NATCHITOCHES - There may not be any more emotional head coach in Division I football than Northwestern State's Bradley Dale Peveto, so when his team was relatively emotionless Tuesday morning in a 2:30-long full pads practice, the potential was ripe for an eruption.
While Peveto had some fiery words talking to the Demons in Turpin Stadium for 10 minutes during the lunch hour after wrapping practice, he also was encouraged by what he'd just seen.
"It was a good business workday. There was no emotion," he said. "It was very flat. It was like a heavy rain on cotton today. But they worked.
"What good teams do, tough teams do, they fight through the heat and the body aches. When I played, we had two-a-days for three straight weeks, no breaks. To me, this is like a vacation. It's a battle not to give in to fatigue and to be mentally tough, and it truly is a case of only the strong survive. We quietly moved forward today," he said.
NSU will work out twice Wednesday, at 9:40 a.m. and 6:50 p.m., in full gear as the Demons head toward their second major scrimmage Saturday evening at 6 in Turpin Stadium.
New defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach had no problems listing his standouts through 13 preseason workouts. Junior nose tackle Lesley Deamer, junior safety Bert White and two-time All-America linebacker Derek Rose were predictable choices.
True freshman defensive end Leroy Armstrong, and junior linebacker Pat Black are emerging alongside the veteran stalwarts.
"Leroy has some explosiveness. He doesn't know what to do yet, but Leroy's going to have to play this year and play a lot. He's our pass rushing end, coming off the edge. He can go," said DeLoach. "He's got that extra get-up like Lesley Deamer does in the middle."
The position battle DeLoach is eyeing closely is at cornerback, where NSU must replace departed seniors Jeremy Lane, now with the Seattle Seahawks, and Cashas Pollard, a three-year starter.
We've got to have some guys to come out of the pack and grab it there," said DeLoach. "Right now that's our number one area that needs to come along this week."
Offensively, coordinator Todd Cooley said returning starting quarterback Brad Henderson has had a great camp and his backup, sophomore Don Canyon, has shown impressive progress. True freshmen are making impact in several spots.
"Daniel 'Bear' Hazlewood has really impressed me right out of the gate in my room. He seems to get better with every play and that's unusual for a true freshman quarterback," said Cooley. "Pace Murphy on the offensive line is doing an excellent job. He doesn't look like a freshman at tackle. (Tailback) Daniel Taylor is another true freshman who has impressed us and it looks like he's going to get on the field this fall. "
While offensive line play appears significantly improved, along with depth at that position, the constant struggle continues to keep the linemen on the field and not sidelined, mostly with heat issues. The injuries up front are relatively minor but nonetheless frustrating, Cooley said.
"All in all, we've had a really good camp offensively. If we can ever get our O-line together out there, we'll be a good unit. The tight ends are doing a good job. The backs we have out there are doing well, and we want to get Sidney Riley and Rob Walker back out there because they're two of our best. When it all clicks together, we'll be fun to watch.
"We're pretty close on offense. There's not an area that really jumps out needing a big improvement. We just need the continuity that comes from your best guys playing together day after day," he said.
"Clifton Brown seems to bring it every day at receiver. Kenderick Johnson, who arrived in the spring, had a great scrimmage last Saturday night (three catches, TD plays of 60 and 54 yards) and keeps making plays. Rondarious Morris made some plays today and we're excited about what he can do for this team," Cooley said.
Special teams coordinator Brendan Farrell has senior all-star candidates Nic Russo (punter) and John Shaughnessy (kicker) to build around, along with a corp of other returning veterans.
"We have a lot of returning guys who have played a lot on special teams for us in the past 2-3 years, like Jamaal White, Brashard Booker, Pat Black, Tyler Smith, who we know what they can do. We're looking among the young guys and seeing players like Wilbur Myers, Ed Eagan, Chase Collins, Luke Turner, Wa'Derrious Sellers sticking out already, showing us they can help us," said Farrell.
"We try to get our base techniques taught early in camp, not getting concerned with schemes yet. It's how we want them to do things, and the exact X's and O's will follow as we get closer to the season. I think some of those young guys are going to introduce themselves to our fans with really good special teams plays."
For Shaughnessy and Russo, the keys are refining replacements at snapper and holder.
"The expectation level is so high for John and Nic, and they need to be pushing the guys stepping into starting roles," said Farrell. "(Snapper) Justin Warner is starting to get comfortable working with the ones, and that's good. Spencer Harrell is settling in at holder. It's been a luxury the last three years to have David Larsen snapping and Phil LeBlanc holding, and getting to that comfort level is simply going to take repetitions, making it routine.
"We probably had our best day as specialists today, but that's behind us, in the books, and we have to wake up and have a better day tomorrow," said Farrell.