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Charlotte football starts camp with expectations and precautions
Even with schedule changes, 49ers look to improve
Published Friday, August 7, 2020 5:09 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

The Charlotte 49ers are focused on improving on last season's 7-6 overall record, which included the school's first postseason game under coach Will Healy, who is in his second year.

It’s anything but a normal preseason for Charlotte 49ers football.

The program began preseason camp Friday morning with temperature checks and screening players for COVID-19 symptoms. A year ago, the 49ers’ biggest hurdle was the uncertainty of a first-time FBS head coach Will Healy. He led them to their first postseason game – the Bahamas Bowl – and their first winning season with a record of 7-6, 5-3 in Conference USA.  They ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak before losing to Buffalo in the Bahamas.

Now they face a pandemic and their schedule has already felt the ramifications of a COVID-19 world, with non-conference games against Norfolk State and Tennessee cancelled. Charlotte’s game at Duke was moved from Sept. 17 to Oct. 31. The 49ers are scheduled to face Georgia State in their season opener, before opening C-USA play at Florida Atlantic on Oct. 3. Their schedule currently has 10 regular season games, two of which are non-conference. Further schedule change is possible.

“I think they need to understand that if we do have our first game pushed back a little bit then we are going to be really careful with making sure that they are fresh, that it’s not going to be an extended camp period,” Healy said.

Leading Charlotte’s offense is junior quarterback Chris Reynolds, who completed 181-of-291 passes and averaged 197.2 passing yards and 258.1 yards total offense last season. He is on the preseason Manning Award (top quarterback in college football) and the Maxwell Trophy (Player of the Year) watch lists. Reynolds has two words to describe the offense’s goal: “fast and confident.”

Players have been on campus since June 15 for voluntary workouts. Healy is pleased with their work, assessing that players came in fit and are schematically ahead of where they were last year on day one.

“For day one, considering the fact that we’ve had two weeks of basically OTAs, you’re a little bit further along than what you would typically be,” Healy said. “Our guys are in shape. They understand what a practice is going to look like.”

The biggest change in camp is adjusting to COVID-19 protocols. The team will test for the virus once a week and players are required to have a temperature check and screening before entering the building. The 49ers plan to test 72 hours prior to gameday.

“It’s just us getting used to what our protocols are going to be in a helmets practice—whether that’s stay off the ground, or whether that’s six feet of spacing when your helmet is off [or] even monitoring reps of who goes against who,” Healy said. “It’s different, but I think our players have handled it extremely well, and I’m very proud of our progression, and how things have gone up to this point.”

Graduate defensive end Tyriq Harris and Reynolds called a team meeting yesterday for players to discuss their thoughts and concerns going into the season.

“It was mainly just about concerns that players were having with regards to COVID-19—trying to get some questions answered,” Harris said. “Nothing too big. We just wanted to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. I know coach Healy and the staff have done a really good job of listening to us when we feel like we have some concerns of our own. He’s done everything he can to make adjustments for us. We just wanted to leave the meeting open to how people were thinking and what they were feeling, and just to give guys some reassurance as well, and to understand that if we want to play football this season we will. We’re just trying to bring some positive energy into our team.”


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