The Braves held their spring tryouts for the 2018 football team on Jan. 13 at Grace P. Johnson Stadium. This annual event provides an opportunity for current students at UNCP who weren’t recruited coming out of high school to play at a collegiate level and showcase their talents in front of college coaches.
Getting into Position
Before beginning tryouts, paperwork and body measurements were taken for each student. After the potential players warmed up, stretched out and ran some range-of-motion drills, they grouped with the coaches in charge of the positions.
As the walk-on hopefuls proceeded to their stations across the field, head coach Shane Richardson paced the 50- yard line observing every participant in every position group. Typically the participants write down the position they feel the most comfortable with or played previously in high school, and that’s the spot they start with, according to Richardson.
The coaches work them out in the positions that give them a greater opportunity to make the team.
“We try to help them out, to be able to say we see you as this and this is probably your best opportunity to make the team, so we try to offer that assistance to them,” Richardson said.
Richardson was pleased with the turnout as 15 students worked hard on the field for a spot on the team.
He commended those that showed up and put their skills on display because of the tremendous amount of courage it takes to tryout for a college football team.
The coaching staff puts great emphasis on finishing through drills and appreciate players that run full speed throughout tryouts, practices and games. Richardson believes that full speed and all out effort is a mentality that an athlete can exhibit more so than a skill that he can possess.
“Our number one goal on the field is to play full speed to the whistle and that is all about finishing, and if you let up during a play and you’re not going full speed, you’re really letting the team down and causing some opportunities to get beat,” Richardson said.
The staff ran the potential players through movement drills to gage their range of motion then bag drills to test their footwork and agility.
Once the tryouts broke up into different position groups, the coaches put students through 20 minutes of specific workout drills to determine if they possess the ability to play the position and make the team.
Typically individuals who show that they’re qualified and able to contribute to the team’s success, make the team, which may take one or multiple tryouts, a coach said. Coach Richardson admires the persistence of some students that don’t give up on their athletic pursuits and tryout year after year to make the team.
While the program wasn’t seeking to reinforce a particular position group, the coaches always look for guys that fit their standard and that they feel comfortable with.
“I told them ‘great work’ because I could tell a lot of them were probably not in great football shape and they hadn’t done those drills and movements in a long time,” Richardson said. “It takes a lot of courage and dedication to come out and do something like that.”
The preparation an aspiring athlete puts in before hitting the field is the most significant determining factor in what makes a good, or even a great, tryout, the head coach said. Coaches can differentiate between the guys that haven’t really been working out and dedicating time to refining their craft and the ones that put in the work ahead of time.
With Braves leading receivers E.J. Williams and JoJo Spann graduating, Coach Richardson and his staff worked out a lot of students trying out at receiver. The two players accounted for 1,141 yards last season.
“Something that is hard to gage in a tryout like this is how physical he’s going to be and if he is going to have the ability to block, Richardson said. “But that would be another characteristic that a receiver needs to have and it’s just hard to do that without any type of pads on or without any recent film.”
With only two linemen in attendance at the tryout, one at offensive tackle and the other at defensive tackle, Richardson anticipates improvements this offseason and a strong recruiting class next season.
Keep an eye out for sophomore Deshone Brown from Charlotte, N.C. who tried out at receiver for the Black and Gold.
He has been in contact with the coaching staff for some time. While he still has to convene with his coaching staff, Richardson was encouraged by what he saw from Brown.