Delaney Bowl Saturday caps Demons’ spring practice

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

When the Northwestern State football team kicks off the annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game Saturday morning at 11 in Turpin Stadium, head coach Brad Laird isn’t using a special scoring system.

He’s focusing on “good on good competition” and expecting his troops to compete for four 12-minute quarters in the game.

“We want it to be as game-like as possible, with the exception of some of the kicking game,” he said. “We’re going to have ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos, looking for good on good competition that makes us better.”

In the 15th and final practice session, Laird is eager to have fans and former Demons, in town for the second annual Demon Brothers reunion, get a look at new schemes on both sides of the ball. Six of the eight fulltime assistant coaches are new, headed by offensive coordinator Cody Crill (from last year’s FCS playoff entry Incarnate Word) and defensive coordinator Weston Glaser.

What will be different?

“The ability to change the tempo offensively is a major asset,” said Laird. “We’re going to go really fast at times. Coach Crill does a great job of mixing the screens, the quick throws, the RPOs, the deep shots, the sprintouts, moving the quarterback, things that keep the defense guessing, back on their heels.

“You’ll the ball in the air more than normal,” said Laird, noting that isn’t an indication that the running game won’t be used in the 2022 season. “A lot of that has to do with what we’re doing defensively.”

Glaser’s approach is not a sweeping change, but NSU has shifted from a three-man front to four big guys on the line of scrimmage.

“Going to a four-man front will be the biggest difference defensively. One thing that will be similar will be the pressure and playing man-to-man,” said Laird. “We did that the last two seasons with some success and we expect to be better at it this fall.”

The fifth-year head coach is happy with the buy-in from the Demons.

“When schematically, things are so different on both sides, you get a little extra focus from the players. They’ve done great absorbing it all, not only on the field but in meetings. You can see their attention to detail is ramped up,” he said.

“There’s a lot to build on as we go into the fall,” said Laird. “We’re a better football team than we were in practice one, and that’s vital to having success this season.”

There are 19 newcomers in their first Delaney Bowl. Among the veterans is receiver Javon Antonio, an All-Southland receiver two years ago who sat out the 2021 season for academic reasons. That redoubled his commitment and it’s made him the breakout star of spring ball, said Laird.

“With what he showed on the scout team when he was ineligible, and what he’s done this spring, he’s by far the one that stands out the most.”