There may be a new coaching staff leading Coahoma Community College’s football program in 2020, but in the eyes of head coach Travis Macon, everyone is a rookie in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Macon quoted CCC President Dr. Valmadge Towner on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
“I think everybody is a rookie to the pandemic,” Macon said. “Our President used this statement yesterday, ‘Everybody is a rookie to it.’ I think everybody’s having the same situation I am. It’s new to them. Even though they’ve been coaching 20 years, this is the first pandemic they’ve dealt with. We’re all rookies right now.”
Macon succeeds Steven Miller, who led CCC for four years, as head coach. Former Ole Miss quarterback William “Bo” Wallace is the offensive coordinator, Kareem Moore is the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, is the Jeremy Patterson linebackers coach, Pearce Price is the running backs coach, Emanuel McCray is the offensive line and strength and conditioning coach, and C.J. Bailey is the recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.
The Tigers’ (1-8, 0-6 MACJC North in 2019) season was delayed three weeks due to COVID-19 and will start Oct. 1. The athletes reported on campus Friday and the schedule is still being reconstructed. CCC was scheduled to play at Pearl River Community College Sept. 10, host Itawamba Community College Sept. 17 and travel to its biggest rival Mississippi Delta Community College Sept. 24.
The Tigers were scheduled to host Holmes Community College Oct. 1, travel to Northwest Mississippi Community College Oct. 8, and Northeast Mississippi Community College Oct. 22 and play their homecoming against East Central Community College Oct. 31.
CCC was scheduled to host East Mississippi Community College — a regular championship contender — Oct. 15, but the Lions cancelled their season.
“They’re not the first team on my schedule so I don’t worry about them,” said Macon of EMCC canceling its season.
Macon said the coaching staff is breaking down every team on the schedule since the Tigers do not know what schools they will be facing will be with the pandemic going on.
Sixty athletes – 48 freshmen and 12 sophomores – are on CCC’s roster and every starting position is up for grabs.
“That’s the best way you find your best players. I don’t have a favorite,” said Macon, adding he will have a better idea of his starters sometime this week.
“I like having a young team because I want them to learn my system and learn our offensive and defensive system. We don’t look at it as we’ve got a young team. We look at it as we’ve got a team that we’re getting ready to play a ballgame.”
Macon said he recruited 14 athletes from CCC’s district to play for the Tigers.
Three are former Clarksdale High School players defensive back Christopher Williams, defensive lineman Zeilon Chestnut and defensive tackle Kaleb Brown. Another is former Cleveland Central High School outside and middle linebacker Desmon Williams.
“We’re expecting some really big things out of him,” Macon said. “We’ve got three guys from Clarksdale we’re really excited about.”
Macon said having a young team is easier in junior college football where the athletes only have two years of eligibility.
“I think it puts us on the same playing field because even at a program that I’ve been at in the past, the turnaround is you always have to start over every year because you lose 30 to 40 kids every semester in the spring,” Macon said. “That’s the good thing about junior college. Coming into my first year, it’s the same as if I was already at a program. They have to start over every year.”
Several sophomores attended Macon’s press conference when he was hired including defensive back and receiver Caleb McQueen (Clarksville, Tenn,), defensive lineman Terry Bishop (Batesville) and left tackle and right guard DaQuan Silver (Hampton, Va.).
When Macon took over as coach in November 2019, one of his goals was to implement more discipline academically and with behavior. Athletes were on campus until March and Macon was able to see some of the discipline pay off, noting some players had GPAs above 3.0 at the end of the spring semester.
Macon said when he was able to go to homes to recruit before the pandemic; he told every parent he would help their child earn a degree. After the COVID-19 pandemic caused social distancing, he said he was able to communicate with recruits through Zoom, Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. He said he also got the sophomores to buy into the program.
“The big thing is they’ve got to believe what a person is preaching,” Macon said. “One thing I showed them was my plan, what I expect from them as being sophomore leaders. They chose to buy in and have done a good job for me. I am expecting big things out of the sophomores we do have on the football team.”
On the field, the scheme is expected to be balanced with the run and pass.
“Right now, on paper, if you look at it, I think we’re balanced. I won’t know until I get them,” Macon said. “Normally, you have a spring to kind of get a feel of how your sophomores are going to be, but, of course, due to the pandemic, we haven’t had a spring (practice). That’s the only part I would say that’s a concern going into camp. You really don’t know what you’re getting. Everybody is starting over because you can’t work them out also.”
CCC has not been a postseason team in more than a decade, but that has not stopped Macon from having high expectations.
“We’re going to consider ourselves one of the best,” Macon said. “We’re not going to sit there and we don’t settle. That’s one thing I preach every day from a coaching standpoint as well as players. As my coaches always tell them, we don’t settle for anything. We’re not just going to say, ‘Well, that’s such and such.’ We want to see such and such. They’re the best. I want to get in the ring with best.”
If a potential recruit expresses skepticism about the coaching staff’s ability to turn the Tigers around, Macon would have no problem sharing his vision for the program.
“I would focus on me personally, my background, Coach Wallace’s background, Coach Moore’s background and the vision that the institution has moving forward,” Macon said. “That’s what we’re selling to the recruits – the new things we’re doing in place as far as where do we want to take sports?”
In spite of athletes not being on campus since March and all of the social distancing policies in place, the coaching staff is still doing everything in its power to move forward.
“The good thing about giving them a summer workout is they might do one or two exercises,” Macon said. “They’ll be kids. The good thing is our players have done a really good job of what Coach Emanuel (McCray) has done as far as getting ready to compete. They have to send it on Zoom. You have a three-day workout system they show on Zoom. They can show the coaches that they have been conditioning.”
Heavy conditioning will continue this week.
“The biggest thing is we’re going to teach them social distance,” Macon said. “We’re going to always be safety first. That’s the main thing we’re going to teach them a couple of days. Then we’ll start installing as far as getting ready as a football.”
The weights are being moved outside, athletes will have separate water bottles and the offense and defense will be spread out on the practice field.
Many parts of practice will still be normal.
“Right now, we’re just going to follow all the protocol that the campus has in place,” Macon said. “I think the campus has done a really good job preparing for the student-athletes. Not just the football players, but all our student-athletes and our students on campus. We’re going to make sure we follow all protocol that the campus has got in place.”
A plan is still being worked out to determine how many fans will be allowed at each CCC home game.
The games, as usual, will be live streamed on www.coahomasports.com.