NATCHITOCHES – New Northwestern State football coach Jay Thomas says depth chart decisions will come after two weeks of camp, and that seems obvious by the way the Demons are rotating their three top quarterbacks in camp.
Redshirt freshman Daniel Hazlewood from Huntsville, Texas, developed well in spring practice and entered fall camp as the obvious leader, but newcomers Zach Adkins, a California junior college transfer, and true freshman T.J. Fleeton from Daphne, Ala., are clearly in the mix.
But as to a pecking order four practices into the preseason? Fans watching practice might see Hazlewood with the first offense, Fleeton with the No. 2 unit and Adkins with the third squad. Or it might be Adkins with the ones, Hazlewood with the twos and Fleeton running the third team; or Fleeton with the ones ….
“We’re rotating guys. We want to see them work with every group so we can make a good evaluation,” said Thomas. “We’re going through the process. They all understand what we’re trying to get done. All three guys are real students of the game.”
The Demons don’t have a quarterback who has taken a snap in an NSU game. Junior Don Canyon, last year’s backup, had shoulder surgery after spring practice and may not be ready until late season. Sophomore Grant Chiasson Thursday decided to focus on academics and left the team.
“We like our stable of quarterbacks and we like the progress we’re seeing,” said Thomas, “not just at quarterback, but across the board on offense. I know our defense is impressed.”
After wrapping up a 2:15-long session Thursday in shorts and shoulder pads, the Demons had Thomas smiling following their longest workout of the week.
“We were much better today on the second day in pads. We finished today’s practice well, although we increased the length of practice by 15 minutes. The guys are getting acclimated to the routine and to being in shoulder pads,” he said.
For the second straight day, NSU finished with extensive work on special teams, drilling Thursday on kick and punt coverage.
“We’re dedicating more and more time to the kicking game. We’re starting to see a little more polish from the offense. The defense added some blitzes today,” said Thomas. “We are still spending significant time in individual drills. We always teach fundamentals and right now with so many newcomers in camp, it’s even more important to do.”
Full pads go on Friday afternoon at 3:30 and that workout will determine how much scrimmage action will take place Saturday morning beginning at 9:30.
“We’ll increase our 11-on-11 reps tomorrow and put on full gear for the first time. We’ll decide what our course of action is for Saturday, how much we will scrimmage, after we get through Friday afternoon’s practice. It will be the first time we’ll have a short turnaround, a morning practice following getting off the field just before supper time, something we’ll do several times next week,” said Thomas.
Adding spark to Thursday’s workout was the 30th birthday celebration of defensive line coach Jake Landoll. He dressed out in shoulder pads and helmet and went through drills in gear while coaching his charges.