The beef is coming to the Bull City.
North Carolina Central’s 2017 22-man signing class is loaded with big guys in the trenches. Last season the Eagles, champions of the MEAC for the third consecutive year, said the big guys led the way. After head coach Jerry Mack’s fax machine stopped buzzing and all the National Letters of Intent had arrived, N.C. Central was stacked with big bodies on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Defense, Mack said, was the main focus of this class. Of the 22 players signed, 12 are on defense. Of those 12, six play on the defensive line. The Eagles only lost one starter on the defensive line (Freddy Henry-Ajudua) but will have plenty of fresh faces on campus to compete for playing time up front.
N.C. Central, the top scoring defense in the MEAC last season, wanted to make sure that trend continues.
“We want to make sure we didn’t miss a beat,” Mack said. “I think added a couple of transfer pieces to that puzzle along with some of those high school guys, I think it’s going to help us continue to be one of the top defensive teams in the conference.”
Two of those transfers include defensive tackle Chris Burton (6-2, 296) and defensive end Randy Anyanwu. Burton, from Danville, Va. comes to N.C. Central after spending three seasons at the University of Cincinnati. Anyanwu played at the University of Buffalo for two seasons. Burton was a three-star recruit out of George Washington High School.
He will be joined up front in the current signing class by Miles Turmon (6-0, 290, Daniel High School, Central, S.C.), Carl Isaac (6-3, 250, Richmond Senior High), Cam’Ron Perkins (6-0, 275, Morehead High School) and Jason Cascen (6-3, 290, Fork Union).
“We are trying to build it in the trenches,” Mack said.
The Eagles lost four starters on the offensive line last season, but played the numbers game perfectly, replacing them with four incoming freshmen. The largest of the group is Malik Riddick-Reynolds, who stands at 6-6 and tips the scales at 360 pounds.
“We wanted to make sure we got bigger and longer in the trenches,” Mack said.
Mack said there weren’t many surprises in this class. In fact, this class was different in that most of the group committed early, as oppose to past years when the staff had to wait until the last minute on some prospects. Winning three straight conference titles will do wonders for you. It also helps to play in a nationally televised bowl game (Celebration Bowl).
The Eagles also brought in five 3-star athletes: Burton, Kalen McCain (cornerback, Durham), Aaron Duncan (linebacker, Miami, Fla.), E.J. Hicks (Rolesville), Brandon Bailey (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
Duncan, from Hillside High School, committed to N.C State but attended Lackawanna Community College after high school. Duncan, a defensive back, got some Power 5 offers, according to Mack, but decided he liked N.C Central better. McCain will be joined by former Hillside quarterback Chauncey Caldwell (6-3, 230) who played at Mallard Creek (Charlotte) last season, but committed to N.C. Central before transferring out.
Mack first saw Caldwell at a football camp at N.C. Central three years ago and saw the talent then. Last season he passed for 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns, while rushing for 400 yards and seven more scores.
Another local talent, E.J. Hicks of Rolesville, selected N.C. Central over the Navy and Army. As a wideout, Hicks caught 10 touchdowns his senior year and is another 3-star recruit. Five of the signees - Burton, Caldwell, Cascen and Marcus Martin (defensive back, Miami, Fla.), Nique Martin (wide receiver, Winston Salem) are already on campus and will participate in spring drills.