying for the league lead one year ago with 9.5 sacks. He established a new career high in sacks while ranking among the top-20 nationally. Hagerman ended the year strong with a four-sack performance against Long Island University, which tied the program’s single-game record for sacks and garnered the defensive lineman NEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Hagerman has already broken into the Merrimack record book, heading into his junior season in 10th place all-time in program history in both total sacks (12.0) and yards lost from sacks (70.0).
His pass-rushing counterpart, Lenon enjoyed a superb debut season with 4.0 sacks, ranking second on the team. Lenon totaled a team-best four quarterback hurries while ranking third on the squad with 7.0 TFL. The Baltimore, Md. Native totaled 27 tackles including 15 of the solo variety. He tied his career high with a pair of four-tackle games against Bryant and Presbyterian.
McKenzie impacted Merrimack on both defensive and special teams during a breakout sophomore season. He delivered his first three career interceptions as part of eight PBU on the year, while adding one fumble recovery and 19 tackles over nine games as one of Merrimack’s starting corners. McKenzie scored a pair of touchdowns, returning one of his three INT to the end zone while also adding a 75-yard punt return touchdown. He also displayed versatility, attempting six punts including a long of 47 yards.
Grant is the second of Merrimack’s three returning starters in the secondary to receive Phile Steele Preseason All-Conference honors. The starting safety finished second on Merrimack in total tackles with 49, including a career-high 14-tackle performance at Saint Francis University. Grant added one interception, two pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. He notched 28 solo tackles – fourth on the team – and notched 2.0 TFL.
A theft on the perimeter, Holden returns after leading Merrimack with four interceptions in 2019. The fourth-year corner ranked in a tie for second in the NEC in interceptions while ranking third in PBU. The Union, N.J. native was all over the field, totaling 35 tackles, 4.0 TFL, one sack, nine total pass break-ups and one forced fumble. He returned one of his four interceptions for a touchdown, his first career trip to the end zone.
The lineman duo of LeGault and Cobb will anchor the team’s offensive line in 2020. LeGault served as the team’s starting right tackle in 2019, appearing in all 11 games. The fifth-year player has started all 30 games that he has appeared in during his career. Cobb has started nineteen games the past two years as Merrimack’s center, and joins LeGault as team captains in 2020. The pair were pivotal in Merrimack ranking second in the NEC in scoring offense in 2019 and third in yards per game.
Samson is the NEC’s leading kick returner based on 2019 numbers, averaging a league-best 25.8 yards per kick return in 2020. He had three kick returns of at least 40 yards last fall, including a career-high 73-yard sprint in the team’s victory at Long Island University. Samson is in line for an increased role on defensive as well after a career-high 30 tackles in 2019. He also contributed two interceptions and five PBU.
Brehon’s third team honor is deserving after leading Merrimack in rushing yards (704), carries (104) and touchdowns (7) as a sophomore. The New Haven, Conn. Native averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season, finishing the year strong with 45 carries, 245 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the team’s final three games. Brehon posted an incredibly impressive week against Mayville State last fall, needing just six carries to rush 175 yards and three touchdowns.