Demons open spring practice Monday

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Brad Laird
Head coach Brad Laird and the Demons open spring practice Monday (Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services).

NATCHITOCHES – With both coordinators in place, the Northwestern State football team’s spring practices should be a little smoother this year.

The Demons open spring workouts at 4 p.m. Monday at Turpin Stadium, going through the first of 15 practices and scrimmages in preparation for the 2023 season. Unlike a season ago, the Demons bring back both offensive coordinator Beau Blair and defensive coordinator Weston Glaser, each of whom went through their first seasons in Natchitoches in 2022.

“Yes, (it feels more like normal) because, schematically speaking, the majority of the scheme is in,” said fifth-year head coach Brad Laird, who begins his sixth year at the helm of his alma mater. “We’ll make tweaks like everybody does, but to have both schemes in is a plus going into the spring. The biggest thing for us now and our No. 1 goal is attention to detail and being consistent with the little things. Having a scheme we’ve been part of for a year makes that easier.”

The Demons’ spring schedule runs through the annual Joe Delaney Bowl Spring Game, which is set for April 22. NSU also will have a Thursday night scrimmage March 30 and a half practice, half scrimmage day April 15.

While Laird has both coordinators back for a second season, there have been changes on the staff as four new assistant coaches will take part in their first round of spring practices at NSU.

Laird has added defensive line coach Chris Gistorb and linebackers coach Jeremy Atwell to his defensive staff and offensive line coach Boone Feldt and wide receivers coach Armani Lonardo on the offensive side.

“We have four new coaches, so the scheme is not going to change but the technique and the terminology they use to coach will change,” Laird said. “Our coaches will continue to get to know the players and find out who they can trust to put out there and be productive.”

Another new face already has made an impact on the NSU program ahead of spring practice – director of strength and conditioning Jason Smelser.

Smelser’s work with the NSU football team led Laird to push the start of spring workouts back in order for the Demons to spend more time with Smelser.

“What he’s been able to do with those guys already has shown a big impact,” Laird said. “We wanted to get stronger and faster, and we wanted to get mentally tougher. We’ve seen the ability to do that since coach Smelser arrived in January.”

One position where the Demons return the coach but are unsettled at the position is quarterback. Just two players on NSU’s spring roster have thrown a pass – Javon Antonio and Scotty Roblow — and neither are quarterbacks.

That spot is one of several position battles the Demons will use their 15 spring workouts to evaluate.

“That’s what the 15 practices we get are for,” Laird said. “Not to downplay any other position, because they’re all critical, but that’s the most looked-at. Hopefully, we have somebody who takes the reins to move forward with.”

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