The Demons juggled their plans, correctly anticipating stormy weather might pass through Natchitoches in the mid to late afternoon. An evening practice in shorts and shoulder pads was shifted to the morning, and the light morning workout in shorts and helmets moved into the evening. The storm struck on schedule, the rain abated to a light drizzle as the evening session started, and temperatures dipped to early autumn levels at sunset.
“This afternoon reminded me of the PGA tournament on Sunday. We came out after a big storm and had a lot of energy. We didn’t have a Rory McIlroy-type performance, but we worked until the last beam of sunlight, got done what we wanted to do and came away excited about what’s ahead,” said Thomas. ““It was a nice cool night, like October compared to last week. It almost felt like time to go trick or treat.”
The morning’s two-hour workout featured some 11-on-11 competition that showcased the progress of the team on its seventh day of practices.
“It was really good this morning. The guys were very competitive,” he said. “We’re still installing things, but the timing on offense is getting better. You can see the rhythm with the quarterbacks and receivers is getting better. Defensively they’re getting command of the schemes. The effort of the defensive line was better.”
The play of young quarterbacks Daniel Hazlewood (redshirt sophomore) and redshirt freshmen J.D. Almond and T.J. Fleeton has caught Thomas’ attention while returning starter Zach Adkins has not disappointed.
“Our quarterbacks, up to this point, I’ve really enjoyed them. Hazlewood has come back in top form and is really looking good right now,” he said. “The three younger guys have closed the gap on Zach, and Zach has performed very well.”
Special teams play was a point of emphasis in the evening workout.
“It was a good mental night tonight. Special teams was the focus for the first 35 minutes and we’re still installing there as well. Chris Moore kicked the ball well tonight, Andy Wickman hit some good punts, and we moved forward. We’re still looking at developing deep snappers behind Hunter Graves, working with some of our new guys,” said Thomas.
The Demons put on full gear for their only workout Tuesday, when the team went through its most extensive contact of preseason so far.
“We’ll mix it up and get after it a bit. We’ll press them on the play count, and start increasing it, up to about 35-40 on Tuesday, some more on Thursday, and get as close to a game count on plays for the scrimmage Saturday,” said Thomas. “If all goes well, next week we will be able to slide into preparing for the opening game.”
The Demons will stage their major preseason scrimmage Saturday at 10 a.m., then likely turn their attention toward the Thursday, Aug. 28 season opener at home against Missouri State.