Everything is in question.
With the Pac 12 and Big 10 making the tough decision to postpone their seasons to spring 2021, the next dominos expected to fall are their other Power 5 comrades. But the ACC, Big 12 and SEC have made clear their plans to continue with a conference-only schedule despite the uncertainty that blankets the sport.
It’s not easy going to work toward a goal you’re not sure you’ll get the chance to pursue, but that’s exactly what players around the state are doing each day they step on the field to practice – keeping their heads down and hoping for the best.
“Of course it’s a worry for us,” Tar Heels defensive back Kyler McMichael told the media during a zoom conference Wednesday morning, “but I feel like we’ll be fine if we stay determined to take all the precautionary measures.
“We’re figuring everything out by the hour,” McMichael continued. “At home, I’m trying to stay aware of everything that’s happening, but I feel like I just need to keep my head down, keep working and stay prepared, because they can easily come back and say we’re going to have a season this year.”
Kyler’s teammate, wide receiver Beau Corrales, also understands that nothing is etched in stone, but he’s thankful that, for now, the ACC plans to play ball.
“Nothing is guaranteed right now, but just to be able to say we’re moving forward and working towards a chance to play, I’m grateful for,” Corrales said. “We’re just trying to attack each day with some positivity and hope for the best.”
Down Tobacco Road at Duke, Blue Devil tight end Drew Jordan says the only thing they’re worried about is their goal of winning an ACC Championship.
“Everybody’s going to see what’s going on in college football, but we’re really focused on the goal of winning an ACC championship. That’s what we’ve been sticking to since we’ve been here on campus. We’re not worried about the Big 10 or Pac 12, we’re worried ACC football and that’s what we’re going to continue to do moving forward.”
Players aren’t the only ones trying to stay focused while chaos engulfs the sport. In addition to forming a team that will be physically competitive on the field, head coaches around the state have to be mindful of how the uncertainly is affecting their players mentally off of it. According to NC State’s Dave Doeren and UNC’s Mack Brown, the best way they’ve been able to do this is to keep the lines of communication open – welcoming players to ask any questions they have and forwarding any new information they have as soon as they get it.
“When things started to look for the worse on Sunday we modified things for the beginning of this week, because we want our guys to be in a great head space when we go on the field,” Coach Doeren said Wednesday. “We sat down as a team and have been very transparent about everything we know.”
“These guys are going through it,” he continued. “The first thing you have to do is admit that players are going through a lot. You have to be vulnerable with them, you have to talk with them, you can’t hide things, let them talk, ask questions and let them know you care about them. I think we have to embrace the fact that things are going to change and that’s the one thing that I’ve told them. I could come in here today and tell you something and tomorrow it could different. You have to embrace that.”
Tar Heel coach Mack Brown has taken the same approach with his squad – being honest about the possibility of change and giving guidance on how the team should look at things if that’s the case.
“We talk to them every time we have a team meeting about where we feel like the state of college football is,” Brown said Tuesday. “I’ve told them that as soon as we know something we’ll let them know immediately, but they need to prepare to play. And if you do play great, and if you don’t you’re going thru practice to get ready for spring and a delayed season.”
Right now, the time that players and coaches are on the field is an oasis – a cool drink of water, a breath of fresh air and a sense of normalcy when life is everything but.