LAKE CHARLES, La (Northwestern State Athletics) – Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant kicked off the league’s annual football media day by touting strength in numbers.

In the same way, Northwestern State coach Brad Laird pumped up the newness that surrounds his Demons entering the 2022 season.

“There has been a lot of movement at Northwestern State University,” Laird said. “We have a new president in Dr. Marcus Jones, a new athletic director in Kevin Bostian and six of our eight full-time coaches are new. We have the new turf and new lights. There is a lot of excitement around the program.

“When you have Southland Conference Media Day, it’s always exciting because it means fall camp is right around the corner. More so, this year’s fall camp will be different. There’s a lot of competition. Any time your best players are your hardest workers, you have a chance to be successful. It took us longer than we wanted, but we are there now and look forward to it.”

Northwestern State was selected fifth in the league’s preseason poll, which was announced Wednesday morning before media day events began at L’Auberge Casino and Resort.

Echoing Grant’s comments about forming a united front in the Southland Conference, the Demons have focused on melding 30 new players with a core of returners that produced a pair of preseason first-team All-Southland Conference selections in cornerback Shemar Bartholomew and safety PJ Herrington.

“We’re stacked,” said defensive end Isaiah Longino, a preseason second-team all-conference selection who ranks sixth in school history with 15.5 sacks. “That’s the biggest thing. In the first two groups at almost every position, I feel like any one of them could be a starter.”

Among the six new coaches on staff are first-year NSU coordinators Cody Crill (offense) and Weston Glaser (defense).

Longino and fellow media day attendee Javon Antonio both praised the energy each coordinator brought with them to Natchitoches.

“The first thing he told us was he was here to win a conference championship,” Antonio said of Crill. “That’s what we’re going to do. I see it happening. I feel like it’s going to be a really nice season.”

The Demons quickly will learn the impact of the 30 new players and six new coaches in the non-conference season. Northwestern State opens with longtime FCS power Montana on Sept. 3 and faces Grambling in Shreveport on Sept. 10 before traveling to Southern Miss on Sept. 17 ahead of the Sept. 24 Southland Conference and home opener against Lamar.

Laird was visibly excited about the opportunities ahead of his team as he delivered his preseason remarks on ESPN+.

“I’m excited about playing Montana in Week One,” he said. “We’re making that trip in September because we want to make that trip in December. We want to play in those environments in December. That’s where we want to be. If we didn’t have belief in this team being able to compete with Montana, we wouldn’t be there.

“Then to be able to play an in-state school in Shreveport is great for both universities before we head to Southern Miss. We’ll find out a lot about our team right out of the gate. The last four or five years, we’ve had success later in the year. This year, we’ve got to start fast.”