Senior losses haven't plucked Eagles bare; spring game tonight
There have been moments when N.C. Central coach Henry Frazier III has had to shake himself and get a tighter grip on the fact that John Drew is not going to be in the Eagles’ defensive huddle this season.
Geovonie Irvine won’t be lined up at wide receiver keeping opposing defenses honest and Arthur Goforth won’t be nestled deep and on the verge of going the distance on a kick return.
Those guys were seniors. They aren’t coming back.
Frazier has talked in terms of both understanding the reality of the situation and having moved on.
But there are those moments.
“I think about it, now,” Frazier said, talking in particular about Goforth, who was a solid running back for the Eagles but electrifying as a return man. “He was special. He had a great senior year.”
NCCU wraps up its spring football practice season tonight with a 6:30 intra-squad scrimmage at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. Admission is free.
Drew, who transferred from Duke, was one of the most feared defensive linemen in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, while Irvine, who played at Hillside High School, was a game changer.
“Geo was just always a threat,” Frazier said. “Those are some big shoes to fill. You just hope that you’ve got some guys that you’ve recruited over the last couple of years that can take this opportunity and go out and make plays. We won’t know who they are until the games and the lights come on, but we feel like we’ve got some really good athletes here, and somebody should have a chance to step up.”
NCCU is coming off of its first winning season since 2007, finishing 6-5 overall in 2012, 5-3 in the MEAC.
The Eagles were in the hunt for a conference championship a year ago before fading down the stretch and ending up with a share of third place in the MEAC.
Frazier has said in no uncertain terms that NCCU’s goal this season is a conference championship, which comes with a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) playoffs. Guys with names other than Drew, Irvine and Goforth will have to make that happen, Frazier said.
“We had some really dynamic players who did some really dynamic things,” Frazier said. “OK, who’s next?
“That’s what good programs do. They don’t rebuild. They reload.”
Tazmon Foster returns to NCCU as a senior linebacker with a reputation for making big plays.
Last season during a nationally televised game against Hampton, Foster intercepted a pass in the red zone and flew 80 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles momentum toward an eventual win at home.
During a win against S.C. State at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Foster picked up a fumble and rumbled 32 yards for a touchdown.
Foster has led with his actions but said he needs to be more vocal this season.
NCCU lost some solid senior leaders, but that’s football, Foster said.
“We won’t have any choice but to replace them,” Foster said.
“Taz is more of a quiet leader,” NCCU offensive lineman Charles Goodwin said. “I’m a playful guy.”
Goodwin, who’ll suit up for his final season as an Eagle, can be a real jester known to hold court during NCCU basketball games, hamming it up for his teammates.
“I’m a jokester, but they know not to take my joking the wrong way, because when it’s time to get this work done, I’m going to get it done,” Goodwin said.
NCCU football lost some solid pieces, but the Eagles should be fine this season, Goodwin said.
“We’ve got the talent to do it, we’ve just got to do it,” Goodwin said, singling out senior defensive lineman Aaron “Tank” Wallace. “He can be just as good as John Drew.”
One day during spring drills, Foster, was on top of his game, making a good read from his linebacker spot.
“Way to see it, Taz!” Frazier shouted. “Hey, Taz! I like that, Taz!”
Foster said he’ll have some more material for the highlight reel when the season starts.
“Yeah, I’ve got some more of those big plays for you,” Foster said.