North Carolina Central University arrived at fall camp in 2022 with something to prove. Head coach Trei Oliver wanted his players to keep the same mindset as the reigning MEAC and HBCU national champions returned to O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on Wednesday to kick off 2023.
“We’re locked in. Like we talked about this offseason — this is a new team, new season. We’ve put all that other stuff behind us,” Oliver said via WNCN CBS 17. “But I think that we’re very focused. We’ve always had a disciplined group of guys but the intensity is there. These guys are locked in and they are ready to go.”
All eyes this season will be on NCCU senior quarterback Davius Richard. The reigning MEAC Offensive Player of the Year is back and improving, according to Oliver.
“I’ve seen so much growth in Davius this offseason and I think he’s moving better,” Oliver said. “He looks faster. I saw him throw a ball today about 70 yards, so he’s improved with his mechanics. The whole team, as a group, we have to work to get better. We only have 10 days.”
Just as important as Richard’s ability to make plays with his arm and legs will be NCCU’s ability to keep him upright. Oliver says there were 19 offensive linemen dressed out as camp opened up.
“They are a physical group. But we did have helmets on today,” Oliver said. “When we put the pads on, we’ll see what we’re looking like. But we’re athletic and physical and that’s all you can ask for as an offensive line.”
North Carolina Central University football returns many key players from last season’s 10-2 squad, including Richard and defensive back Khalil Baker. The senior duo were named to the preseason watch lists for the Walter Payton and Buck Buchanan Awards, respectively, this week. Those are the awards for the top offensive and defensive players in the FCS.
“We’re a good football team. Before I talked about we didn’t have that star power, but now we’ve got a lot of guys who are all-conference and All-American and stuff,” Oliver said. “But I think it’s all about the culture of the team and the chemistry. These guys really care about each other and we had some things that we’ve done off-season to help with that. But these guys care about each other and we have a really good team here.”