Energetic Northwestern State opened preseason practice Friday

NATCHITOCHES – A little more time.

That’s one positive as Northwestern State football plays its regular season in the spring as opposed to the fall.

A Demons team that will feature eight new offensive starters and five new defensive starters started its spring process Friday with its first official practice.

Friday’s session lasted about two hours and is the first of four acclimation days before the Demons don full pads with contact Wednesday.

“There’s been a combination of new guys and then sophomores and juniors that have been here that have stepped up,” said NSU coach Brad Laird, who is beginning his third season as the Demons head coach. “We had an abbreviated spring practice (six practices) before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it took time for us to adjust to fall practice.

“But we got into our 15 practices in the fall, and that was huge for our guys. The mental part is the biggest thing, and we’ve seen a lot of carryover from the fall and from our walkthroughs so far that was evident in today’s practice.”

The team participated in strength and conditioning drills and well as walkthrough sessions before embarking on 20 preseason practices heading into its first game week, which culminates in the season opener Feb. 20 at Lamar.

In normal times, players endure the brutal Louisiana heat in August as they prepare for a regular season.

But tight end David Fitzwater and the rest of the Demons didn’t mind an overcast sky with temperatures hovering the 50s to open practice.

“It was really enjoyable, and that’s fun weather to play in,” said the Calvary Baptist product. “I’m really happy to be on the field today, and a lot of guys came out with excitement.

“Honestly I feel like that’s been missing in years before this. Guys were excited and ready to go today.”

Linebacker Landon King will be a key cog this season in NSU’s deepest unit.

King is one of five returning linebackers who made at least three starts this past season.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with this team,” said King, a Pineville native. “We were hoping to play last fall but didn’t get that chance.

“If we keep doing what we have to do and controlling what we can control, hopefully we can go out there on Saturdays, have our season and come out with a championship.”

Before the season-opener at Lamar, NSU’s 20 practices include scrimmages Jan. 31 and Feb. 6 before a mock game on Feb. 11.

NSU will play a six-game spring schedule, all against Southland Conference opponents that didn’t play in the fall.

After traveling to Lamar, the Demons host McNeese, the first college football game in Turpin Stadium in since NSU wrapped up the 2019 season in late November, which will be a 16-month span without NSU football in Natchitoches.

CREDIT: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services