|Hampton Pirates ready for challenge of Big South football|
|Picked sixth in preseason polling|
|Published Wednesday, July 24, 2019 12:50 pm|
|HAMPTON SPORTS INFORMATION|
|Robert Bell has emerged as a team leader for Hampton football as the Pirates join the Big South Conference in 2019.|
The Hampton Pirates are ready for the Big South Conference.
They enter the conference after a season as an independent following their departure from the MEAC. Leading the way is second-year coach Robert Prunty, who took the Pirates to a 7-3 record last season that ended on a six-game winning streak and produced 50-plus points three times.
“The players, I need to let them have more ownership, and I like where they are at,” Prunty said Tuesday at the Big South’s media day in Charlotte. “I like the offseason program. I like our guys defensively. I like our guys offensively. They understand things better as far as my system going offense, defense and special teams. I like this football team.”
Prunty emphasized the importance of versatility and physicality ahead of last season, which translated into on-field success.
“We implemented the physicality part of it,” Prunty said. “Everything takes time. Our strength and conditioning coach, Luke Butler, has done an outstanding job. The guys are ready.”
The Pirates, who were picked sixth in preseason polling, open against the CIAA’s Elizabeth City State on Aug. 31 and play their first Big South game at home on Oct. 5 against North Alabama. The first conference road contest is Oct. 13 at Gardner-Webb.
Hampton players to watch are seniors Ronald Bell, a receiver, and defensive back Oral Varcciann.
Bell, who averaged 15.3 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns on 19 receptions last season, is considered one of the team’s leaders.
“I’ve watched him this summer,” Prunty said. “I’ll never forget, I was over there, 7 a.m. at the office, and I saw him on the track, running by himself. He leads by example, a very cerebral guy. He understands football. He’s going to be a coach on the field, and he’s going to work hard.”
Said Bell, who would hit the track at 6 a.m. for sprints: “I believe that leading by example is not the main source of influence, it’s the only source of influence. You can’t get guys to rally behind you if you’re not leading by example. In order to do that, I just try to be the hardest worker.”
Varcciann brings veteran leadership to the Pirates secondary.
“What you’re getting here is an old, savvy veteran who understands the game,” Prunty said. “[His] knowledge is off the charts, understands schemes, can draw the plays up. He’s learning to be a mentor. He’s learning to be the same thing that I am as a coach. He’s learning to bring everybody in, and not leave anybody out. That shows that his leadership level has grown higher.”
Said Varcciann: “The thing about my game is I want to be a physical guy out there on the field.”
Added Prunty: “He’s a very a physical guy. At the nickel back, he has a chance to play on Sundays—just a matter of him staying healthy.”
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