Two back-to-back championships have moved North Carolina Central a little higher up the food chain.
Third-year coach Jerry Mack signed 19 recruits last Wednesday in a whirlwind National Signing Day. Eleven are freshmen and eight are transfers.
“You see a class that adds depth,” said Mack, who is NCCU’s first coach to win 15 games in two seasons. “We had a lot of injuries in 2015 … and it was really tough and taxing. But we got over the hump and were able to repeat” (as MEAC champions.)
The repeat also allowed Mack to recruit more freshmen to build for the Eagles’ future.
“Transfers are different. Transfers are brought in for a specific need. They immediately fill some kind of void,” he said. “But with freshmen, we’ve got time to develop them.”
Like all HBCU coaches, home is where the heart is, not to mention the money. The more in-state players a coach can sign, the more funds saved to spread around later.
For the third straight year, Mack has signed at least 42 percent of his class from North Carolina schools, including eight this year. And they are nobody’s rejects.
Hillside High defensive tackle Donte Edwards is a two-time PAC-6 All-Conference selection who recorded 55 tackles, 22 for loss, and 10.5 sacks as a senior. He was invited to the 2015 Shrine Bowl, an elitist combine for only the best and brightest.
Former Southern standout LeGrande Harley is a South Florida transfer. Harley played under NCCU running backs coach and former Spartans coach Adrian Jones. Harley recorded 23 tackles (14 solo) in 10 games at middle linebacker.
Tight end Bruce Davis of Greensboro’s Grimsley High was just two yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. He also caught seven touchdown passes, returned four punts for scores, had one rushing touchdown, and plays basketball.
Charlotte recruit Chance Kennedy of South Mecklenburg High accounted for 998 all-purpose yards as a senior.
And in Apex, running back Isaiah Totten rushed for 1,813 yards and 23 TDs at Apex High as a junior. This past season, he torched Panther Creek with 264 yards and four TDs. He also was invited to the Shrine Bowl.
“This is a very solid signing class,” Mack said. “We managed to build depth and add transfers and some freshmen that we feel can help us immediately to make that push for a third championship.”
See the entire list at nccueaglepride.com.
N.C. A&T keeps pace
Despite NCCU’s 2-0 record over its hated rival in the past two season, N.C. A&T is the black college national champion after defeating Alcorn State in the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
A&T signed 15 players on signing day, a third of whom are from the state.
Southern Guilford wide receiver Ron Hunt is the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards with 1,662.
Joining him in the backfield is Scotland County WR Randy Leak, a two-time all-conference selection. Scotland County went undefeated (10-0) in the regular season.
In a bit of nostalgia, Dudley High defensive back Franklin McCain III is the grandson of Franklin McCain, a member of the Greensboro Four who sparked the 1960s’ sit-ins at Woolworths.
“I thought we got what we needed,” coach Rod Broadway said. “There are a lot of good players out there, so sometimes it is really hard to stay disciplined and fill your needs instead of going out and recruiting positions you don’t have a need for at the time. I thought, for the most part, we were disciplined, got some really good players that can run, hit and make plays, and fill in some gaps along the way.”
2016 North Carolina Central University Football Signing Class
Magna Vista HS
George Washington HS
West Charlotte HS
Fork Union MA
Eastern Arizona College
West Charlotte HS
Fort Scott CC
North Cobb CS
Pompano Beach, Fla.
Coconut Creek HS
Copiah Lincoln CC
Univ. of South Florida
South Mecklenburg HS
Charles Hicks, Jr.
Feather River JC
The next level
Below is a list of area class of 2016 athletes who have committed to play a sport in college. (We appreciate updates emailed to J. Mike Blake at email@example.com.)
Durham Academy: Leander Perun, girls lacrosse, Denison
Hillside: Abdul Adams, football, Oklahoma; Dontae Edwards, football, East Carolina; Daeshawn Stephens, football, N.C. State
Jordan: Sam Collie, boys lacrosse, Ferrum (Va.); Jazmine Daye, volleyball, N.C. Central; Drew Grantham, gymnastics, N.C. State
Northern Durham: Griffin Baker, baseball, Belmont Abbey; Akhenaten Martin, football, UNC-Pembroke; Jessica Spicer, girls golf, Virginia Tech; Sarah Spicer, girls golf; Pete Vurnakes, baseball, Belmont Abbey; Michael Wicker, boys golf, UNC-Greensboro
Riverside: Sophie McNeill, girls swimming, East Carolina; Marcus Willoughby, football, Elon
Southern Durham: Kaleb Barfield, football, Campbell; Jordon Brown, football, North Carolina; Jaleel Scroggins, football, Jireh Prep
Voyager Academy: Jay Huff, boys basketball, Virginia