It’s the same coaching staff and only 16 letterwinners are missing from last season, so as Northwestern State begins spring football practices Thursday, there should be plenty of continuity.
And there will be plenty of competition, said second-year coach Brad Laird. NSU hits the turf at Turpin Stadium at 3:40 Thursday afternoon, 2:40 Friday and 9:40 Saturday morning for its first three spring workouts.
The Demons have 41 letterwinners returning, including 13 starters, from a 5-6 team that won three of its last four and was just three points shy of NSU’s first winning season since 2008. Clearing that threshold is an obvious focus, along with contending for a playoff spot, having watched first-time playoff entries Lamar and Incarnate Word emerge from the Southland Conference field in 2018.
The 12-game season is months away, but what the Demons do during the balance of March will be crucial in shaping the 2019 club’s destiny, said Laird.
“With no changes on our coaching staff and a solid core of returning players, we’ll have a lot more continuity,” said Laird, going through his second spring as NSU’s head coach. “But each year’s different. We have lots of position battles to resolve in 15 practices. We need to find out what is this team’s identity, who will be the leaders who step up during practice.
“We have guys who have played a lot of quality snaps in conference games over the past two or three seasons. They understand the importance of the 15 days, and getting everything out of each day as we move forward toward our season,” said Laird.
NSU will go through 15 practices, including morning scrimmages on March 16 and March 23, before wrapping up spring ball with the 30th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game on Saturday afternoon, March 30 at Turpin Stadium.
The practice plan will send the Demons out to work in Turpin Stadium four times for each of the last three weeks. All sessions are open to the public.
Along with redshirts getting prepared for their first full seasons of competition, NSU welcomes six mid-year transfers to their first spring as Demons.
“We’ve seen them work in strength and conditioning and we’re excited to finally see them first-hand in football situations,” said Laird. “Transfers are almost always guys who you expect to contend for playing time immediately. Each of these guys fits a need for us. We’re looking for help at receiver, tight end, quarterback and defensive line.
“We need to see the new guys in live situations, to find out how they compete and get better. We also need to see how the redshirts and young players have matured, and hopefully confirm they’re ready to step up into significant roles.”
Starting tailback Jared West, last season’s leading rusher, is among seven veterans, along with starting offensive tackle Zach Perry, who will sit out on-field workouts this spring due to injuries. All should be ready to go for preseason, said Laird.
2019 Demon Football Spring Schedule
Day Date Time
Thu. Mar. 7 Practice #1 – Helmets & Shorts 3:55 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 8 Practice #2 – Helmets & Shorts 2:40 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 9 Practice #3 – Shells 9:40 a.m.
Mon. Mar. 11 Practice #4 – Shells 7:00 p.m.
Thu. Mar. 14 Practice #5 – Full 3:55 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 15 Practice #6 – Shells 2:40 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 16 Practice #7 – Full – Scrimmage #1 9:40 a.m.
Tue. Mar. 19 Practice #8 – Shells 3:55 p.m.
Wed. Mar. 20 NSU PRO DAY (2018 seniors) 8:00 a.m.
Thu. Mar. 21 Practice #9 – Full 3:55 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 22 Practice #10 – Shells 2:40 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 23 Practice #11 – Full – Scrimmage #2 9:40 a.m.
Tue. Mar. 26 Practice #12 – Shells 3:55 p.m.
Thur. Mar. 28 Practice #13 – Full 3:55 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 29 Practice #14 – Helmets & Shorts 2:40 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 30 Practice #15- Joe Delaney Bowl 2:00 p.m.