Turnovers, showboating draw ire of NCCU coach Jerry Mack
N.C. Central’s offense committed four turnovers during a team scrimmage at Rocky Mount High School on Saturday.
NCCU’s defense returned one of those turnovers for a touchdown.
“We just can’t have that,” first-year NCCU coach Jerry Mack said. “You talk about the quickest way to lose a football game, it’s turnovers.”
The Eagles went down east to show love to the fan base there. Some of those fans help keep NCCU’s football program going with their donations, and it’s important for the Eagles to appreciate that, Mack said.
Rocky Mount-based Gardner’s Barbecue catered the post-scrimmage meal. Mack said NCCU’s defense definitely earned the grub, but the offense — not so much.
“We did some good things. We just can’t turn the football over constantly. That’s just unacceptable,” Mack said.
NCCU running backs coach Adrian Jones pointed at Deyonta Wright and gestured for him to get in the scrimmage after running back Kevin Thompson coughed up the football.
Wright got on the field and went to work.
“He was a guy that stepped up and created some explosive plays when we needed it, to be honest with you,” Mack said. “He sparked the offense a little bit when he got his chance to touch the football, made the most of his touches.”
Playmaker Adrian Wilkins tackled himself.
Wilkins last season was the only player on the Division I Football Championship Subdivision level to score five touchdowns on special teams, taking three kickoffs and two punts to the end zone. He led the Eagles on offense with 37 catches for 427 yards and two touchdowns.
So that pass grab and nifty run Wilkins put together during the scrimmage didn’t surprise Mack. It’s what Wilkins did after the play — spiking the ball as the offense approached the end zone, drawing a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct — that had the coach’s eyes wide open.
Mack was furious. He told Wilkins to get off the field.
“The thing is, the best player, I don’t care. Unsportsmanlike conduct, that’s unacceptable, and he didn’t play anymore the rest of the scrimmage,” Mack said. “He’s never displayed that before. He’s always been a guy that makes a play and flips it back to the referee.”
Boneheaded plays like that kill drives during games, and Wilkins is one of those guys who generally is going to be on the field during critical moments, Mack said.
Mack was hired in December, so he’s still getting to know the personnel he inherited. But Wilkins during spring ball has separated himself as one of NCCU’s better players, Mack said.
NCCU can’t afford to have Wilkins surrendering yards gained from brilliant plays, Mack said.
Wilkins later made a pretty nice move, walking over to Mack to say he was sorry for showboating.
“I appreciated his apology, but, at the end of the day, he’s got to be held accountable for his actions,” Mack said.
Quarterbacks Quinn Billerman and Malcolm Bell got the most snaps during the scrimmage, but neither has done enough to gain separation as the starter, Mack said. They’ve both had their ups and downs during spring ball and need to be more consistent, Mack said.
Mack said he’s installed about 55 to 60 percent of the fast-paced offense the Eagles will run. He said he’s held back some of the schemes because he wants the Eagles to learn to play fast. Too much too soon would overwhelm the players, Mack said.
NCCU’s spring game is Friday at 6 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
The Eagles last season were 5-7. There’s plenty of work to be done before NCCU’s first game this season at East Carolina on Aug. 30, Mack said.
The scrimmage in Rocky Mount was Mack’s first road trip with the Eagles. The trip wasn’t one of those rah-rah bus rides, he said.
“It was really quiet, to be honest with you. I think guys were focused,” Mack said. “They rode on the bus, they put their headsets on and they seemed like they were ready to come out and put forth their best effort. And I wasn’t disappointed in the effort overall. I was just really disappointed in, offensively, our turnovers and our sloppiness with the football.”