NCCU picked to finish 4th in MEAC, B-C No. 1
Across the room from N.C. Central coach Henry Frazier III during an interview session of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football coaches was a Bethune-Cookman helmet, perched on a table symbolizing the mighty blow that the Wildcats dealt the Eagles last season.
“After that game, I know a lot of guys were beat up, a lot of guys were hurt with that being the first loss of the conference,” NCCU left tackle Charles Goodwin said shortly before the MEAC press luncheon at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott hotel here on Friday.
NCCU gets another shot against Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 2, this time at home in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium and on national TV.
“It’s one that everybody’s got circled on their calendar,” Goodwin said.
That’s not to overlook the other teams in the league, Goodwin said.
MEAC coaches and sports information directors picked NCCU to finish fourth in the league behind preseason third-place selection N.C. A&T. S.C. State was slotted in second. Bethune-Cookman is expected to come out on top, again.
Predicted finishes for slots five through 11 in the MEAC look like this: Florida A&M, Howard, Norfolk State, Delaware State, Hampton, Morgan State and Savannah State.
During the luncheon, the MEAC head coaches had a couple of their players stand so the ballroom crowd could show them some love.
When it was Frazier’s turn to speak, he acknowledged Goodwin and NCCU linebacker Tazmon Foster, who last season on national TV against Hampton intercepted a pass in the red zone and flew 80 yards for a touchdown, on top of averaging 10 tackles a game.
“You guys didn’t make first team, so have a seat,” Frazier said with a lot of wry.
Not a single Eagle made the first-team cut on either offense or defense for the MEAC’s preseason all-conference squads.
“You know what that means, right?” Frazier asked his guys. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of all that.”
NCCU will start practice on Thursday looking to outdo last season’s 6-5 run that gave the Eagles their first winning season since 2007.
The Eagles were 5-3 in the MEAC, losing two of their last three games after wrangling with Bethune-Cookman. NCCU had been strong in the conference but faded after the Wildcats scratched them up.
“We were undefeated in the conference going into the game, and everybody’s emotions were riding real high on that one, because we basically felt that whoever won that game had a real good shot at going on and eventually winning the MEAC,” Goodwin said.
It was against Bethune-Cookman when NCCU lost John Drew — not that the Wildcats put a sure-enough whupping on the burly nose guard, who left the game with an injured big toe. That injury, however, did sideline Drew for the rest of the season. That was huge, because Drew commanded double-teams at the line of scrimmage, Foster said.
“I feel like we should have finished 8-3,” Foster said. “I think we got too relaxed. A lot of guys thought we were out of it, we weren’t competing for nothing, weren’t that focused in practice. It’s going to be a different story this year.”
On paper, there is a difference in the Eagles, who have gotten faster and stronger after wearing down toward the end of last season, Frazier said.
“It’s time to transfer all of that stuff to the football field and get some wins under our belts,” Frazier said, that Bethune-Cookman helmet returning his gaze from across the room. “I can’t get ahead of myself, but, yeah, I’m looking over there.
“They banged us up. They broke us up. They broke us up pretty good. We’ll get a good opportunity. We’ll get to see them on national TV at our home spot. Twelve-noon kickoff.”