NCCU looks to shore up D-line, offense as Blue Devils loom
The sand in the hourglass continues its downward descent, drawing ever nearer the arrival of Aug. 31, when N.C. Central travels the few miles from campus to Wallace Wade Stadium to deal with Duke.
It’s enough to bring tears to a guy’s eyes, NCCU coach Henry Frazier III suggested Thursday at the 11th annual Bill Dooley Triangle/East Chapter Pigskin Preview at the Embassy Suites hotel in Cary.
“That’s where all that rain came from this summer, just sitting around thinking about the season, and then I think about Duke,” Frazier said.
Duke is a Football Bowl Subdivision school coming off of a long-awaited trip to the postseason.
NCCU gets after it on a lower tier, the Football Championship Subdivision, finishing third a year ago in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, not good enough to advance to postseason play.
In order to both beat higher-end schools like Duke and compete with its peers, NCCU is going to have to figure out something on offense that will make up deficiencies in an Eagles defense that was hit pretty hard by players having exhausted their eligibility, particularly up front, Frazier said.
“We’re going to have to do some creative things to camouflage that,” Frazier said.
NCCU no longer has John Drew anchoring the defensive line, and Xavier Proctor is gone, too.
Proctor is playing professionally with the Orlando Predators in the Arena Football League.
Drew didn’t get drafted by a National Football League squad, but teams are interested in him, Arkansas-based sports agent Chris Turnage has said.
NCCU defensive back Ryan Smith is capable of playing special football in the Eagles’ secondary, Frazier said.
Eagles running back Idreis Augustus is back from a knee injury and has been moving well on the field, Frazier said. Hopefully, he can provide a spark on offense, as well as Adrian Wilkins, who ideally can step in the slot and pick up where playmaker Geovonie Irvine left off before wrapping up his NCCU career last season, Frazier said.
Irvine also was a dangerous return man, and Frazier said he needs Wilkins to make something happen in that phase of the game, too.
“You’ve got a Geovonie, too?” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora asked Frazier, referring to former UNC running back Giovani Bernard, now with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joining Frazier and Fedora on the panel at the Pigskin Preview were Duke coach David Cutcliffe, first-year N.C. State coach Dave Doeren and East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill.
The Pigskin Preview is loosely regarded as the kickoff to the college football season in this area. It’s a time to ease into the season and includes questions from moderator and veteran sports broadcaster Don Shea that allow fans during the luncheon to pick up a few personal tidbits about the coaches.
Shea asked Frazier to highlight his most redeeming quality.
“I’ll go with the smile,” Frazier said. “I’m always smiling. I’m a happy guy.”
An MEAC championship would keep Frazier grinning. NCCU was in the hunt for the league title last season before fizzling out, finishing 6-5 overall, 5-3 in the MEAC. However, that was NCCU’s first winning season since 2007.
NCCU’s training camp starts August 1, and there are some awesome opportunities for individual Eagles to fill some rather large shoes, Frazier said.