After finishing the 2013 season strong, the Northwestern State Demons are heading into the 2014 season with a lot of confidence.
“Our guys are really looking forward to the season, and it has been a really good summer for us,” second-year Northwestern State head coach Jay Thomas said earlier this month at the Southland Conference Media Day. “We are looking to build off of the momentum we created at the end of last year. We felt like we really finished the season strong down the stretch.”
The Demons, who open the season Thursday night at home against Missouri State, won three of their last four games last season to finish 6-6 overall and 3-4 in the Southland Conference.
NSU returns eight starters on offense, including record-setting quarterback Zack Adkins, and six on defense.
Adkins completed 247 of 382 passes for 2,725 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2013.
His completion percentage of 64.7 ranked 23rd in the FCS, while his yardage total ranked 20th nationally.
His pass yardage total broke Scott Stoker’s 25-year-old school record of 2,393 and his touchdown passes topped a 45-year-old standard of 16 set by Don Guidry in 1968. His 64.7 completion percentage topped the previous mark of 61.7 set by Brad Henderson in 2011.
“It was exciting to break those records last year, but I want to be more productive and be a better quarterback this year,” Adkins said at SLC Media Day.
“That would mean even better numbers and most importantly, more wins and getting to postseason. I have a lot of talented players to get the ball to, and some very good players up front clearing the way for our run game and giving me time to throw.”
Other returning starters on offense are tailbacks Daniel Taylor and De’Mard Llorens, receivers Shekier Ryan, Bryant Mitchell and Ed Eagan, and linemen Austin Douglas and Pace Murphy.
Senior Garrett Atzenweiler will start at running back against Missouri State, Thomas announced Monday.
Returning starters on a defensive unit that ranked second in the SLC are lineman Deon Simon, cornerbacks backs Imoan Claiborne and Fred Thomas, and linebackers Tyler Roussel and Paxton Cook. End JeMarcus Marshall appeared in 11 games last season and led the team in sacks with 8.5.
Linebacker Marion Chapman is back after a year’s absence due to an NCAA eligibility issue.
Adam Jones, a starter at linebacker last season, has moved to free safety.
Missouri State’s 2013 season was similar to NSU’s.
The Bears won four of their last five games to finish 5-7 overall and third in the Missouri Valley Conference at 5-3,
The Demons won last year’s meeting 23-17 in the season opener in Springfield, Mo.
NSU vs. Missouri St.
Thursday, 6 p.m. (710 AM)
Parish connection: Redshirt freshman QB J.D. Almond (Haughton)
— Staff Reports, firstname.lastname@example.org