NATCHITOCHES – The calendar says January, but the Northwestern State football team has settled into a routine that usually is reserved for much later in the year.
As the Demons prepare for Sunday’s 2 p.m. scrimmage – the first of spring preseason camp – the uniqueness of practicing in January has worn off and more familiar feelings are emerging.
“It is going to be different, but our mind-set is we’re getting ready for that first game – it just happens to be Feb. 20,” said head coach Brad Laird, whose third season at the helm of his alma mater begins Feb. 20. “They have the opportunity to line up against somebody else. They understand what’s at state as we continue to move forward each day.”
Laird said he hopes to get in about 80 plays in Sunday’s workout, which marks the ninth practice of spring camp for the Demons.
Between the change in seasons and the change in typical camp weather, the Demons have found another reason to sharpen their preseason focus.
“We’re so excited to be able to go out and play (at Lamar on Feb. 20),” Laird said. “In our mind-set, it’s a little different than fall camp where we did not have that competition against somebody else. It may be spring, and it’s going to be different, but our mind-set is getting ready for that first game.”
The Demons opened spring camp Jan. 22, following a fall in which they were able work in 15 practices and a trio of scrimmages, producing another unique setup for the Demons.
With few exceptions, the players who went through fall camp have returned for the spring season and have had less time away from one another, allowing for better carryover of principles from fall to spring. That is something Laird and his staff will keep a close eye on Sunday inside Turpin Stadium.
“Any time you’re in this spring camp mode, getting ready for your first regular-season game, being able to have these live scrimmages puts everything together,” Laird said. “We’ve had live situations. We’ve gone through a lot of different scenarios. To have the opportunity to put it all together, we’re excited. Our kids are excited. We are looking to make progress, to work on consistency and to get better in all three phases each and every day we go through it.”
There have been additional benefits Laird has seen from the season being postponed from the fall into the spring, mainly with focus.
“Our guys have done a really great job once we started in October with fall ball,” he said. “Our guys do understand it’s not really about the date as much as what’s going to happen on that date They have an opportunity to do something they love, which for a lot of them is something they’ve done since they were 6 or 7 years old. It means that much more this spring. They realize how quickly it can be taken away.
“Our guys understand that, and they don’t take any day for granted. The opportunity they have this spring is unlike any other.”