What is New is Old Again

Craig Turner
Published: July 29, 2018

To say the least, the 2017 season was both an historic year with a storybook ending for the North Carolina A&T football program. A second HBCU national championship in three years, the third MEAC title in four years, the first perfect season in MEAC history and the most wins (12) ever by a Aggie team.

It also marked the end of the astounding 33-year ride of one of the all time greats college football as Rod Broadway decided to retire at the very pinnacle of his legendary coaching career. But that was then and this then now. The Aggies are now facing a new year with a new team, new challenges, and a new staff, well almost.

While the still hot and muggy late summer days of August have traditionally marked the beginning of the college football season, A&T as been going full tilt this final week of July as they ready themselves for the 2018 campaign and an August 25th opening date with perennial FCS and Ohio Valley Conference power Jacksonville State in Montgomery, Alabama’s historic Cramton Bowl in prime time on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST.

To be certain its a big step up for a program on the food chain in scheduling for a program that just seven years ago was the laughing stock of all of college football into one of the winningest programs in the country. But more importantly, it is a testimonial to just how far and how fast A&T football as come on the national scene in so short of a time.

After watching this past Saturday morning’s practice, a few visual things were readily apparent with the offseason changes. New head coach Sam Washington now commands the stage and I will say this. While practice is still very much the same in routine, it is also different this year. Now if there was any thought that Washington would be, how shall I put this? Soft? Forget that garbage.

Things seem to be just as workmanlike as in the years gone by yet the atmosphere is more alive, more vocal, more aggressive. Its open to discussion as whether this difference in styles or merely a by product of a program that is very talented, maturing, growing, and one that expects to win each and every time out.

If anything practice may be more demanding, in some ways, than it was before. Coaches are more intense, showing little patience for missed assignments or anything less than full effort being given on this day. Players are running back to the line, to every station for every drill, to every snap. The tempo is move and don’t ever stop moving. Details, no matter how small are pointed out on every rep and worked on over an over and over again. For sure, the no nonsense matter of fact approach of “doing just chicken” is still in full affect. There just might be a little extra hot sauce added to the batter this year.

But by the same token, the atmosphere seems looser. Music is blaring in the background setting a upbeat atmosphere with heads bobbing and laughter echoing yet guys remain serious, chomping at the bit to go hard at each other, occasionally beyond the expected norm for just a week in and still not in full pads. The enthusiasm is high, the mindset is now that of a true champion. Not to merely maintain but to become even better.

It is true that teams do take on certain characteristics in how they practice during the season. If a team practices nonchalantly during the week and invariably that team will play that way come Saturday. A team that practices with a sense of urgency during the week will usually play that way on game day. There’s no indication of “Ring” hangover. At least not today.

If this practice was an indication of what lies ahead for the rest of this camp and the season, then 2018 will be indeed different but its beginning to look a little bit like 2017 all over again. Time will tell.

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With the 2018 season starting a week earlier than usual, the first installment of the annual (2018) BDF football preview will be coming to you beginning August 13. Also for more up-to-date breaking information about Aggie Football, don’t forget to check us out on twitter at @bluedeathvalley !