And while the players gave good effort during the practice, head coach Reggie Barlow is looking for more mentally and performance-wise from his team.
“The guys did what we asked them to do today,” Barlow said. “It was a good two-hour practice, and we got a lot done. The guys bought in to it after their first day back. For me, though, it’s about the mental approach I want to continue to develop in our guys. It’s going to be hot for our opening game, and the better they understand how to work in these conditions, the better off they are going to be when it’s time to compete against Bethune-Cookman (Sept 2 in Orlando, Fla. in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge).”
Barlow challenged his players to continue to fight through the conditions and challenges of camp and how it can translate to the regular season. Practice habits can become game habits, and in addressing his team, Barlow referenced a pair of close losses last season to press upon the players the importance of pressing on.
“It’s a direct correlation and they don’t always see it as that,” Barlow said. “We as humans don’t always see it like that. They don’t see it as ‘Me not touching the line in a drill’ is a correlation to ‘me not getting a jam on a guy’, but it is. However, when you’re disciplined, when you understand what’s expected, you’re able to perform. I wanted to reference those games (vs. Alabama A&M and Southern) because there were plays in those games that got away from us last year. When we had everything we wanted right in front of us (the Eastern Division title and SWAC Championship berth at stake), we let it slip away because we weren’t mentally strong enough to handle being in the lead. It works both ways – when you’re down and you have to be mentally strong, or when you’re in the lead, and being able to be mentally strong and be able to overcome any type of adversity. Those are the things we have to keep working on.”
After having a week of practice film to evaluate, Barlow is looking for a group of players to step up in various areas heading into to week two.
“There are about a 10-12 guys that I need more from,” the sixth-year head coach said. “I need them to understand they are here for a reason. WR Jarrett Neely has abilities we haven’t had here in a while. We need more from him, as well as a number of young freshmen that need to step up. RB Isaiah Crowell, we need him to step up and continue to learn. DT Shane Woodget is another guy among others that we need to take their game from right here (visually setting an imaginary bar around eye level) to the next level (raising his hand about above his head), as well as LT Terren Jones and FS Kejuan Riley to be leaders for us.”
The Hornets are scheduled to practice tonight at 7 p.m., Friday at 3 p.m. and hold the first scrimmage of the fall Saturday at 9 a.m.