McNeese kicks off football season with Southland Media Day
HOUSTON – Southland Football Media Day returned to an in-person event for the first time since the 2019 season at the Houston Hilton Post Oak as the official kick-off to the football season got underway with the six league teams taking part.
McNeese second-year head coach Frank Wilson was joined by quarterback Cody Orgeron and All-American defensive end Isaiah Chambers in the event that featured a live Q&A session on ESPN+, media one-on-one interviews, social media session and an SLC Car Wash.
Earlier in the day, the league released the preseason poll with the Cowboys selected fourth. Southeastern Louisiana topped the poll followed by Nicholls and UIW. Northwestern State and HBU followed McNeese to round out the poll.
The Cowboys, 3-4 during the spring, returns most of its starters from that squad including 95 percent of its offensive output. McNeese is looking to win its first league title since 2015 and first postseason victory since the 2002 season.
“We’re anxious to be able to play a fall season and compete for a conference championship,” said Wilson. “Our players have trained diligently and staff has worked extremely hard.”
During the spring, the Cowboys won two of their last three games while closing out the season with one of the top defenses in the nation.
“It was a big deal to play in the spring,” said Wilson. “We couldn’t do anything in the fall because we were in a unique situation because some of our guys were in shelters and living in other parts of the region due to the hurricanes (Laura and Delta).
“It was big for us to get to play in the spring to give us some sort of normality and get to play in front of our fans and our community.
“In 20 plus years of coaching it was probably the toughest job I have endured. We had to let the players know that we will prevail and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The spring season happened and we started to play our best football at the back end of the season. We came closer together than ever before.”
Chambers was named a consensus All-American following the spring slate after being named to five different organization’s first-team units. Also, the grad student earned SLC and Louisiana Defensive Player of the Year honors and finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award which is given to the top defensive player in the FCS. He was named national defensive player of the year by Phil Steele.
“I’m excited to be back and playing in the fall,” said Chambers. “I feel like when I’m playing my best, we play our best as a defense. I try to stay positive and lead by example. I don’t talk a lot but I try to lead our guys and show them that if they give their best efforts, great things will come.”
Orgeron has climbed up most school career record lists and will enter the season ranking ninth all-time with 4,336 passing yards and tied for sixth with 35 TD passes.
“I have the utmost confidence in my teammates going into the fall,” Orgeron said. “Being able to play in the spring season was big for us to build that connection and also during the offseason in the weight room and with conditioning.”
Wilson said there is no ceiling for this team.
“We played a good game against the national champions in Sam Houston,” he said. “We had our chances to win that game and we’re very pleased with the progress we made. If we can pick up where we left off, I think we have a chance to have a very special season.
“Our short-term goal is to position ourselves to win the Southland Conference, and we know that the champion of this league is in a good position to win the national championship.”
The Cowboys open the season on September 4 against West Florida, the defending NCAA Division II national champion. Following that, McNeese visits LSU on Sept. 11 in what will be a match-up between father and son in Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron and the McNeese QB.
“I’m looking forward to that game,” said Orgeron. “It’s really a blessing. It’s going to be a hostile environment so I’m preparing myself now for it.”
The Cowboys will wrap up an eight-week offseason program on Friday and will take next week off before reporting for fall camp on August 4.
“In June we began an eight-week regiment with strength and conditioning and our school work as well,” said Wilson. “We came out of it better, getting bigger, faster and stronger while also excelling in the classroom. The summer was outstanding for us.”
McNeese also boosted its roster with several Division I transfers, most notably wide receiver Cee Jay Powell (Louisiana Tech), defensive back Corione Harris (Kansas), running back Stephon Huderson (Tulane), linebacker Ge’Mon Eaford (Oregon), offensive linemen Romello Tarver (Central Michigan) and Trey Winters (Iowa), just to name a few.
“For every guy that entered the transfer portal, we replaced with an all-conference player,” said Wilson. “And for the guys that ended their eligibility, we added some quality players who will make an immediate impact either now on in the future.”
“We want to bring a conference championship to Lake Charles,” said Orgeron. “There’s so much resiliency from the people in Southwest Louisiana. We’re playing for the city and want to them home a championship.”
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