NATCHITOCHES – Four players will get their first career starts on the Northwestern State defense next Thursday night in the Demons’ season opener at Missouri State, while NSU debuts a new kicker, punter, snappers and holders on special teams.
New coach Jay Thomas announced the defensive and special teams depth charts before he sent his squad through a two-hour practice in full gear Saturday afternoon, the first for the Demons with complete focus on preparing for the Bears. The teams haven’t met since 1990.
Iowa State transfer Chris Moore, a sophomore from Plano, Texas, replaces record-setting John Shaughnessy at kicker. True freshman Chase Tassin from Hammond-St. Thomas Aquinas opens the season as the punter. Standout sophomore Ed Eagan of New Orleans-Holy Cross is the primary punt and kickoff returner, after running a kickoff back 82 yards for a score last season as a true freshman.
New defensive coordinator Chris Boone is running multiple schemes with a 3-4-4 base to take advantage of the Demons’ team speed.
“There’s a long tradition of gang tackling, attacking, aggressive defenses here going back to Coach (Sam) Goodwin’s first teams in the 1980s when they had defensive coordinators who reached the highest levels of college football with John Thompson and Art Kaufman,” said Thomas. “Coach Boone is cut from the same cloth. We want to play with that Purple Swarm defensive mentality.”
Redshirt freshman Adam Jones (6-2, 190) of Katy, Texas-Seven Lakes is the youngest defensive starter, at strongside linebacker, where converted safety Calvin Morton (5-11, 199) from Baton Rouge-Glen Oaks backs him up. Another first-time starter is another Glen Oaks product, nose tackle Deon Simon (6-4, 322), a junior who has lettered twice after transferring from Central Florida.
Two hometown sophomores who lettered last season, Natchitoches Central products Leroy Armstrong (6-1, 239) and Chase Collins, are getting their first career starts. Armstrong will play the “Demon” defensive end while Collins (6-0, 178) is the free safety, stepping in for highly-regarded senior Bert White, who is doubtful for the game while recovering from a sprained knee suffered the first day of preseason practice.
Converted cornerback Ryan Sorrell, a 5-10, 182-pound senior from Franklin, who has some starting experience, has nailed down the starting assignment at the “Jack” safety position, backed up by Baylor transfer JeMarcus Johnson, a 6-0, 178-pound sophomore.
Also opening the season as a starter for the first time are senior defensive end Keland Johnson (6-0, 232), a three-year letterman playing the “Hammer” end position; and junior cornerback Fred Thomas (5-11, 168) from Lutcher.
Returning starters include two all-star candidates Lesley Deamer (6-3,304), a senior from Amite, at defensive tackle, and junior cornerback Imoan Claiborne (5-11, 183) of Alexandria-ASH. Two more veterans are senior linebacker Pat Black (6-0, 212) of Jackson, Miss.-Forest Hill, and weakside linebacker Tyler Roussel (6-1, 210) from LaPlace-St. Charles Catholic.
The Demons also have three others with extensive starting experience, tackle Damon Medcafe, linebacker Tyler Smith and cornerback Rico Albert, listed as No. 2 at their positions.
NSU will start four seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and redshirt freshman Jones on defense. There are no true freshman on the two-deep, while five juniors are listed as second-teamers, along with two seniors, three redshirt freshmen and a sophomore.