Demons gear up for full pads Saturday morning
NATCHITOCHES – The initial milepost in Northwestern State’s first spring football drills under new head coach and career passing leader Brad Laird arrives Saturday morning as the Demons pull on full gear for the first time in the fifth of 15 practices.
Through four workouts, two in shoulder pads, Laird has been encouraged as NSU works toward the April 21 spring game, the 29th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl.
“We’re still learning in all three phases. I’ve loved the tempo of practice, I’ve loved the energy through four practices, and the challenge is to become consistent with that as we continue to learn,” he said.
“You want to see consistency and improvement, not just schematically but individually, because we’re continuing to install in all three phases. We are building towards the scrimmage next Thursday night, our seventh of 15 practices, the last one before spring break.”
The first of three major scrimmages is 7 p.m. next Thursday. After classes resume following spring break, the Demons have eight practices remaining, including an April 14 scrimmage and the Delaney Bowl.
Saturday morning, the Demons hit the turf in Turpin Stadium at 9:45 and will work for roughly two hours, going through live tackling in all team segments culminating with a two-minute drill to wrap up the morning. Quarterbacks will be off limits for defenders, but otherwise, NSU will play tackle football, said Laird.
“It will be good to be put in those situations. We haven’t been there since November, and especially with new schemes, we’ll see some thinking before reacting and that’s natural in this process,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Brad Smiley and defensive coordinator Mike Lucas and their staffs have worked with players for the past month during position meetings and walk-throughs, getting new systems installed. There is wholesale change in all phases, even though Laird was NSU’s defensive coordinator last season, when the Demons limited their last four foes to 19 points per game and won three times.
“It’s new terminology across the board. We are stressing taking the meeting room onto the field, and into a team segment, where the tempo is fast. If you have to think about your assignment, it takes away from some of the continuity we want right now, but we’ll continue working to smooth it out,” he said.
Senior Clay Holgorsen finished his first season with the Demons last year as the starting quarterback, while sophomores Kaleb Fletcher and Kenny Sears got some snaps. Adding in Shelton Eppler, who played for Smiley’s record-shattering teams the past two seasons at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, and the competition is sizzling under the direction of quarterbacks coach Anthony Scelfo.
“Coach Scelfo has done a great job with those guys, getting them understanding the impact they will have on this football team,” said Laird. “Kenny Sears, Kaleb Fletcher, Shelton Eppler, and Clay Holgorsen are battling for the job and they’re fun to watch because they’re helping each other, learning a new scheme. That’s what I want to see.
“We have competition at all positions. We’ll look at the quarterback position closely just like everybody else is, because it’s a big influence on our team,” said Laird. “I like the way they’re going about the process.”
Following Saturday morning’s practice, the Demons work out again at 6 a.m. Tuesday to prepare for next Thursday evening’s scrimmage at Turpin Stadium.
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