Eye On The Future: New Jaguars coach looks to build from ground up
BY Jessie H. Nunery
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Stability has not been a luxury the Rocky Mount Prep football program has enjoyed in recent seasons.
Year by year, coaches have changed, player retention has dropped, and the results on the field have been miserable.
First-year coach Omar Jackson seemingly has the patience for a Jaguars turnaround.
In addition to some of the short-term, offseason efforts he has put in place along with a long-term vision, Rocky Mount Prep might soon have the program it has long desired.
“We’ve done a lot of things Prep hasn’t been known to do,” Jackson said. “We sent a few kids to camps, and we attended a 7-on-7 scrimmage at Northampton County. That will be the norm for now on. We want to build an identity as a program and not just be a year-to-year team.”
The Jaguars are coming off a 2-9 season in 2017 — one win came by forfeit — when Jackson served as an assistant. The New Jersey native said Rocky Mount Prep had a schedule that was too tough for its talent pool. That has changed some this year, where the Jaguars have added a few programs who are in their infancy or rebuilding stages.
Sure, it would be nice to win a few more games this season, but again, Jackson is thinking past this fall.
Jackson will be paying close attention to the junior varsity program as it has the numbers to be successful. He’d prefer freshmen and sophomores to remain at the JV level, rather than suit up on Friday nights when they aren’t ready.
“Throwing them to the wolves isn’t realistic,” Jackson said. “We need to give them the opportunity to learn and perfect their skill sets and not be discouraged by playing varsity ball against bigger and faster players.”
Jackson said he envisions a program where players begin at the middle school level and progress into college-caliber athletes.
It’s not a stretch for Jackson, who has coached with the Enfield Warriors Little League football squad since 2005.
Some of those players are now currently on the Jaguars’ roster.
“They trust me, and know when I say, ‘I have your back,” I mean it,” Jackson said.
Most of the Jaguars’ top talent have big bodies. Steve Hunter, a defensive tackle, will return from a calf injury that forced him to miss most of last season.
Junior Donnie Tillery is a 6-foot-7, 285-pound offensive tackle, and linemen Christian Pearce and Tyrone Davis are both 6-foot-5.
They’ll make room for fullback Kaytavious Lawrence, a junior whom Jackson said is a hard worker on and off the field.
There isn’t a lot of depth, but Jackson knows that is a process of developing and keeping kids in the program.
“Programs take time to build,” Jackson said. “It may take three years, but Rocky Mount Prep will be a name people speak of when they talk about football, and I plan on being here for the day it happens.”
Last year: Did not make NCHSAA 1-A playoffs
One: Wins on the field for Jaguars. It’s game against North East Carolina Prep was won by forfeit.
Five: Number of times the Jaguars’ offense was shut out in 2017
Key losses: Montrell Stanley, Tyrique Whitaker
Key returners: Kaytavious Lawrence, Donnie Tillery