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Charlotte 49ers get down to business with full-speed practice
Contact intensifies during spring drills
 
Published Tuesday, April 6, 2021 8:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

It is time to put the pads on for Charlotte 49ers football.

The 49ers opened spring practice on April 1, added shoulder pads on April 5 and will have their first full pads practice on April 7. Charlotte, which went 2-4 last year, also announced they would host a spring game on April 24 at 12 p.m. — their first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 49ers, who did not have spring ball last year, let alone a spring game, will get both. They will be able to host 3,890 fans for the spring game under North Carolina guidelines, and admission is free. Face coverings and physical distancing will be required.

“Excited to be able to talk about a spring game,” coach Will Healy said. “It’s crazy to think the number is like four times the capacity that we could have for a home football game last fall. I felt like this is a stadium upgrade and we added to the capacity. We went through this and we did not know if we were going to be able to do it. We did not know how the governor [Roy Cooper] was going to allow us to be able to have fans. Could we have an event like this? I know the people here have so many different sporting events going on with some fall sports being moved to the spring. It is difficult to be able to cover them all effectively.

“It means a lot to me that our administration, our chancellor would allow us to have a game. I know it means a lot to our players, because again, they are going to have four times the amount of people they had for a home game last fall. Just to be able to get out in front of fans again, to put these guys in a competitive environment, an evaluation environment is big for us. It gives us something to work to during spring practice.”

Several 49ers will suit up for the first time as 16 of Charlotte’s 24-player signing class enrolled for the spring semester and are participating in spring ball, including December signees who enrolled as freshmen and February transfer graduates like defensive end Kofi Wardlow, who played at Notre Dame.

Wardlow came in sharp, and Healy expects him to be a strong presence this fall.

“You put pads on and that is a different dude you are blocking out there — long, strong, physical guy setting the edge,” Healy said.

Healy said he is also excited about a couple of graduate safeties – Davondre Robinson, a transfer from East Carolina, and Jon Alexander from Kansas State – physicality and ball skills. He expects to see monumental growth from theme, and the other transfers leading up to the season. Yet Healy is OK with it taking a game or two for transfers to adapt.

Healy also praised the team’s April 2 practice, but saw inconsistencies when the shoulder pads went on.

“We need to make sure we practice like we have a chip on our shoulder every time we go out on the football field,” Healy said. “The great part about it is we are not in September, but we talk about it all the time, the patience of understanding we don’t have to play a game tomorrow yet the sense of urgency of making sure we have an emphasis on getting better every day we are out there and exceeding the standard that we set, which for us was last Friday. This should be a time where everybody is excited and fired up about having a chance just to go back out and practice.”

The 2021 regular season is scheduled to start on Sept. 4 with Duke traveling to Charlotte. It will be the first time Charlotte football has hosted a Power Five program.

 

 

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