Coming off of a down year the UNCP football team looks to bounce back this season and return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. The 2016 season saw the Braves finish with a 10-2 overall record, dropping just one game in the regular season and making it to the second round of the Division II playoffs. However, the Black and Gold took a significant step back the following season.
They failed to make it back to the postseason and only managed to win two games, but after a year of experience and an offseason of reflection and growth, they have all intentions to regain their championship contending prowess.
Last year’s slump could be attributed to the loss of upperclassmen talent and leadership from the previous season’s team, but the players and staff aren’t using that as a crutch or an excuse.
This year the Braves will look to learn from last year’s adverse experiences and turn the corner back into contention.
Head coach Shane Richardson believes his team has made a lot of progress in the off-season. He has seen significant improvement from all of his players, a lot of ability from young guys that he envisions to be good contributors for us as well as a number of returners that know what the standard is supposed to look like.
“There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of energy and it’s a very hopeful and good feeling right now” Richardson said.
Richardson sees his team as a hungry bunch that was humbled do last year’s regression and that consistency as well as attention to details will be enough to turn motivation into results and a change in fortune.
“We’ve got to do everything possible to change it. It doesn’t just happen by itself and I think because we’re motivated because we know what happened last year. It has definitely played into our mentality of being hungry and desiring to be better,” Coach said.
One of the biggest story lines heading into the season is the quarterback competition.
Last year’s starter, Dominick Samson, transferred from UNCP, leaving the team with an all-new crop of signal-callers.
The Braves currently have four quarterbacks on the roster: redshirt freshman Joshua Dale, true freshmen Josh Jones and Logan McFadden, and redshirt sophomore Auston Foley.
Coach Richardson expressed confidence in whichever quarterback gets the start on opening day. He also outlined the strengths of each QB that gives them an advantage in the competition.
“Josh Dale has been in the program here for a year now so he’s got a little bit more experience with what we’re doing. He’s a very mobile guy but he can also throw it.” he said of Dale.
Of Jones, Richardson expressed a different type of praise.
“Josh Jones is a new freshman here, he’s got a lot of natural talent. His ability to throw the ball and be very accurate [as well as] a strong arm bodes well for him. He’s a student of the game.” he said.
“And then you have Logan McFadden. He’s got a great combination of his arm and his legs and his intangibles. He’s an extremely hard worker and a very disciplined type of kid.” Coach said of the third quarterback on his roster.
“All of those guys are going to bring qualities that are a little bit different to the table. Whoever the team rallies around and puts us in the best position to win a football game is what it comes down to...” Richardson said.