LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - It’s been a long time since the McNeese Cowboys last put on football helmets – 410 days to be exact. That changes on Wednesday when the Cowboys open up a new kind of spring training, one to prepare for a first-ever spring season.
McNeese will play a 7-game slate beginning on February 13 at Tarleton State who recently made the move to the Division I ranks and will be a member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Cowboys’ first-year head coach Frank Wilson is excited to get started a few days earlier than normal thanks to a waiver granted by the Southland Conference since the Cowboys were unable to have any kind of offseason workout program due to the devastation to facilities caused by hurricanes Laura and Delta.
“We’re very fortunate. We were able to petition to the conference to allow us to come in a couple days earlier with respect that we didn’t have a fall practice season like the remainder of our conference,” said Wilson. “Certainly our situation is unique because of the hurricanes and not just COVID.
“To have legitimate practices, it’s thrilling. The kids are excited. The staff is excited.”
The Cowboys reported on Tuesday and met with the Athletic Administration as well as conducted COVID testing.
The Cowboys will slip on the helmets for the first practice on Wednesday.
“We’ll have our five acclimation days,” said Wilson. “The first two will be in helmets then the second two we’ll be able to put on the helmets and shoulder pads and we’ll gradually make our way into putting the pants on as well and get a chance to do what our sport does.
“We have to be able to tackle. We have to be able to break tackles. It’s been nearly a calendar year since we’ve been here and we have had a chance to practice tackle football, and that’s critical in our sport. You have to be able to do those things to have success.”
Wilson and the coaching staff has met the last few days working on a plan that will focus on gaining an identity and seeing that the Cowboys’ ability is when facing certain situations.
“We’re in a sport that requires so many moving parts,” said Wilson. “We need to see what we do well when we’re stressed. When passes are contested. When bodies are hanging on you. How quarterbacks stand in the pocket. How receivers create separation. Can we get a guy to the ground. Those things we don’t know.
“We’ve run around and moved about, but as far as a real practice, we haven’t had an opportunity. We want to see our personnel, who we are. We want to see what we do well. And continue to eliminate an add to the menu of plays to offense, defense and special teams so come February, we have an identity on the things that we can do well.”
The Cowboys will play three games at home this spring – Feb. 27 vs. Incarnate Word, Mar. 13 vs. Lamar, and April 10 vs. Sam Houston State. All three are expected to be played in Cowboy Stadium.
“I’m grateful. I’m thankful and excited,” said Wilson about playing in The Hole. “At one point when we talked about playing the season and there was discussion of ‘where will you play? Your field, your stadium was under water coach, you guys can’t play at McNeese’. And we have a president (Dr. Daryl Burckel) that said ‘there is no Plan B. We’re playing at McNeese’. Even I didn’t know but he said we’ll do it; we’ll be back.
“To allow our community to be able to embrace their team, to celebrate our team. It’s a big deal. To put into perspective of what it means to our community: family outing, history, culture. People have been raised sitting on the hills of this stadium; in the bleachers and tell stories of grandparents and aunt and uncle and sibling for many, many years, and how they bask in the joy of victory of McNeese. I get really emotional when I talk about it because I know what it means to our community.”
NOTE: Due to COVID rules and protocol, all practices will be closed to fans and media.
2021 McNeese Football Spring Schedule
Feb. 13 at Tarleton State
Feb. 27 *vs. Incarnate Word
Mar. 6 *at Southeastern Louisiana
Mar. 13 * vs. Lamar
Mar. 20 *at Northwestern State
Apr. 3 *at Nicholls
Apr. 10 *Sam Houston State
Game times and ticket information will be announced in the coming days.