John McCann: Adrian Jones hire a feather in NCCU cap

Jan. 08, 2014 @ 10:02 PM

Well, one out of three ain’t so bad, is it?

’Twas the day after Thanksgiving when I laid out the dream scenario that would have returned three former Eagles to N.C. Central’s nest and put the football team in good shape toward recovering from a 5-7 season that started with drama.

Henry Frazier III had some personal issues going on in his life that led NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree to relieve him of his head-coaching duties. She elevated Dwayne Foster, Frazier’s top assistant, to lead the team.

After the season ended, Wicker-McCree hired Jerry Mack to be NCCU’s football coach. He’d been the wide receivers coach at South Alabama.

The NCCU gig is Mack’s first as a head coach, so assembling a staff was one of the main things on his to-do list.

Now, I’d made the case for Wicker-McCree to go down the road to Raleigh and pickoff Shaw coach Robert Massey, who was a defensive back both at NCCU and in the National Football League. And I explained that NCCU could put a padlock on recruiting in the area by hiring high school championship coaches Adrian Jones and Antonio King, from Southern and Hillside high schools, respectively.

Ahem! Like I said, one out of three ain’t bad.

On Wednesday, Jones resigned from Southern, his high school alma mater, to join Mack’s staff. Jones attended NCCU, too, where he was a Division II All-America defensive back.

Jones was in a situation like Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who could parlay a national championship into another job yet leave behind a bad-mama-jama of a quarterback in Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

In December, the arm and legs of Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton delivered the school’s first state championship in football, and that young brother — with bona fide scholarship offers from Duke, N.C. State and East Carolina — has another year of high school left.

And let me tell you right now, if Hinton ends up at NCCU, Jones is going to get tenure at that university.

Hinton plays basketball for Southern, too. He said he scored 10 points Wednesday night against Cardinal Gibbons, despite the news Jones laid on him and his football teammates earlier in the day.

“It kind of changed my mood,” Hinton said. “I knew he had ambitions to coach in college someday, but I didn’t know it would be this soon.”

Jones, 39, actually coached NCCU’s defensive backs when the Eagles won Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles in 2005 and 2006.

This time at NCCU, Jones will coach the running backs. The Eagles struggled in that position last season. Foster said that was because injuries necessitated a lot of shuffling along NCCU’s offensive line, and the lack of continuity made it difficult for the Eagles to run with any consistency.

Expect Mack to retain NCCU defensive backs coach Andre George, who was developing a gem of a cornerback in freshman Michael Jones.

And listen to me, Eagles Nation! Y’all had better run Mack out of town if he doesn’t bring back NCCU assistant coach Mike Mendenhall. That guy had NCCU’s special teams scoring touchdowns like they were the main offense for the Eagles.

NCCU sophomore Adrian Wilkins alone returned three kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns this past season. That got him recognized as the return specialist of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision, according to College Football Performance Awards. A lot of that had to do with Wilkins’ raw talent, sure, but don’t just overlook Mendenhall’s return schemes.

From where you’re sitting, Jones may look like an opportunist, like one of these people who jump on the first train smoking after having some success.

That’s not Jones. He cares about those kids at Southern. You can just tell. You can tell by the certain way that he fussed at his players. It’s how my daddy fussed at me. It’s how I fuss at my two daughters.

Unfortunately, Jones has accepted a job in a profession that doesn’t care how much a man cares. If NCCU doesn’t win, Mack’s going to be gone and probably Jones, too.

There’s certainly more security under the Friday night lights of high school football.

But having the guts to gamble is the mark of a great coach.

Reach John McCann at jmccann@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6601.