Football resumed Friday for an excited group of Northwestern State Demons, who bounced through a two-hour practice in shorts and helmets at the outset of preseason drills.
The Demons, back at work Saturday morning at 8:30 in and around Turpin Stadium, worked in all three phases in their first official practice since mid-April, and didn’t disappoint with their effort, enthusiasm and retention from spring practice.
“I saw a lot of enthusiasm. It was a good first day,” said senior safety Adam Jones, “but we have to polish up some things. Overall I saw a lot of guys flying to the ball, which is the goal every day.”
Offensive coordinator Ben Norton, in his fourth year as the Demons offensive line coach, was almost giddy about the performance of his troops.
“We’re playing football finally, and it was fun having them out there. I saw a lot of retention, with a lot of returners back from spring practice,” he said. “Having 11 guys back up front raises our learning curve for teaching, and the young guys we brought in show a lot of promise.”
Having 21 veterans including seven starters returning, along with several junior college transfers who went through spring practice, was clearly beneficial for the NSU Purple Swarm defense.
“We saw a lot of good effort, with intensity there, and that’s most important. There was a lot of carryover from the spring, and that’s good,” said defensive coordinator Daryl Daye, who also works with the linebackers. “We were able to see them execute well, and we were able to open our package more broadly because of the progress made in the spring, and the carryover from it. We just have to get these guys in the right place.”
Depth is an asset Daye is counting on to contain opposing offenses.
“I made the comment to them, we have 22 starters on defense, not 11. Everybody’s going to play, We’re going to rotate them in. You have to do that nowadays because of the hurry-up offenses. The depth chart might list ones and twos, but they’re all starters.”
Jones, who has started since his freshman season, enjoyed getting back on the turf at Turpin Stadium to start working toward the Sept. 2 season opener at Baylor and the Thursday, Sept. 8 home opener against Incarnate Word. He admitted to some mixed emotions as he looked ahead.
“It’s bittersweet. You’re excited about being a senior, but you don’t want to leave these dudes. It’s a good group and I’m looking forward to spending another year with them,” he said, speaking of his colleagues in the secondary. “We need the young guys to step up this year and I expect they will.”
The Demons will practice Monday morning at 8:30.