NATCHITOCHES,La – The first extended scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday morning at 9 in Turpin Stadium is a milestone for the Northwestern State football team, but the Demons passed another key point Thursday, said head coach Brad Laird.
After a two-hour morning practice in shoulder pads, the new coach was quite pleased with how his squad is handling the grind and dealing with the consequences of contact drills.
“We pushed through the wall,” said Laird. “The first two days are easy, everybody feels good, but at this stage, practice eight of camp, you’ve been in pads, you’ve got bumps and bruises. You have to push through, and our guys did that today.
“We talk about being consistent, and we’re starting to see that consistency. We’re still making mistakes, but we’re definitely making progress in that vital aspect.”
Among the story lines worked Thursday were third down scenarios, with both the offense and defense experiencing success, he said. Laird also surprised almost everybody else on the field by tossing in “sudden change” situations with turnovers declared.
“Coaches didn’t know. Players didn’t know. The equipment managers were the only ones clued in, that at some point, we were going to do those,” he said. “That way it was truly surprising, like when it happens in a game. You’re on the sideline, getting corrections, and then suddenly you’re heading back out and you can’t afford not to be ready.
“It’s good to get them on tape, and for our guys to understand the situations that come up in games.”
The Demons will have a lighter practice Friday morning, working in shorts and helmets, focusing on the mental aspects and giving their legs some recovery time heading into Saturday’ intersquad game. That will be a key evaluation tool for the coaching staff to make depth chart decisions as early as Monday, said Laird.
“We have the opportunity to really evaluate Saturday’s film, live reps and different situations, because we have a lot of competition in different spots. If it’s clear cut after the first scrimmage, we’ll make that move,” he said. “If not, we’ll continue through the next week with another scrimmage next Saturday, so there’s time for these guys to continue to compete for playing time.
“I’d hate to pinpoint positions, because everywhere you look, there’s good battles.”
The coaching staff will decide the duration of Saturday’s scrimmage following Friday’s workout, said Laird, based primarily on the number of available players throughout the roster.
NSU will continue practicing at 9:15 in the morning next week, he said, to hopefully avoid weather delays and issues. Workouts were initially slated for 3:30 daily, but pop-up thunderstorms in that time frame have been frequent with lightning that would result in long delays.