Demons cap first week of fall camp in full pads

Every preseason football camp has mileposts, and Northwestern State hit a pair Tuesday morning.

Not only did the Demons don full pads for the first time, but they also did so at the one-week point of training camp.

“I think more importantly than talking about whether we’re in full pads or soft shells or just helmets is the consistency in execution,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “We’re six practices in. As we keep installing in all three phases, we have to continue to keep up. The consistency has not been there like I like it. Yes, it’s early on, but from an offensive and defensive standpoint, every part of the practice is important.

“We were in full pads today, and there were a few live sessions, but there were a few sessions where we were thud. Those are just as important as the ones that are full go.”

The longer camp wears on, the less likely players are to relish workouts.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday.

“We’ve been looking forward to today for a long time,” said junior defensive lineman JaBralen Yarber. “Today was a very good first day in pads.”

The transition between shells and a full-pad workout mirrored much of what the Demons are going through in this year’s fall camp.

Laird’s coaching staff features six new faces, including new offensive and defensive coordinators. Couple that with a cast of around 30 new players and this preseason is equal parts building chemistry while installing an offense and defense.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction for this team from the end of last year,” said sophomore offensive lineman Brayden Staggs, who is part of a position group that has welcomed seven new faces to its room. “The vibe and energy of the offense are different. It feels like a family. We rely on each other. I feel like we’re connected more as a family, and there’s a Demon brotherhood.”

That feeling exists across the line from Staggs as well even if there are more familiar faces populating the Purple Swarm defense.

“We try to treat everybody like family,” Yarber said. “When you get here, you’re part of the Demon family.”

That family feeling will lay the groundwork for a group that holds its first scrimmage at around 9:45 Saturday morning.

“Our guys, they’re very competitive,” Laird said, “but they can’t do it by themselves. We talked about that with them (Monday). It’s going to take someone helping me as a coach, helping me as a player make me the best I can be. We have to have guys step up and encourage. It doesn’t have to be someone playing. Whether you’re getting 20 reps or zero reps, that’s important to support your teammates. That’s important to watch as the chemistry continues to build and the leadership continues to grow.”

Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services