NATCHITOCHES,La – Pace is a word that has been bandied about the Northwestern State football team since the announcement of offensive coordinator Brad Smiley’s hiring in December.
The byproduct of the Demons’ up-tempo offense has come on the other side of the ball as the NSU defense gets a chance to acclimate itself against Smiley’s fast-moving group.
“First and foremost, when you talk about pace or tempo, it affects all three phases of the game,” said first-year head coach Brad Laird, whose team put the wraps on its first week of fall camp with a nearly two-hour workout Saturday morning at Turpin Stadium.
“From an offensive standpoint, you want to move fast. Defensively, you want to play fast. Those things tie in together. The intensity on that side of the ball is no different than on the offensive side of the ball.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Lucas, in his second stint at NSU, understands the benefits of facing a faster-paced in camp and in day-to-day situations throughout the season.
“We’ve got to get ready for it,” he said. “We’re going to see it week to week. That’s part of playing defense in 2018. Everybody wants to go tempo and see if they can get 100 snaps a game so we have to be prepared for it.”
Saturday marked the second straight day the Demons worked as a full unit. The coaching staff originally had planned to split the squad into two practices, but the success of Friday’s change convinced the Demons staff to keep the same approach Saturday.
The two sessions capped a week in which the Demons worked out daily from Wednesday-Saturday after reporting to camp Tuesday.
“Four practices, and we’ve got a lot to go,” Laird said. “We don’t play tomorrow. That’s what I told them. Continue to get better each and every day. Where we are after four days, we’re in a good spot.”
While pace has been a buzzword from outside the program, Laird has preached consistency within the ranks.
He reiterated that point after Saturday’s workout.
“We’ve thrown a lot at them in four practices,” he said. “What I told them was about consistency – be consistent in what they do, not just physically but mentally. Take what you learn in the meeting room, take the mistakes you make and learn from them and apply it between the white lines.”
The Demons will have to wait until Monday to put anything they learned from Saturday’s workout into practice. NSU will take its first day off of fall camp Sunday and return to practice at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Just because Sunday is the group’s first day without practice doesn’t mean it is an unimportant day.
“It’s a rest and recovery day,” Laird said. “It’s just as important as a full-pad practice. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to understand that. If you don’t have your legs, you can’t play football.”