NATCHITOCHES — The pace quickened Tuesday on day two of Northwestern State’s preseason football camp with intensity sure to rise Wednesday after Fall Sports Media Day activities are punctuated by the Demons’ first full contact workout.
“The first two days have been mostly mental, but tomorrow it gets physical,” said preseason All-Southland Conference center Warren Jones. “You have to put both elements together and execute. That’s football.”
Junior linebacker Tyler Roussel, a LaPlace-St. Charles Catholic product, noted Wednesday’s 3:30 workout will be the most demanding yet.
“It changes with a little more hitting, and for the linemen, it wears them down more. It will help us get in a lot better shape because you’re wearing more gear in this heat. We’ll see who can hang, and who can’t,” said Roussel. “It’s a hard grind but we have to fight through and come out better every day.”
“We’ll get some 11-on-11 work Wednesday, which will be a good step forward,” said first-year coach Jay Thomas. “Our second day was better than the first. We completed this practice. Monday we got used to the grass field, moving to the stadium, and today it wasn’t a new experience. We understood the routine better and that obviously helped.”
Jones and Roussel concurred.
“It was a better day than yesterday. We were able to execute better, and we were on point,” said Jones, an East Mississippi Community College alumnus who helped his 2011 team win the national junior college championship. “The idea is to keep improving.”
“We had an awesome day,” said Roussel. “We came out and moved fast. Compared to yesterday we improved a lot. The defense is moving around great and we haven’t installed half of our schemes yet. We’ve got to keep improving like we did today.”
Roussel had praise for Jones and his counterparts up front when asked what had impressed him early in camp.
“The offensive line has impressed me. Their coach, Coach (Ben) Norton, has them working hard and they seem like they’re really making strides every day,” said Roussel. “Our quarterbacks have all looked good, and so have the receivers. In 7-on-7, the defense has flown around. As camp goes on, we’ll see who rises to the top.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. I think he’s right,” said Jones. “Since the spring we’ve been busting it, and we’ve gotten better as a unit, and we’re still progressing.”
New offensive coordinator Robby Brown is another key reason for the improvement, said Jones.
“The OC, coach Brown, has us doing the right things. I feel very confident in the offensive package. If we execute what we’re being taught, no doubt we will win,” he said.
The Demons have honed in on special teams in their first two days of camp. Tuesday they spent time on point after touchdown kicks, field goal protection, and exchange time between the snapper and holder, while working new holders without projected starter Brandon Monrose (sidelined with a relatively minor injury). Kickoff and kickoff return work is just ahead on the practice plan.
Iowa State transfer Chris Moore, a sophomore from Plano, Texas, has turned heads already as NSU tries to replace record-setting John Shaughnessy at kicker. Moore is wearing Shaughnessy’s No. 37 jersey.
“Chris Moore has really looked good on the first two days. He hit one from 50 with a lot of room to spare today and overall, he’s been very impressive, very consistent,” said Thomas.
True freshman Chase Tassin from Hammond-St. Thomas Aquinas is handling the punting duties with aplomb, said Thomas, while sophomore Andy Wickman has been serving a two-week disciplinary suspension.
While most of the NSU team shuttled between the revitalized grass practice fields and the new artificial turf in Turpin Stadium, there was no transit for the linemen.
“We left the big linemen out here on the grass field for the whole practice, and they were very appreciative. Actually, the defensive line talked me into that Monday night,” said Thomas, chuckling.
Jones and his comrades were quite pleased.
“It was a good break from the inferno over there, that hot turf. We loved it,” he said.
The Demons continue their 3:30 p.m. practices through Friday, then have their first scrimmage Saturday morning at 9:30 in Turpin Stadium.