NATCHITOCHES - As Northwestern State opens its first spring practice under new coach Jay Thomas on Tuesday afternoon, there's no relevant history for the Demons.
With a new coaching staff and entirely different schemes, education and evaluation are the major themes of NSU's spring, which includes seven of the 15 practices coming in the next nine days. After the university's spring break follows Easter, the Demons resume drills pointing toward the 24th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl Spring Game on Saturday, April 20 in Turpin Stadium.
Weekday workouts begin at 3 p.m. with scrimmages set for next Wednesday, March 27 and Saturday, April 11. The two Saturday sessions, this weekend and April 11, begin at 9 a.m., with a 1 p.m. Delaney Bowl kickoff on April 20.
"Our number one goal is evaluation time. We want to be fair in opportunities to evaluate every young man on the field, while we're installing our new offense, a new defense and a new kicking plan," said Thomas, who took over in December with six years of head coaching experience from 2004-09 at Nicholls State.
Although 16 starters from 2012 return, along with 11 others who started at least once last season, they have no opening status that outranks any others going through spring practice.
"It's wide open. What has happened has no bearing on what could happen depending on how these young men work, learn and develop," said Thomas, NSU's defensive line coach in 2010-11 and the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach last fall at Missouri Southern.
"Our offseason program has been tremendous. We had over 100 personal records broken in the weightroom. The offseason mat drills really made us better. That was the first phase of our plan, and now spring ball is phase two. We need to maintain the gains in strength and endurance over the next month, have a productive 15 workouts and get to phase three, the post spring program that will carry us through the summer," he said.
The first half of spring ball is packed with on-field action, by design.
"Our schedule will quickly get them acclimated to the way we practice," said Thomas. "In the first two days, in shorts and helmets, we'll be learning schemes, learning the drills and how to do them. Thursday we'll make corrections and Friday we pull on shoulder pads. Saturday, it's full pads. The length of practice increases Friday and Saturday and so will the speed as our guys understand what we want and settle into a routine.
"We'll prepare our team and coaches for fall practice with our first seven days this spring. We'll go Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday off, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then head home for Easter and spring break."
Thomas said fans are welcome to watch all workouts.