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N.C. Central must adapt on the fly
After dismissing coach Mose Rison before the end of last football season, N.C. Central decided it needed a new direction for the program, which enters its fifth year as a Football Championship Subdivision team.
Henry Frazier III walked on campus with instant credibility after taking a Prairie View A&M team with the nation’s longest losing streak and transforming it into a Southwestern Athletic Conference champion.
With preseason camp underway, the Eagles hope for a similar turnaround after three losing seasons. They’ll have numerous questions to answer over the next three weeks.
1. Can N.C. Central players trust the process?
Frazier brings a new brand of football to Durham, along with a new staff and an opportunity to change the direction of a fledgling program.
Will players buy in? Will they trust the process enough to move forward?
“That’s going to be huge for us,” Frazier said. “The foundation that we’re going to lay for the next three weeks is something we’re going to have to stand on for the next 3 1/2 months.”
Frazier favors an up-tempo, multiple offense, which functions with a no-huddle philosophy. Cohesion and timing are pillars of most strong offensive units, though, and will be critical to the execution of this system.
Players must decide early that they believe in the staff and their ability to carry out the game plan.
2. Will the Eagles find depth?
With 13 returning starters - eight on offense and five on defense - the Eagles are looking for depth. The lack of depth in recent seasons, particularly among the offensive and defensive lines, has created fatigue problems.
This season, there are four returning offensive linemen with eight years of experience between them. It’s the most experienced position on offense, but camp will determine just how deep the Eagles are up front.
Redshirt junior Geovonie Irvine, who led the team with 53 catches for 758 yards last season, enters the season as the go-to offensive player, but the team needs to identify other playmakers.
Defensively, the Eagles can offer defensive lineman John Drew, who at 6-foot-2 and 334 pounds has the talent to stand out in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play. From there, others must make their mark.
3. Who will start at quarterback?
Redshirt senior Michael Johnson sits seventh on the school’s all-time career passing list with 3,627 yards. He’s accounted for 30 touchdowns over three seasons.
Still, there’s no guarantee Johnson will start as the team’s top quarterback.
“We’ll have some competition,” Frazier said. “I want to make sure we pick the right guy.”
Sophomore transfer Jordan Reid, a High Point native, could challenge Johnson, of Durham. Both will share time with the first team during fall camp.
4. Will Eagles adapt to conference play?
N.C. Central plays its first full conference schedule this season. It’s the Eagles’ fifth season as a FCS team, and they will face eight opponents from the MEAC.
The Eagles have a chance to prove how far they’ve come when they face conference schools such as Hampton and Florida A&M.
BY EDWARD G. ROBINSON III, News Observer