In 2010, Mark Orlando served as BCU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Orlando helped guide the Wildcats to a 10-2 mark and the second ranked offense in FCS a season ago. He departed from Bethune-Cookman in January of this year and is now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Prairie View A&M. Coach Orlando graciously agreed to an interview with HailWildcat.com. Among other things, Coach Orlando revealed that:
-former Southern head coach Pete Richardson (whom he calls ‘the professor’) is his best friend,
-he considers legendary FAMU head coach Rudy Hubbard his mentor,
-and that Prairie View University is a gold mine in the middle of nowhere, waiting to be discovered.
Q. For the second straight year you are installing a new offense for a first year head coach. Are you happy with the progression of your offense and offensive players at this juncture of the season?
A. Yes I am. The kids have responded well and we’re enjoying it. We had a chance to introduce it in the Spring. Now it’s time to put it to the test against a great football team in Bethune-Cookman”.
Q. Last year your offense ended the year as the second ranked unit in FCS football. Do you feel any added pressure to duplicate that type of success this year at Prairie View?
A. “I think you always feel pressure. There is not an offensive coordinator out there who doesn’t want to score as many points as you can. Is there pressure, yes, but that’s part of the job”.
Q. Speaking of last year, how was it working for Coach Brian Jenkins and Bethune Cookman University?
A. “It was high energy, intensity and attention to detail. We worked very hard, it paid off, and it showed every Saturday”.
Q. Do you see any similarities between Coach Jenkins and Prairie View head coach Heishma Northern?
A. “Yes, both are intense and discipline is important in their programs. That’s the biggest similarity and likeness. They both want to run strong disciplined programs”.
Q. You were a coach at Southern when Heishma Northern was a player there. What type of player do you remember him being?
A. “Coach Northern is the same now as he was then; quiet and intense. He’s not a very outspoken guy, but when an issue arises and he has to get his point across you know right away. He’s a very intense, detail-oriented guy. Discipline will be a factor in our program. That’s what I like about him”.
Q. How much of the offense you ran last year should we expect to see this year?
A. “Some things will be similar but we’ll do some things differently too so it’s hard to say right now”.
Q. Prairie View loss some key players from a year ago including All-SWAC performer, QB KJ Black, your top 2 running backs and your top 3 wide receivers. Do you have any concerns about the skill positions this year?
A. “Yes, I am concerned. We’re breaking in a whole new group of skill players and a new offense. It’s pretty similar to what we we’re doing last year at Bethune. We had to break in some new players there too. Everybody we’re going into our first game with is inexperienced so you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get; but that’s why I am really looking forward to it. I am excited about getting those young kids out there against a team like Bethune-Cookman to see what they can do”.
Q. Have you settled on a starting QB yet?
A. “No, not yet. We’ll make that decision in a day or two”.
Q. Who are the players to watch on this year’s squad?
A. “Deandre Cooper at wide receiver, Glover at running back, Spence at wide receiver; they are all having great camps. Those are the three guys offensively that I think will have a chance to have a good season for us”.
Q. You have done it all at this level; a national championship, HBCU championships, top ranked offensive units. You have experienced a great deal of success in your 30 plus years of coaching at HBCUs. Is there any coach, player or team unit that really sticks out to you?
A. “That’s really hard to answer. There have been so many great players and coaches. When you’ve been in the business for as long as I have you see so many great coaches and players. Peter Richardson, starting with him in 1991 at Winston Salem and coaching with him for 17 years; Erik Randal at Southern (QB); Terrence Levy (QB), Michael Hayes (WR), Devin Lewis (WR). Guys like that were All-SWAC/All-HBCU but it all starts at the top with the head coaches. Brian Jenkins is doing a great job. We had some great players at Bethune too.
When you have great head coaches like Pete Richardson and Brian Jenkins; and you surround yourself with great players you’re going to have success. You just don’t want to screw it all up by giving the guys too much. You just want to do your part and then get out of the way”.
Q. In your opinion, what HBCU has the best home field advantage?
A. “I always thought Southern had the best home field advantage”.
Q. Better atmosphere, the Bayou Classic or the Florida Classic?
A. “Bayou Classic”.
Q. Better Marching Bands, the SWAC or the MEAC?
Q. Who would win today in 1-on-1 passing drills, former Safety Heishma Northern or former wide receiver Brian Jenkins?
A. (Laughs) “Coach Jenkins is faster and he would probably try to run away from him. But if Coach Northern got his hands on him, he would knock him out so it’s hard to say”.
Q. What are your expectations for this season for Prairie View A&M?
A. “Wow, I am really excited. We have a great core of guys, some young players that are excited about getting out there and playing. I think we can have a heck of a football team. We’ll know a lot more about ourselves after this weekend (matchup against BCU)”.