The NC A&T football squad went under the lights Monday night as it prepares for its Thursday night, August 31st opener at UAB.
New head coach Vincent Brown took the team through the closed 6:45 p.m. workout after the team had been working from 9 to 11 a.m. since camp started in early August.
NC A&T football preparing for UAB
“We really want to try to prepare for all situations,” Brown said Monday after the practice. “When you go at 9 o’clock in the morning, it’s nice and cool, the lighting’s different. Our first game is at night, 7 o’clock kickoff, so we wanted to try to assimilate, as close as we can, those conditions – the offense and the defense, receivers and DBs (defensive backs) seeing the ball underneath the lights, the body clock adjusting to being up just a little bit later. Just trying to prepare for all situations.”
Going forward, the Aggies will practice from 4 to 6 p.m.
“We’ve done our scouting report (on UAB), so we have an idea of what we think they may be. But we’re focusing on us right now. We’re working on our systems, how we operate, how we want to play. And then we’ll dial in to UAB sometime in the next week-and-a half.”
New look for NC A&T football
Brown said he’s seeing progress on both sides of the ball. He and new Offensive Coordinator Chris Young as well as new Defensive Coordinator Josh Zidenberg are sifting through the offensive and defensive depth chart.
“Offensively, I think our guys are doing a better job of understanding the tempo that we want to operate with, protecting the football, being able to take shots and just be efficient with our run and pass game,” Brown said, “and defensively, not giving up explosive plays.” Those are the focuses, he said.
“We have a general idea of what the 2-deep (depth chart) looks like but nothing’s etched in stone,” he said. “We still have this week of camp to finish up before we start to get into game-preparation mode. We’ll keep battling it out until the very end.”
Brown said he really did not know who the No. 1 quarterback is as he and the staff try to track “the efficiency of throws and completions” during practice. The battle is believed to be between holdovers Zach Yeager, Eli Brickhandler and Alston Hooker, all sophomores.
Transfer portal and conference realignment
Entering its first season in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) is going to be tough. No one knows that better than Brown, who led the defense last year for CAA co-champion William & Mary.
Five CAA teams are in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS preseason top 25 (William & Mary 4th, New Hampshire 12th, Richmond 17th, Delaware 21st and Rhode Island 23rd). The Aggies were picked tenth in the preseason CAA voting in the 15-member league.
Losing standouts via the transfer portal like Big South first teamer and 1,000-yard rusher Bhayshul Tuten (to Virginia Tech) and fellow first teamer, linebacker Tyquan King (to East Carolina), makes the job tougher. Second team all-Big South linebacker Jacob Roberts (Wake Forest) also left via the portal.
“We coach the guys that are here,” Brown said. “We brought in some talented players that I think are going to be able to really help us, come in and fill some of the void when the other guys left.
“Everybody understands that this (the CAA) is a much more competitive conference – great coaching, really talented players. But I believe our guys are up to the task. So, we’ll keep preparing and getting ready for conference play, because really, that’s what it’s all about.”
What to look for in a Vincent Brown team
“Discipline, first and foremost,” is what Brown says you’ll see from his NC A&T team. “We’re going to do the things to eliminate what causes losing. We’re not going to beat ourselves.
“And then we’re going to create problems for people by being multiple in what we do. We’re not going to be static. We’ll give people a lot of different looks. “
“And we’re going to be fundamentally sound and well-coached.”
Sounds like a recipe for success. We’ll see.