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Nicholls State looking for turnaround in spring drills
A total of 888 days have passed since the Nicholls State football team’s last victory against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Ending that two-season drought is on everyone’s minds this spring in Thibodaux.
Progression, health and competition are three words commonly heard around the Colonels’ 2013 spring practices, which are currently under way on the school’s campus.
With workouts set to be completed Saturday in a scrimmage, players are saying that they are excited about the improvements that Nicholls is currently making.
“We’re getting better,” quarterback Beaux Hebert said. “We know we’re better every day, so that’s the goal: whether it’s inch by inch or a lot at a time, just always improving.”
“The sky is the limit for us,” offensive lineman Rafe Plaisance added. “We just have to keep on working every day.”
Offensively, Nicholls is focusing on red zone offense and polishing its playmakers in an effort to score more points.
But arguably the team’s biggest playmaker may be on the shelf for the entire 2013 season.
Nicholls coach Charlie Stubbs announced at the start of spring practice that returning starting quarterback Landry Klann would miss all of spring drills with a shoulder injury.
Klann may be able to return in the fall if his shoulder heals without surgery.
But if operated on, the senior would have to miss the entire 2013 season.
If that scenario unfolds, he would have the option to redshirt and return in 2014.
“We’re going to make that decision with his family in the next week or two,” Stubbs said. “If it is major, then he will just be a student and an assistant this fall and we’ll go forward.”
In Klann’s absence, Hebert is the Colonels’ top returning signal caller.
The 6-foot, 4-inch quarterback completed 23-of-37 passes for 315 yards last season.
But Hebert has also been bitten by the injury bug throughout his collegiate career.
He missed the back-half of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury similar to that which was sustained by Klann.
Last year, Hebert played just four games after sustaining a rib injury.
Right now, he’s in full health.
“I feel 100 percent,” Hebert said. “I’m ready to go and play. I’m excited.”
In addition to Hebert’s expanded role, Klann’s injury has also opened doors for younger quarterbacks like sophomore Tuskani Figaro, sophomore Hayden Cardiff and freshman Dash Duncan to also see more reps.
Stubbs said each player has made progression this spring.
Hebert agreed and added that the competition within the quarterbacks is friendly with the goal of improving the team.
“We’re all coming together as a unit,” Hebert said. “We’re going to have to step up in Landry’s absence. That’s what I want to do, and I know that’s what everybody else wants to do.”
No matter who is Nicholls’ quarterback, the Colonels are working on scoring more points in 2013.
They aim to do so with red zone efficiency and more consistent play up front.
The Colonels ranked dead last in the Southland Conference in both red zone offense and defense in 2012.
Nicholls scored just 62.2 percent of the time when getting inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line. Six of the league’s eight teams had conversion rates that were 80 percent or higher.
When defending their own end zone, Nicholls allowed opponents to score 87.9 percent of the time.
Stubbs said he and his staff have identified the red zone as the team’s biggest area for improvement. The Colonels have spent a lot of their spring practices working on drills at or around the end zone.
“We’ve got to improve both sides of the ball on that,” Stubbs said. “On defense, if we can force our opponent to kick field goals, then that’s a great thing. And vice versa, on offense, we’ve got to learn to finish drives and score touchdowns.”
One thing that might help the Colonels’ efforts to dominate red zone play are experienced lines – both on offense and defense.
After several years lacking bodies because of injuries, Nicholls’ offensive line appears healthy this spring.
With almost the entire group of starters back from last year’s bunch, Stubbs said he likes what he is seeing from his offensive line.
“So far, knock on wood – it looks like we’re healthy,” Stubbs said. “That’s what I always measure when I come off the field as a coach. I know we can get better if we have the guys practicing. We have some pretty good linemen.”
One of the reasons for Stubbs’ optimism is because of how well the Colonels are performing against their own defense.
The fourth-year coach said he believes his defensive line is going to be one of the best he’s had at Nicholls in the coming season.
That play in the trenches just may be enough to break the 888-day streak and get the program turned toward a Southland Conference push.
Stubbs wouldn’t that far – he is taking things one day at a time.
But he did have something he wanted to share about the importance of line play.
“It all starts up front,” Stubbs said. “All of the championship teams that I’ve been blessed to be with, we were good on both sides of the ball up front.”
By CASEY GISCLAIR, Tri-Parish Times