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Spring drill sessions a wrap for football on local campuses
What to watch at Charlotte, NC A&T, JCSU
 
Published Saturday, April 13, 2019 11:29 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | MICHAEL SIMMONS
North Carolina A&T quarterback Ifedi Kingsley, a Vance High graduate, completed 13 of 19 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns as the Gold beat the Blue 29-28 in the Aggies’ spring football game April 6 in Greensboro.

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Spring means football drills at local colleges.


The Charlotte 49ers are raising the curtain on the Will Healy era at Saturday’s Green-White game. North Carolina A&T debuted a new quarterback at its intrasquad scrimmage, and Johnson C. Smith is putting the final touches on an overhauled philosophy.

At Charlotte, the 49ers are introducing a new culture under Healy, who is pushing an uptempo offense and player development in his first season with the 49ers.

“Execution is getting better and better,” Healy told the school’s website. “Our players are starting to get a feel for what we think is important and what our standard is. They’ve responded really well to it. We’re starting to see the fruits of the labor come to fruition.”

Charlotte’s overhauled coaching staff has work to do with 12 starters returning to a team that went 5-7 last year.

“We come out here every day and learn something new,” senior defensive tackle Tommy Doctor said. “[Defensive line coach Marcus] West has been great.  We’re working a lot of movement and working technique. We’re really starting to play together and there’s a lot of communication out there.”

Said Healy: “I think our players are starting to understand how good [are the] coaches we have. We’re putting some stuff on film where we have a chance to evaluate some guys and see what they can do. Our guys fit our scheme, enjoy our scheme, are learning our scheme and are starting to play faster and faster.”

What to look for in the fall:


• Quarterback play.

Sophomore Chris Reynolds (100-of-154, 1,173 yards, six touchdowns in 2018) showed promise last season before going down with an ankle injury. He’s recovered, but senior Evan Sherriffs (54-of-104, 631 yards, 2 TDs) is pushing for a look. Redshirt Brady Pope and Brett Kean, a graduate transfer from South Florida, are in the mix for playing time as well.

“We’re still learning,” Chris Reynolds said. “We need to strive for greatness. We can’t get to perfection but we can chase it. We’re trying to build off everything we learn each practice and it’s exciting to see what the final product will be in the spring and what we can carry over to the summer.”

• Edge rushers. All-Conference USA defensive end Alex Highsmith (60 tackles, three sacks) is the top returning pass rusher, with fellow end Tyriq Harris (56 tackles, 2.5 sacks) a strong complement.

JCSU continues its offensive remake with head coach Kermit Blount adding play calling to his duties. As drills wrap up this week on campus, the Golden Bulls are focused on scoring, as in more for the offense and fewer allowed on defense. Both units were at the bottom of the CIAA last year, which explains consecutive 2-8 seasons.

What to look for in the fall:


• Offensive line depth. Blount believes there’s enough talent on campus to be competitive up front while the 2019 line recruits push for playing time when they arrive. He cited freshman guard Shawn Evans as an early standout in drills.

• Running back platoon: Desean Binyard inherits the starter’s role, but freshman Emanuel Wilson, a North Mecklenburg High graduate who redshirted last year, has looked sharp in drills.

• Quarterback development. Freshmen Antonio Wallace and De’Andre Robinson split snaps during the spring, and Blount indicated he’s giving them freedom to adjust plays on the fly. Whoever proves more adept at adapting will have a leg up in the fall.

At A&T, the Aggies are looking to build on a second straight black college national title. The Gold beat the Blue 30-29 in the spring game despite missing All-America cornerback Mac McCain III, who is still recovering from a season-ending leg injury from October and quarterback Kylil Carter, who is also recovering from injury. Carter’s competition, Vance High graduate Kingsley Ifedi, completed 13-of-19 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner from 4 yards out on the scrimmage’s final play.

“I thought our effort and focus was really good,” said Aggies coach Sam Washington, who led the Aggies to a 10-2 record and the HBCU crown in his first season. “We did have a few false starts but overall I think we only had five penalties, so I was pleased with that.”

What to look for in the fall:

• Running back competition. Third-team All-MEAC pick Jah-maine Martin, who didn’t play in the scrimmage, is the projected starter. N.C. A&T’s 2018 leading tackler and linebacker Antoine Wilder was also absent on the field.

• Offensive line incumbents.  All-MEAC tackle Marcus Pettiford and Dontae Keys anchor a unit that traditionally is one of the league’s best.

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