Brad Laird has had a handful of workouts to assess his 2020 Northwestern State football team.
He gets a more in-depth chance to do so Saturday when the Demons hold the first of two spring scrimmages at 10 a.m. inside Turpin Stadium.
“Thursday was our first opportunity to go live in certain situations,” said Laird, whose third season at the helm of his alma mater kicks off Sept. 3 against Incarnate Word. “This Saturday will be practice No. 7, and there will be the situations you want to build your team up to – the third-down situations, red zone, working different parts of the field and doing it in live action. We’ll get a good idea of where we are after the live scrimmage.”
Saturday’s scrimmage is set for “80 to 90 plays,” according to Laird. Those plays do not account for situational work.
“We have to make sure we have identified the situations we need to work on and get that done,” Laird said.
It is the first of two scrimmages ahead of the 31st annual Joe Delaney Bowl, which is set for March 21. The other scrimmage comes March 14.
Laird generally has been pleased with the first handful of practices, especially given the weather-related challenges prevalent in north Louisiana the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get in three back-to-back-to-back last week,” he said. “The first two were in shorts and helmets before we got into pads. Then we had a three-day break, had Chris Waddell Day, which is always a special day because of what he means and what Mrs. Celeste (Waddell) means to this program. Then we got back at it.”
Saturday’s workout also will be the first chance for several mid-year transfers to see the field in a game-type situation.
“They’ve been good,” Laird said, “but it’s one thing to do it in a meeting room where you’re learning the installation compared to doing it full speed. They have had a great attitude day in and day out. We’re seeing progress with those guys each practice, just like we are with the whole team. As we install and put a lot on their plates, we have some guys who are getting opportunities because guys are out. It’s their chance to showcase what they have. That’s why we look forward to these live situations.”
The same can be said for the three returning quarterbacks on the Northwestern State roster.
Redshirt juniors Kaleb Fletcher and Bryce Rivers and redshirt freshman Zachary Clement are vying to step in for departed two-year starter Shelton Eppler, who rewrote most of the NSU passing record book.
Laird said what he is looking for form the trio is simple.
“Consistency,” he said. “At that position, it’s about taking care of the football and making the right decision no matter what happens after that decision. Through four practices, what we’ve watched is those guys make good decisions and take care of the ball. They need to be consistent in doing so.”
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services