NATCHITOCHES – So much to do, so little time.
While Northwestern State football coach Jay Thomas isn’t planning, and doesn’t want, a total makeover for the Demons during spring practice, there are a lot of areas to address when it begins Tuesday.
There will be 14 practices before the Saturday morning, April 16 27th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game at Turpin Stadium. Scrimmages are set for March 23, just before Easter weekend starts spring break, and on April 9.
“It’s critical spring for us, but we are excited about it,” said Thomas. “We’ve got momentum. We have a solid foundation. We want to arrive on the scene in ’16.”
Thomas is targeting the Demons to move into championship contention in the Southland Conference race this fall.
The Demons won four of their last six games in 2015. But overall, it was the first sub .500 year (4-7) in his three steering the program. Key graduation losses include record-shattering receiver and returner Ed Eagan, All-America kicker Chris Moore, offensive left tackle Pace Murphy, and NFL prospect Stephen Rivers at quarterback.
NSU returns five starters offensively, not counting leading rusher De’Mard Llorens, who ran for 820 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior season. Three starters up front are back, guards Terrance Boyd and Korliss Johnson and center Cameron Hussey, along with parttime starting center Thomas Little. The other returning starters are receivers Tuff McClain and Shakeir Ryan. Quarterabcks J.D. Almond and Joel Blumenthal got starting experience last fall.
Nine defensive starters return, three up front, two linebackers and four of five in the secondary. For the first time in six years, NSU will benefit from carryover in the defensive coordinator position with Darryl Daye back in that role. Defensive anchors should be senior safeties Adam Jones and Darius Poullard, senior defensive end JeMarcus Marshall, and sophomore cornerback Ike Warren.
The list of key position battles begins at quarterback, where UL Lafayette graduate transfer Brooks Haack will challenge Almond and Blumenthal. Both tackle positions must be solidified.
Defensively, developing six midyear transfers (three linebackers, two defensive linemen, and a safety), and settling into the Demons’ 3-3-5 and 4-3-4 packages, are vital, said Thomas.
Replacing Moore and graduated punter Andy Wickman will also be focal points, with Thomas confident that the players who will step into those roles will emerge during spring practice.
Photos of senior RB De’Mard Llorens from 2015 games – photos by Gary Hardamon, Northwestern State