|« Wagner College Gets Little Respect||FCS still suffers from ‘identity crisis’ »|
NCCU Eagles look for speed strength in preseason drills
The Eagles were preparing for warmups Thursday evening at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium when they spotted their leader heading toward the field.
“Frazier, what’s up, baby!” a player yelled. “Where’s the horn, baby?” another player asked. N.C. Central head coach Henry Frazier III returned the love. “What’s up?” Frazier said.
The coach wasn’t clutching his trademark bullhorn, but that big smile of his was there.
The day was a long time coming for Frazier and the Eagles after going 2-9 in 2011, the team’s fourth straight losing season.
It was the first day of practice for NCCU’s second season as a Football Championship Subdivision team.
The Eagles flew around during a practice that started at a fast pace with the quarterbacks taking turns running offenses. One set of guys would run a play, and then another group would follow in rapid succession.
“I thought tempo was really high,” Frazier said.
There were pushups as punishment when the linebackers botched one of NCCU assistant coach Mike Mendenhall’s drills.
“I told them, ‘If you make a mistake, just make one going fast,’” Frazier said. “‘If you’re wrong, just run real fast wrong, and we’ll correct you and go from there.’”
It was routine during Frazier’s first season with NCCU to hear him giving instructions through his bullhorn. But Aaron Walker, the new strength-and-conditioning coach for NCCU football, was controlling the bullhorn Thursday, using the siren to signal when it was time for the next drill.
Frazier said allowing Walker to facilitate practice frees him to float from station to station and be more involved in what’s going on instead of being so focused on watching the clock.
One thing Frazier noticed while roaming the field was the speed of his players. They’re faster and stronger this year.
“Coach Walker has got those boys so strong,” Frazier said. “They’re walking around with their shirts off and (wearing) tank tops.”
This will be NCCU’s second season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference since rejoining the league.
Last season, the Eagles found themselves worn down in the fourth quarter against the MEAC teams that beat them, Frazier said. Getting the Eagles stronger in the off-season was a goal, he said.
Even though there was no full contact on the first day, NCCU freshman Jeremy Thompson walked off the field with an appreciation of the power and speed of the college game.
“It’s a lot of athletic people out here,” said Thompson, who played high school ball at Southern. “Everybody out here is fast, strong, good minds, know a lot about football.”
NCCU senior wide receiver Geovonie Irvine, who played at Hillside, said he liked what he saw from the young guys and that there’s really a team feeling.
“The first day went well; everybody was flying around,” Irvine said. It looks like everybody’s been studying their playbook from the summer.”
Irvine has been an extraordinary playmaker for NCCU, but he said he aims to be a more vocal leader during his last time around.
“I’ve just got to go out with a winning season and try to win a MEAC championship,” Irvine said.
NCCU’s first game is on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at home against Fayetteville State, a CIAA team.
BY JOHN McCANN, The Herald-Sun