After two weeks of work Jerry Mack and his staff will finally put the North Carolina Central football team on the field for a full scrimmage.
Beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, the three-time MEAC champions will go through a three-hour scrimmage, giving Mack a chance to further evaluate his team before fall camp.
The Eagles have had five practices so far, and last week were the first two practices in full pads, so the pace picked up a bit. Mack even let the group tackle to the ground, something that is typically frowned upon during the regular season. But this is spring ball, and Mack can’t properly gauge what he has to work with going half speed. That’s why this first scrimmage today is so important during the spring evaluation period.
“We are trying to see who can retain the information and who can go out there and make plays,” Mack said. “We placed an emphasis on guys trying to go out there and make plays, so I want to see who is going to be able to play within our scheme, but also who can have some creativity, be explosive and make plays.”
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The team will work through various game-like situations, no script. The offense will start off at the 25-yard line and work a set of plays from there, spot the ball and go through another series of plays. The team will also do work from the redzone and goal line.
The quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Naiil Ramadan and redshirt freshman Shaolin McGuire continues. Mack said there won’t be a certain amount of plays reserved for each quarterback during the scrimmage, but he would rather “let it flow.”
The two young quarterbacks will alternate each series and the staff will chart their progress as the scrimmage goes along. McGuire ran mostly with the first team at practice on Thursday. A couple of other young players who have turned heads early in spring practice, according to Mack, have been junior cornerback Demario Evans and senior linebacker Tank O’Neal. Both players have been in the program a few seasons, but played limited roles. With cornerback Mike Jones transferring and linebacker LeGrande Harley graduating, Evans and O’Neal are in prime position to fill those shoes.
“A lot of these guys, we’re going to increase their roles over the next few practices,” Mack said, “just to see if they can handle everything we throw at them. We know they can take it in small doses, but now their roles has to expand because it’s their time now.”