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NSU spring football practice begins Thursday
After being the nation’s fourth most-improved football teams in Division I last fall, the Northwestern State Demons kick off their spring practices Thursday afternoon hoping to make more progress heading into the 2011 season.
Third-year coach Bradley Dale Peveto and his staff will put the Demons through 15 practices leading to the Thursday night, April 14 22nd Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game. All practices are in Turpin Stadium and open to the public.
NSU will work out Thursday and Friday afternoon, then Saturday morning for the first of 11 practices in full gear. The Demons will go through Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sessions for the next two weeks before spring break halts things until April 5, when they reconvene for their last six practices including the Delaney Bowl.
Scrimmages are set for Saturday, March 19 and 9 a.m.; Thursday, March 24 at 3:30 and Saturday, April 9 at 9 a.m.
The Demons return 55 letterwinners, including 16 regular starters and another 10 players who started at least once last season as NSU finished 5-6 with only a loss in the final game to Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin keeping Northwestern from winning a share of the SLC title and an FCS playoff bid.
Peveto has five primary goals for improvement in spring ball: better discipline to avoid penalties, making progress in turnover ratio, establishing a strong running game, continuing to curtail big plays by the opponents and having good competition at every position.
“We had eight or less penalties in the games we won. We had 10 or more in the games we lost,” said Peveto. “We have to be more disciplined.
“The turnover ratio has to improve. We were minus 15 and still were able to somehow overcome that and play for the Southland Conference championship in the last game of the season. Offensively we must protect the ball better, and defensively, we have to create more turnovers. There are a lot of statistics in our game that aren’t really pivotal in who wins and loses, but that stat really does make a difference,” he said.
“We have to establish our running game and be better there,” he said. “Our defense has to continue not giving up big plays. We turned the corner at the start of our conference season last fall and did a pretty good job, but we must get better at that.”
While the Demons return 16 starters, nine on offense, Peveto will have competition at each position this spring.
“It’s coach-talk, I admit, but I really do expect to see good competition at every position,” he said. “We want to push everybody. We want to be better at every spot than we were last year. We have returning starters who are very fine players but we are challenging each player to step up in spring.”
Peveto listed young or new players at each position group that the coaching staff will watch closely to see if they can challenge to contribute in the 2011 season.
At linebacker, Patrick Black, Wa’Derrious Sellers, Tyler Smith and Reggie Toomer will compete with returners Derek Rose, an All-American last season, Yaser Elqutub and Lamont Simmons.
Three players who started all 11 games on the defensive line graduated, with Wade Williams the only returning starter. Peveto believes letterwinners Quinn Anthony, Lesley Deamer, Denzell Hawkins and Keland Johnson can help at the tackle slots while Mike Adams, Cornist Broadway, Anthony Gilbert, Ricky Issac and Two Willis are going to get a hard look at end.
Untested cornerbacks Peveto hopes step up in spring are Rico Albert, Imoan Claiborne, D.J. Lewis and Fred Thomas. Junior college transfer Fred Tate figures to help at safety and nickel back, with veterans Cashas Pollard, Phil LeBlanc, Bert White and Luke Turner in the competitive mix. NSU will be without three secondary returners in spring ball, with Cortez Paige, Brashard Booker and Calvin Morton all sidelined.
Offensively, junior Paul Harris returns as the starting quarterback but will be pushed by junior college transfer Brad Henderson and redshirt freshman Don Canyon.
At tailback, Rumeall Morris, D.J. Palmer and Sidney Riley, all active at that spot a year ago, will battle for the job this spring while another veteran, Sterling Endsley, is sidelined.
The Demons will have a new left side of the offensive line and will have to go without standout senior center Zach Case in spring ball, but Peveto is pleased with the quality depth there. Tchissakid Player and Blayne Cole are contenders for the left tackle job along with Jesse Hernandez, a two-year starter at tackle and guard who was hurt all of last season.
Guard Destry Hesskew and tackle Larry Calcote return as starters on the right side. Among the younger but experienced lineman on hand are Josh Cunningham, John McClendon, Ozzie Idumwonyi, Sherard Sorrells and Bob Stanfield, with redshirt freshman Bingo Henderson expected to compete with Case at center.
NSU is flush with proven vets at tight end, with Justin Aldredge, Jake Bryan, Tucker Nims, Kyle Howard, David Larsen and Trevor Eickman, along with a hard-nosed young walk-on in Justin Warner.
Some of those could help at fullback, where returning starter Brent Legendre will miss spring ball. Youngsters Forrest Graham and Josh Armstreet will get careful scruitiny in spring ball.
At receiver, the Demons return starters T.C. Henry and Phillip Harvey, along with veterans Thomas Jackson, Louis Hollier, Kedon Franklin and Spencer Harrell. Youngsters Quinten Parks and Rechard Llorens could develop as the Demons compensate for the loss of leading receiver Bradley Brown, who left the team last month.
By Northwestern State University Sports Information