BOONEVILLE, Miss. - Members of the Northeast Mississippi Community College football program are back on campus two weeks earlier than the remainder of the student body to begin working towards a promising new year.
The Tigers officially started preparations for their 60th all-time campaign on the gridiron by holding their first practice on Monday, August 5 after reporting for fall camp one day earlier.
"There's nothing like football season," said Northeast head coach Greg Davis. "We actually had great weather today. It looked like we were enthusiastic and ready to go. I feel like we had a pretty good day for the most part."
Northeast's student-athletes got a break from the typical scorching weather that plagues the Magnolia State during the late summer with a mostly overcast morning when it took to the practice field adjacent to Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers focused on individual positions during their inaugural workout with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and specialists all completing drills with their specific coaches.
Northeast wore helmets only in its initial training session. The Tigers hope to suit up in full pads by the end of the week as they increase the pace of practice in order to match the speed of a game inside the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC).
"We always preach alignment, assignment and execution," Davis said. "That's the number one thing that we're trying to communicate across the board right now offensively and defensively. Know who to block or which route to run."
Experience is at a premium for Northeast, which brings back less than 20 players that saw action one year ago. The Tigers had 31 freshmen on their 55-man roster during the 2018 campaign and could possibly exceed that number this season.
Sophomores like wide receiver Carson Banks know the keys to success during the preseason. He also likes where Northeast is at with just over three weeks until the opening contest.
"Mainly just calm down and don't let mistakes affect you too much. Don't dwell on anything bad," said Banks. "This is a real fun team, but we can also be serious at the same time. We always keep a good mood and have good energy."
The Northwest Rankin High School graduate is the top returning wideout for the Tigers. Banks recorded 24 catches for 235 yards last year and added a touchdown in Northeast's victory over Coahoma Community College.
The outset of fall camp means a fresh opportunity for some athletes such as Jack Mangel, who has not played a single down since his senior season at Clarke Central (Ga.) High School in 2017.
"It feels good to be back on a football field. I've been excited for the past two weeks. It's like a second chance," Mangel said. "I think (our expectations) are sky high right now. We had a great recruiting class come in. We've got a great receiving corps and our o-line is getting better and better every day."
Mangel was a Terrific 10 selection by the Athens Banner-Herald after throwing for a school-record 2,135 yards with 18 touchdowns during his junior year. He is one of several players competing for the role of starting quarterback for the Tigers.
Northeast welcomes Southwest Mississippi Community College for its first game of the 2019 campaign on Thursday, August 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.