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Atkinson era begins

MURFREESBORO – With sincerest apologies to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), it’s a Brave new world.

With a fireball named Lorrick Atkinson at the helm, Chowan College started practice as a NCAA Division II school for the first time in the institution’s history here Wednesday night.

&uot;The kids have been great,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;The biggest thing for us has been the tempo.

&uot;I’m really impressed with the staff,&uot; he added. &uot;They are doing a good job. When you build a program, you have to surround yourself with good people.&uot;

Practice began for the football Braves at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening. It was the first time the coaching staff got a look at the team that will represent the Braves in 2005.

Along with Atkinson, the Braves welcomed Defensive Coordinator Richard Lage and Offensive Coordinator David Earp. Former Braves’ skippers Jim Garrison and Dan Surface join the three young, energetic coaches.

&uot;It gives us a nice balance,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;If we were all the same, we would be in trouble. I want people who have done it differently.

&uot;Especially in the situation with Coach Garrison and Coach Surface, they know the history of Chowan College,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;Then, you add to that the young guys who want to be head coaches one day and it gives us a great balance.&uot;

Atkinson said while he realizes the final decisions will be his, he wants input from a variety of sources, thus giving him the best information available.

&uot;One thing about being a head coach is your realize you don’t know everything,&uot; Atkinson insisted. &uot;I’ll make the final decision and live with it, but I want to hear their opinions.&uot;

A total of 113 players took the field for the Braves Wednesday evening and there was nearly an equal amount in the stands surrounding the new practice field which is located behind Hawkins Field.

The coach said he was happy with the turnout and encouraged the community to continue their support of Chowan football.

&uot;I think it was great,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;We want the community to embrace the school and I believe football can be a positive part of that. We want people on campus supporting our kids.

&uot;Not just as a football program, but as an athletic department and college, we represent the community as well as the school,&uot; Atkinson added. &uot;We need people to come out and see the kids compete in football, basketball, women’s softball and all our other sports.&uot;

As practice has developed, Atkinson said he was seeing how important the spring practice was.

&uot;What has really helped us is that spring practice was more beneficial than we ever thought because they learned the offense and defense,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s something they’ve never been able to do here, so it has put us ahead of the game.

&uot;The upper classmen at least have a general knowledge,&uot; he continued. &uot;We know what to do, just not how to do it yet, but we still have a big advantage because of spring ball.&uot;

In the early going, three returning players have caught the eye of the Braves’ coaching staff.

&uot;We’ve been real impressed with the upper classmen,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;(Running back) Jack Ross came back ready to play.&uot;

The new coach said he was also pleased with the leadership displayed by returning quarterback Taylor Furlough and returning linebacker Kyshawn Randall.

&uot;We’ve had some freshmen catch our eye, but we’re going to wait to talk about them until we get into pads,&uot; Atkinson said.

The Braves will be in helmets and pads beginning today (Saturday) with their 8:30 a.m. practice.

Two-a-days and hitting starts Monday morning with an 8:30 a.m. practice. The second practice will be at 7 p.m.

The rest of the week will see one practice at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with two-a-days Wednesday and Friday.

Practices are open to the public and Atkinson encouraged people to attend.