The front four of the Purple Swarm defense asserted itself during full-contact 11-on-11 competition periods in the two-hour workout, with the ensemble of defensive ends making first-year Demon defensive coordinator Mike Lucas almost giddy.
Freshman All-American JeMarcus Marshall, 2014 Joe Delaney Bowl co-MVP Leroy Armstrong and senior Justin Evans led the surge that made it a good day’s work for the Purple Swarm in situational periods covering second and third down-and-long scenarios, along with six overtime period competitions.
“We got some really good sessions in today. We had great competition,” said Lucas. “It was really exciting to watch the guys run around and get some juices flowing, two weeks away from the first game.”
The Demons, who have their major preseason scrimmage Saturday morning at 10 in Turpin Stadium, open the season at home Thursday, Aug. 28 against Missouri State. Lucas, who is beginning his first season at NSU but his 27th in the Southland Conference as either a head coach or defensive coordinator, was pleased with the Purple Swarm defense’s performance Thursday, especially up front.
“Our defensive ends got a great pass rush. JeMarcus, Leroy, J.E., those guys were rolling out there and kept those offensive tackles really having to move their feet,” he said. “If we can get that kind of pressure, rushing just four, not having to bring extra folks, we’ll be able to do whatever we want to coverage-wise, and we’ll be in real good shape.
The second full-pads practice of the week included a slightly increased workload, but still lasted only for 2:20, including special teams work to end the day, as has become standard this preseason under second-year coach Jay Thomas.
“Coach Thomas has a great eye for getting just enough contact, but not too much,” said Lucas, who has been a coaching adversary of Thomas’ for 16 seasons before they joined forces this spring. “We’ve ramped it up each day, aiming toward Saturday when we’re going to scrim, and it’s working beautifully.”
While there will be the most extensive live action of preseason camp in Saturday’s scrimmage, Thomas said some of the matchups featuring the starting units will go at a thud tempo, with no tackling. Lucas said he plans to put a few of his front-line defenders on the sideline Saturday.
“We’re going to hold some guys out on defense Saturday. We’re pretty set on who our ones are, and we need to let the young guys get out there and help us figure out,” he said. “There’s some competition for the number two spots so seeing those guys in live situations will be very valuable.”