Talkin' 'bout practice

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 06:40 PM

Practice?

We're talking about practice?

For sure, and we're specifically talking about how to practice, because N.C. Central's football players had some learning to do based on how they looked while getting in some work at Rocky Mount High School in April.

It was understandable. The Eagles were adjusting to first-year NCCU coach Jerry Mack, who'd taken spring practice on the road down there in Eastern North Carolina.

These Eagles either will do things Mack's way, or, well, they won't be Eagles. So guys will be on time to NCCU football functions. They will engage at the proper tempo — generally fast — upon arriving at those places. And they will do all of those things just right.

In Rocky Mount, when the Eagles didn't take off their helmets the right way before entering a stretching period, veteran NCCU strength-and-conditioning coach George “Bulldog” Smith checked them with the swiftness:

“You're going to take one step to the right,” Smith said. “When you take the step, place it.”

Smith was referring to the players' helmets and how the hard hats were to be removed with the unified precision of a tightly choreographed Temptations number.

Details, details, details.

This past Saturday, the Eagles were on point with all of that before their first fall scrimmage toward an Aug. 30 date with East Carolina (8 p.m., ESPNews). It was raining and nasty inside O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium, but Mack's guys practiced clean.

After Mack was hired in December, he understood that the football players he inherited needed to get stronger and faster, so keeping Smith close to the program was critical, the coach said.

“He's a master strength-and-conditioning coach,” Mack said. “That was probably my best hire so far.”

Smith, an offensive lineman at the University of South Carolina in the early to mid-1980s, was in the O'Kelly-Riddick stands during Saturday's scrimmage, just sort of taking in everything and assessing Mack's product.

The strength coach liked what he saw.

This NCCU team is a young squad being led by a young staff that has at the helm a guy who for the fist time in his life is navigating the course that head coaches trod.

NCCU's football program this season will get where it needs to be if the Eagles absolutely comprehend their new chapter, establishing a desired culture, Mack said.

Practicing well is part of that culture.

Herald-Sun sports writer John McCann is on Twitter.