NATCHITOCHES - As Northwestern State began the first
two-a-day practice and second week of preseason football camp Monday, new
Demons offensive coordinator Robby Brown was nowhere close to huddling with
head coach Jay Thomas to choose a starting quarterback.
NSU worked out Monday morning and again Monday night
after a day off Sunday. The team practices Tuesday at 3:30, then has two
sessions Wednesday, one Thursday and two Friday.
The first scrimmage of camp last Saturday showed why
Brown, also the quarterbacks coach, seems to be always smiling. He has good
choices to trigger the NSU offense. True freshman J.D. Almond threw two
touchdown passes, while classmate T.J. Fleeton moved the ball consistently.
Junior college transfer Zach Adkins spent more time with the No. 1 offense than
his counterparts, but redshirt freshman Daniel "Bear" Hazlewood
looked sharp in his opportunities as NSU averaged 5.9 yards per play on 68
snaps and scored 39 points.
"All four guys have done a really good job competing
on every rep, individual or team," said Brown. "In Saturday's
scrimmage, J.D. Almond really impressed me with his poise. Bear Hazlewood knows
the offense, is a headsy player, a calm guy. Zach Adkins and T.J. Fleeton are
pretty talented guys, and T.J. has a really big arm.
"We're not ready to name a starter there, in any
way, shape or form, but the competition has been good and has made each of them
better," he said.
A blend of newcomers and returning veterans has been a
good mix at receiver and running back through a week of practice, said Brown.
"We have a lot of running backs with game
experience, and added Garrett Atzenweiler who was a good player in a strong
Jayhawk Conference at the junior college level. I can inject any of those guys
in the lineup, sometimes according to the situation," he said.
"We have a small home-run hitter in Daniel Taylor.
Garrett gives us a power back. Rob Walker is Mr. Consistency, always doing what
he's supposed to do. Rumeall Morris has been productive as a Demon. Now we have
the local guy, De'Mard Llorens, who has really opened our eyes (71 yards
rushing on six carries Saturday) and is pressing for time. Matt Flores gives us
a different look as a shifty back," said Brown. "We have a lot of
ways to go, and the competition has been very good.
Two junior college transfers, a true freshman and a
converted cornerback have supplemented the receiver corps. The additions are Brian Mitchell of
Southwestern (Calif.) College and Chris
Fields from Butler County (Kan.) Community College along with
Lafayette-Northside freshman Shakeir Ryan and sophomore Ed Eagan, who will be
the Demons' return specialist and a part-time cornerback.
"Not only have the new players been very
competitive, but the returning guys have raised the level of their games as a
result. We've had good days and bad days, but from spring to now, I've been
very pleased with the improvement of our receivers," said Brown.
The steadiest position group offensively has been the
front line, anchored by four senior starters - center Warren Jones, tackles
Blayne Cole and Jeremy Raine, and guard Tchissakid Player.
"It doesn't matter what scheme you run, you better
be good up front and you better have a trigger man. Those offensive linemen are
the most mature position on the field, anchored by seniors who have been
through the grind and are hungry to win," said Brown. "We do have
some talented guys, and they're fun to be around. We're looking for them to
anchor the team and that's probably my favorite position group as far as how
much progress we've made, and the quiet leadership they've shown."
Brown's offensive scheme has roots in the spread offense
shaped by Tony Franklin, who was Louisiana Tech's offensive coordinator last
year and gave Brown his first coaching job at Troy in 2006. Brown, who called
the plays last year as Valdosta State won the NCAA Division II national
championship, says senior tight end Tucker Nims has sparkled so far in camp.
Tucker Nims has come in and challenged for the job
after leaving spring as the No. 3 guy. He's a leader, knows this is his last
year, and he's playing with a sense of urgency," said Brown. "He has
soft hands, his blocking is improved and he's trying to force my hand to use a
tight end more than I might tend to do so."
Veterans Corey Simmons and Chris Dever are also in a
spirited competition for the starting role there.