LAKE CHARLES – McNeese’s defensive line for the 2017 season is already being considered to be one of the most dominant in the Southland Conference, if not nation, with sack masters Jammerio Gross-Whitaker and Chris Livings on the ends.
Incorporate senior Antonio McGhee who returns after missing all of the 2016 season to a knee injury, and the strength of the position is bolstered dramatically.
“He’s playing better than he probably ever has,” said head coach Lance Guidry of the 6-foot, 290-pound Parkway High School product. “He knows more now. He’s healthy and in great shape.”
As a junior in 2015, McGhee recorded 22 tackles in 10 games while making two starts and has played in 28 games in his career with five starts. His senior season was expecting to be a breakout year for the defensive tackle, but three tears in his meniscus and surgery in May of 2016 forced him to the sideline in what whould’ve been his senior year.
Since he played as a true freshman in 2013, McGhee was awarded a redshirt for last season to get healthy and return for this coming year which kicks off on August 31 at Nicholls.
Watching his fellow Cowboys go through last year’s off-season, fall camp, then the 2016 year, the all-conference candidate could only think about getting back onto the playing field that has meant so much to him.
“Watching the game on the sideline, it gave me another outlook on preparing for everything whether it’s watching film, practicing, in the weight room, whatever,” said McGhee. “It’s made me appreciate the game a lot more.”
“His knee is doing well,” said Guidry. “He squatted 500-600 pounds in the summer, so he’s healthy and ready to go. He’s also a good leader out there, along with Jam (Jammerio Gross-Whitaker), so between those two, there is a lot of experience.”
“Things are going good right now,” said McGhee. “I just thank God that my knee has held up and able to get back out and play ball, something I haven’t been able to do since 2015. I was able to practice some in the spring but the knee has been great throughout the summer and now. I credit that to God and Coach Ben (strength coach Ben Sowders) and his staff.”
After a year-and-a-half of rehabbing, McGhee feels this year’s Cowboys will be something special.
“We have a good group of guys who work hard. We have Jammerio, Butter (Livings), Kurt (Viges). The backups look good – Jalen Bowers, Jonta (Jones), Marval (Bourgeois). We’re all on the same page. We all come to work every day and have it on our mind to get better.”
The fifth-year senior, one of 24 seniors on the team, has taken a leadership role on the squad.
“I tell everyone before practice to have a good day,” said McGhee. “I just try to spread positivity. I learned that attitude is everything. If you come out there positive, then positive things will happen.”
Practice Notes from Sunday’s First Day in Full Pads
• Both the offense and defense had things to cheer about in the afternoon practice but it was the defense that came out on top in the end.
• Senior FS Andre Fuller recorded five pass break-ups in all the drills on the day.
• Brandon Blackwell, Trent Jackson and Marval Bourgeois each collected a sack in half team and full team periods.
• TE LaWayne Ross had a 45-yard touchdown catch that included a juke to the left to shake a defender after catching the pass from James Tabary 10 yards down over the middle.
• WR Trevor Begue had three sensational catches, one that went for a 50-yard touchdown.
• DE Jammerio Gross-Whitaker had the big hit of the day when he made a squared up tackle on WR Darious Crawley in team work near the end of practice.
• WR Parker Orgeron and FS Erik Jones sat out of practice today. The two are expected back for Monday morning’s 9 a.m. full pads practice.