At NCCU, the talent's there, even if the names aren't familiar -- yet
Names on the back of N.C. Central’s football jerseys wouldn’t do a whole lot of good right now, but just wait, NCCU offensive coordinator Michael Bryant said.
“After the first couple of weeks, people will be getting to know these guys,” Bryant said during NCCU’s “Eagle Talk” sports show at Café Renaissance on Tuesday. “They’ll become household names. They’re very special football players.”
Some of NCCU’s players are relatively unknown because currently suspended head coach Henry Frazier III kept them under wraps as part of a concerted effort to redshirt as many players as possible, building for the future.
Injured Eagles last season created opportunities to take off some of those redshirts, but Frazier stuck to his plan and allowed guys like running back Shaheed Swinson to watch and learn.
Swinson, now a redshirt freshman, is expected to get some carries this season. He’s on the smaller side at 5-8, 167 pounds, and that could make him a liability when quarterback Jordan Reed drops back to pass. But Swinson’s explosiveness positions him as the kind of guy that Bryant wants on the field.
Bryant said the idea is to have Swinson off the field during passing situations. NCCU has some bigger backs in redshirt sophomore Indreis Augustus (5-7, 190) and redshirt junior Andre Clarke (5-10, 232).
Reid is so comfortable with the offense that he’s teaching it to the backup quarterbacks, the sort of confidence that Bryant likes to see.
“It’s a quarterback-friendly system,” Bryant said. “All you have to do is find the open guy.”
If Reid makes the right checks at the line of scrimmage to get guys lined up right, somebody will be open, particularly with at least five Eagles running sub-4.4 40-yard dashes, and three NCCU football players clocked in under 4.3, Bryant said.
Frazier, entering his third season at NCCU, said the Eagles will use a multiple set on offense and go with a 3-4 look on defense.
Joining Bryant during “Eagle Talk” was NCCU defensive coordinator John Morgan Jr., who said there has been concern about shoring up the team’s defensive line after the departures of nose guard John Drew and defensive end Xavier Proctor, who are in training camp with the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.
NCCU has some promising defensive linemen in Tommy Wallace and Aaron “Tank” Wallace, but injuries kept them from participating in the team’s scrimmage on Friday.
Senior Tazmon Foster stands out among a strong bunch of NCCU linebackers that includes redshirt-junior Ty Brown, who is starting to figure it out, Morgan said.
“He definitely has grown up,” Morgan said.
Blitzing was the only thing Brown seemed to have on his mind early on during his NCCU career, Morgan said.
“But now, he definitely understands what we ask him to do,” Morgan said. “He knows how important he is to our success.”
And Brown knows he’ll be standing on the sideline watching if he deviates too far from the script, Morgan said.
“For us to be successful, we need him on the field,” Morgan said about Brown (6-4, 218), a fast, athletic outside linebacker who has the skills to cover pass catchers from his days as a high school free safety. “That’s scary for any opposing wide receiver.”
Ryan Smith, Cameron Hughes and Tim Thaniel have looked solid in the secondary, while Sayyid Muhammad, who a year ago got the job done as a nickel back, likely will have his role expanded this go around, Morgan said.
NCCU takes on Duke in the Bull City Gridiron Classic at Wallace Wade Stadium on Aug. 31.
The Eagles last season were 6-5 overall, 5-3 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the team’s first winning season since 2007.