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Spring Practice Tees Off Tuesday For Eager NSU Demons
Spring practice begins Tuesday afternoon for the Northwestern State football team, as second-year coach Bradley Dale Peveto is looking to replace 12 starters with 48 letterwinners and some talented redshirt freshmen and transfers working toward the April 22 Joe Delaney Bowl spring game.
Eight 2009 senior starters are gone on defense as NSU begins 15 workouts Tuesday at 3 in Turpin Stadium. The Demons will practice primarily on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning over the next seven weeks with spring break bisecting the schedule.
Scrimmages are Saturday morning, March 27; Thursday afternoon, April 1; Saturday morning, April 17; and the Delaney Bowl on Thursday evening, April 22. The Purple Swarm Coaches Clinic is March 26-27 with the April 17 scrimmage set as the annual Family Day event.
A returning strength for the 2010 Demons appears to be an offensive line with six veterans who have started, along with a couple of redshirt freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers. The Demons also have experience at quarterback with sophomore Paul Harris and senior Tyler Wolfe battling for the starting role after each shined in starts last year in their first years at NSU.
Defensively, end Ledell Love, tackle Dennis Clark and cornerbacks Cashas Pollard and Kevin Perry are the most notable returners. Replacing all three starting linebackers is the top task.
Overall, Peveto is determined to use lessons learned and correct deficiencies from last year’s winless season, while addressing the challenge of developing leadership in the wake of a 21-man senior class in 2009.
“We had a minus 19 turnover ratio last year, which is horrible, and you’re not going beat anybody with that. Offensively we’ve got to protect the football better and defensively we have to create more turnovers. That’s the number one point of emphasis this spring,” he said.
“An important factor we lost, especially on defense, was leadership. We had some special people in that senior class. We’ll be coaching leadership just like we coach technique. We’ll have character education in the Ready Room, 15 sessions of that, all spring,” said Peveto.
“When we elected Demon Deacons it was kind of odd because we had only one returning, (junior tight end) Justin Aldredge. We have a whole new line of faces on the front row at our team meetings. I’ve enjoyed seeing those guys stepping up and accepting the responsibility of leadership,” said Peveto.
The Demons’ head coach also handles the linebackers in practice and is involved in defensive staff meetings, so his football focus begins on that side of the ball.
“We want to come out with a working two-deep on defense. Who that will be, I do not know. I like our personnel. I like our speed. I like our attitude.
“We have to develop some edge rushers. (Senior) Ledell Love is back at that spot, and we have some really good young talent. With a four-man rush, we have to be a lot better than we were a year ago.
“We graduated three starters at linebacker and Colby Arceneaux is going to go ahead and graduate and not play this fall. We have two guys back who have been on the field, (sophomores) Derrick Rose and Lamont Simmons, but they don’t have a load of experience. Finding the right guys there, and to fill in our nickel and dime packages, will be fun to do.
“We lost three starters in the secondary, but we’ll be very athletic and have speed and we will play a physical brand. (Sophomores) Cortez Paige and Jamaal White got a good amount of playing time, between special teams and in the secondary, as true freshmen. (Junior) Lance Lacoste will be back with us full time and could be a very nice addition,” said Peveto. “I’ve not seen him do anything because he was playing baseball last spring and busted his shoulder in preseason. He’s got size and strength, he can run, he has experience and he’s awfully smart and tough so I’m looking forward to adding him into the mix back there.”
Special teams play will get heavy emphasis in spring practice. Kicker John Shaughnessy, punter Bradley Russo and returners Bradley Brown and Phillip Harvey are back.
“We’ll work special teams as hard as anybody with meetings, walk-throughs and work on the field. We’ve got some exciting young return guys, and John did a great job with placing kickoffs,” said Peveto. “We have to punt more consistently. We have to snap, hold and protect much better on placement kicks. We had too many blocked.”
Offensively, while the quarterback position will attract the most attention, it’s replacing tailback William Griffin and single-season receiving record-setter Darius Duffy that rank highly on the NSU priority list.
“I like our talent at tailback,” said Peveto. “Griff had a good year for us, but Sterling Endsley was our best tailback until he got hurt in preseason last August, and he’s ready to go again. Sidney Riley has a chance to really help us. Rickey Courtney looked awfully good for the scout team last year and I will be surprised if he doesn’t have some impact.
“We have Bradley Brown, Thomas Jackson and Adrian Reese out wide (combining for 58 receptions last year) and Justin Aldredge at tight end (25 catches) so we have a good returning core to catch passes, and will be adding to it,” he said.
Senior Michael Booker, entering his third year as a starter, and two-year starters Zach Case and Jesse Hernandez, both juniors, anchor the offensive line. Junior Jace Prescott is coming back from his second knee surgery in as many seasons but is a premiere player, while sophomores Larry Calcote and Destry Hesskew were parttime starters as true freshmen last year and junior Eric Pease got into his first significant action as a backup.
“We have a lot of experience back up front offensively. I like our depth because I like what we’ve signed there. We’ve played with 5-6 guys primarily in our rotation the last 2-3 years, and now with guys coming back and the junior college transfers mixed in, we have some quality depth,” said Peveto.
The tight end position is getting a boost from LSU transfer Jake Bryan, a walk-on for the Tigers who has impressed coaches in offseason strength and conditioning.
NORTHWESTERN STATE SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
(dates and times subject to change - check www.nsudemons.com for updates)
March 16, 18, 3 p.m.
March 20, 9 a.m.
March 23, 25, 3 p.m.
March 27, 9 a.m. scrimmage
March 30, 31, 3 p.m.
April 1, 3 p.m. scrimmage
April 13, 15, 3 p.m.
April 17, 9 a.m. Family Day scrimmage
April 20, 3 p.m.
April 21, 6 a.m.
April 22, 6 p.m., Joe Delaney Bowl spring game
By Northwestern State University Sports Information