Let’s get physical, scrimmage offers taste of game conditions

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2021

By Jim Gazzolo

Special to the American Press

For the first week of camp, McNeese State practices have been filled with controlled energy. That might change today.

The Cowboys will play the first of two scrimmages inside their stadium starting at noon. The scrimmage is closed to the public.

“We are excited and we are ready,” said head coach Frank Wilson. “We want to see how we respond to competition and how we play.”

Wilson said he hopes to see a football team vastly improved from the one he had in the spring, when the Cowboys finished 3-4, but won two of their last three.

“We want to come out and play fast,” he said. “We want to get a good look at people and see where we are at.”

The Cowboys are three weeks from opening the season at home against Division II defending national champion West Florida. That title came in 2019 as the division did not play a playoff last spring and UWF did not field a team due to COVID-19.

“We are ready to play football, to come out and hit somebody,” said defensive end Isaiah Chambers. “We will get a chance to do that. We want to go out there, play fast.”

What Chambers really wants to do his hit somebody.

“Love that, love the competition,” he said. “You like to play at game speed and hit people and get hit.”

Of course, not everybody can be hit the same on the field during practice or a scrimmage. You can’t hit the quarterbacks or anybody wearing red shirts.

“No, we can’t hit them,” Chambers said. “That’s a little frustrating because that is what we do.”

Chambers led the Southland Conference with 7.5 sacks last season.

Quarterback Cody Orgeron said he is looking forward to seeing how far the offense has come over the workouts. He said he’s hoping the offense can open up this season with new additions, including graduate transfer CeeJay Powell, a wide receiver from Louisiana Tech.

“He has the ability to take the top off the passing game,” Orgeron said of Powell. “But he is more than a speed guy. He can work underneath.”

Orgeron said he hopes that the offense can be more open this fall. That will depend on an improved offensive line.

“I think we can be a very good offense this season,” he said. “We have a lot of weapons. It will be fun to see where we are at.”

The quarterback also knows today will be far from a finished product.

“We have a long way to go, but this is the next step,” he said. “We want to keep moving forward. We have some high expectations.”

The scrimmage will be controlled.

“We’ll play the length of the field, predominantly based (on) down situations,” Wilson said. “We’ll come all the way from the minus-10, 20-yard line and drive it all the way down to the other end of the red zone to really just test and see where we’re at right now.

“We’ll have an emphasis on first to third down, and if we’re able, get into some short-yardage goal-line situation that has been installed.”

NOTES: Chambers was named to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, which was announced this week. The preseason All-American is one of three players from the Southland Conference to make the list and one of 37 from non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

The game will be played Feb. 5 and broadcast live on the NFL Network.