Frazier: Too late to start getting ready
DURHAM — Around these parts, the so-called first snaps of the college football season get hiked with Thursday’s annual Bill Dooley Triangle/East Chapter Pigskin Preview in Cary, bookended by the recent Atlantic Coast Conference media days in Greensboro and Friday’s press luncheon for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in Norfolk, Va.
N.C. Central coach Henry Frazier III would acknowledge a place for those sorts of gatherings, never straying too far from his belief that championships are won between January and July.
In other words, with calendars next week flipping to August, NCCU’s players basically either have or haven’t put in the work necessary to win the MEAC title that is required to secure a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, according to Frazier.
“If you’re showing up in August talking about, ‘Let’s go!’ you’re done. It’s a wrap,” Frazier said.
NCCU’s football team is coming off of its first winning season since 2007, finishing 6-5 in 2012, 5-3 in the MEAC.
That wasn’t the goal, though — a conference championship was, and NCCU was beating a furious path down the road toward a title when the Eagles went to Daytona Beach, Fla., and got scratched up pretty good in a tussle with the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, the eventual MEAC champs. Several NCCU players left that game banged up, particularly stud nose guard John Drew, who went down with a season-ending injury to his big toe.
NCCU entered that contest against Bethune-Cookman tied with the Wildcats for first place in the MEAC. The loss dropped the Eagles to second, and NCCU wound up tied for third in the league.
Those injuries put Frazier in a bind — he could fill holes in the roster with players who were redshirting, or he could
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let those guys stay on the sideline and preserve their eligibility while the rest of the Eagles finished the season with a patchwork approach.
“We ran out of bodies, and I had to stick with the plan,” Frazier said. “I could have put some of those puppies and freshmen in there, but I made a decision not to.”
So from January through July, the Eagles — including the redshirt players — have been putting in the work, running to get their wind right, lifting to make their bodies tight.
During the NCAA’s required times of no interaction between coaches and student-athletes, NCCU’s football players have been gathering and putting each other through the paces.
“This is all on their own,” Frazier said. “I think the light bulb is going off.”
The Eagles are young on paper but have veteran qualities, exuding a vibe that seems to actually welcome a punishing training camp, Frazier said.
“They’ve got the right mindset,” Frazier said. “Once training camp hits, now what we’re doing is laying our foundation that we’re going to be able to stand on for the next three or four months, because everything has been taught, everything has been drilled in them.”
NCCU’s training camp starts August 1, yet the main work already has been done, Frazier said.
“I tell them we’re building a team for October and November,” Frazier said. “You’re talking about all of these things in January.”