The first day of training camp has come and gone and the Charlotte 49ers are less than a month from hosting Duke, the first ACC opponent to travel to Jerry Richardson Stadium. With 25 practices in the next 29 days, third-year head coach Will Healy knows this team has a long way to go before Sept. 3.
“These guys have been through a lot and I don’t take these days for granted,” Healy said. We’re moving at a different speed. It’s not an effort deal, we just didn’t execute very well today in any of the three phases. That’s probably what you would expect for day one. My question will be how receptive will they be and how will they respond tomorrow. I feel really good about our football team, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
The defense dominated what was an extremely competitive, banter-filled first practice. Much like the spring game, the defensive unit forced four turnovers - all interceptions resulting in emphatic slams in the dunk can. DB Jarvis Martin, DT Siah Sa’o, DB J.J. Jones and LB Luke Martin all recorded interceptions on day one. The offense did 15 up-downs for every turnover at the conclusion of practice, and some of the defensive guys hung around to watch.
75 and sunny was a nice welcome back for everyone, but it didn’t take long to heat up on the field. Redshirt junior Jonnie Pitman was chirping at newcomer wideout Grant DuBose all throughout practice, resulting in quite a few heated exchanges through one-on-ones and team drills.
“I like it. The chirping and going back and forth,” Victor Tucker said. “You don’t understand how much hard work you’re putting in when things like that are going on. It brings a lot of energy to the practice. You get other guys involved and then they want to talk a little more. It’s great, it definitely fuels the fire that we need.”
While the offense struggled with execution, the first-team offensive line had a stout showing. There was a ton of mixing and matching lineups, but it’s looking as if the starting group as of day one is as follows:
LT D’Mitri Emmanuel, LG Jaxon Hughes, C Hunter Kelly, RG Ashton Gist, RT TJ Moore.
Moore played high school ball at Mallard Creek, spent four years at Florida and has now returned home for his final season. He has made an immediate impact in the locker room and will play a lot of reps for this team.
“He’s been fantastic. I mean he’s a pro before he’s a pro,” Healy said. “He’s a big-time addition and he felt it was a good opportunity to stay at home and make Charlotte relevant. Whether he’s a right tackle or left tackle I don’t know yet, but I know he’s going to play a lot of football for us.”
Day One Notes:
- Victor Tucker is wearing number one this season, and man is it weird to see someone else wearing number nine (Elijah Spencer).
- James Foster and Chavon McEachern both left practice with cramps. Both are good to go for day two.
- QB Dom Shoffner suffered a torn meniscus in the spring game and will be held out of practice until early October.
- Elijah Turner and Derek Boykins didn’t practice today due to injury. Timetable for return is unclear for both.
- Chris Reynolds and his younger brother Jack connected on nearly every pass in one-on-one drills. This is the first time they’ve ever been on the same team. Jack has a quick first step and it will be interesting to see how he develops through his freshman year.
- Grant DuBose will wear 14 this season. He ran with the first-team group at the beginning of team drills and had a strong showing at receiver.
- Purdue transfer Geovante Howard didn’t practice today but is expected to participate on day two. Healy labeled him as a next-level guy and a shutdown corner.
- Shadrick Byrd saw first-team reps at running back today. Healy tabbed the running back battle as one of the best position battles to watch throughout camp.
Due to the NCAA’s five-day acclimation period, the 49ers practiced in just helmets today and will add shoulder pads on Saturday. Charlotte will practice in full pads for the first time on Wednesday, August 11th.
The players and coaches were jacked up for the start of training camp and it showed. It’s going to be a grind, and this team has much progress to achieve with a second shot at the Blue Devils approaching fast.