Season of change at NCCU
Gurus claim change is good.
N.C. Central’s Ty Brown is a redshirt senior adjusting to his fourth Eagles head coach.
“It is a business,” Brown said.
Mose Rison was Brown’s first coach at NCCU. Then NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree hired Henry Frazier III to coach the football team. But Wicker-Mcree said Frazier had too many personal problems going on, so she fired him and appointed assistant head coach Dwayne Foster to take over the team on an interim basis.
This past December, Wicker-McCree hired South Alabama wide receivers coach Jerry Mack to pick up where Foster left off, a 5-7 season in 2013.
Mack at 33 became the third-youngest active Division I head football coach, and he is tasked with being mature beyond his years in order to get the Eagles soaring again.
The prevailing thought is that NCCU would have done better last season if Frazier had been around with his infectious ways, because Foster just wasn’t the right guy for the job.
Mack has that “it” factor, though, NCCU playmaker Adrian Wilkins said.
“To me, it seems like Coach Mack’s got it all figured out. It seems like he knows what he wants to do,” Wilkins said.
“My whole day-to-day grind is to make North Carolina Central the best football program it can possibly be,” Mack said. “I’m not thinking two, three years down the road.”
Mack said he’s trying to win starting Saturday at East Carolina (8 p.m., ESPNews).
“It’s been a lot of transition here in the past five or six years at North Carolina Central,” Mack said. “We’re just kind of calling it the season of change, so far.”
That collective change has brought a certain energy to the program, Mack said.
Among the tweaks is a culture shock that demands discipline in the form of timeliness and tempo.
“If we call a 3 o’clock meeting, the doors are locked at 3 o’clock,” Mack said. “We have to create a mentality around here.”
That’s why the Eagles practice fast. When it’s time to lift weights, they do it on the hop. All of that will translate on game days, Mack said.
“He’s all about business,” Brown said.
Wicker-McCree hired the right guy, ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said.
“At North Carolina Central — y’all have got a gem,” McNeill said about Mack. “Y’all have got a guy that’s special in this thing. He understands it. You’ll see what he’s going to do there.”
Brown said NCCU’s main issue last year was not finishing games. The Eagles proved they could play with anybody in the first halves of games, but they kept fading in quarters three and four, he said.
Some of that had to do with the distractions related to Frazier’s firing, Wilkins said.
Frazier’s marital problems kept making headlines. Wicker-McCree said that’s why she let him go.
The Eagles have since been bonding, getting together in the offseason for a game of softball and a cookout, for example.
“Trying to build a family,” Wilkins said.
“Not being just teammates, but become brothers. You fight harder for your brothers,” Brown said.
Mack said players always look sideways at new head coaches and the staffs they bring in. But Mack said he believes the players have moved on from the situation with Frazier and have bought in to what he’s trying to do.
Wilkins said adjusting to Mack was something that comes along with sports.
“It wasn’t hard for me, because Frazier said, just like Mack said, it’s a business. Things like that are going to happen. You just have to go with the flow,” Wilkins said.
Mack said he had to get rid of some dead weight in the form of players who weren’t trying get with the program.
After coaching on the offensive side of the ball for a decade, Mack said he is eager to have oversight over a whole production as NCCU’s head coach — NCCU’s very young head coach.
“I embrace it,” Mack said about the attention he gets regarding his age.
Jordan Reid was NCCU’s quarterback last season. Now he’s one of Mack’s assistant coaches. Reid said his boss knows what he’s doing.
“He has that presence where he just controls a room, and that’s something that’s very impressive about him at a young age,” Reid said.
Among Mack’s adjustments in this season of change is having the microphones and recorders from media members in his face. He didn’t have to deal with that as much as an assistant coach.
“The biggest adjustment is when you’re an assistant, everybody came to your office and you kind of hung out and shot the breeze,” Mack said. “Now everybody comes to your office, they’ve got issues.”