Jerry Mack might be a new kid on the block, but he’s not backing down from anyone. Neither is his team.
That was the message Mack relayed last Friday at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Football Media Luncheon in Norfolk, Va.
N.C. Central was picked to finish eighth in the conference, a ranking that perturbed Mack, one of four new coaches in the MEAC. Bethune-Cookman was picked to win its third straight conference title.
“We are second to no one and will not back down to anyone,” the NCCU coach said. “We want to be the best in the conference and one of the top FCS teams in the country. And there is only one way to do that, and that’s the right way.”
Sophomore defensive back Mike Jones and redshirt junior Adrian Wilkins were named to the all-conference defensive team in preseason voting.
Jones, at one point last season, led the nation in interceptions with four. Wilkins has been honored with just about every return specialists award out there. He was the only player in any division to score five touchdowns on either kickoff or punt returns.
But this season, he has another agenda.
“I want to have a great season as a wide receiver,” he said. “I still want to be a good return specialist, but I want to score more as a wide receiver.”
NCCU is coming off a 5-7 season, including losses in three of its past four games. Mack replaces interim coach Dwayne Foster who replaced fired head coach Henry Frazier who is suing the university to get his job back.
Senior defensive lineman Ty Brown said the young Mack (33 years old) has brought a renewed energy.
“He’s bringing us together as a team. With him and some of the other coaches being young, they can demonstrate the moves to us on the field rather than just talk it. It makes a difference,” he said.
Mack sat next to a coach that is an old hand at rebuilding teams – North Carolina alumnus and former assistant coach Rod Broadway, who is entering his third season as head coach at N.C. A&T State University.
Broadway led the Aggies to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 13 years – including going 2-0 against archrival NCCU. And he did it despite having a reduced number of scholarships and without a spring practice in 2013.
N.C. A&T football was under NCAA violation for low graduation rates when Broadway took over. This spring was their first football practice under his helm.
“We have high expectations this year,” an unusually giddy Broadway said. “If we can remain injury-free, we are capable of having a breakout year. But we’ve got to also be consistent. That’s what makes champions.”
The Eagles open their season Aug. 30 at East Carolina. The game will be televised on ESPNews.