Day 1 of fall camp wrapped up for the Cowboys

Transfer running back Stephon Huderson going through catching drills in practice
Transfer running back Stephon Huderson going through catching drills in practice(KPLC)
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - McNeese football stepped on the A.I. Ratcliff Practice Fields on Friday to start fall camp, the first August practice held since the 2019 season.

The morning session consisted of the veterans with select newcomers while the afternoon practice was with the freshmen, select returners, and other newcomers.

“There was a lot of excitement today,” said second-year head coach Frank Wilson. “A lot of guys were moving around. I thought there was a lot of energy and effort. The team got better today. It was good to get them back in camp mode.

“It’s different for the new guys. The tempo, the pace of what we do. Our culture is one that requires adaptation. We have guys that are fresh out of high school, junior college, or even transfers. We conduct our business at a high rate and to learn how to practice is critical. It was rough on the young guys today, but we like our team, we like our talent, and like our potential.”

Wilson explains the advantage of conducting the split-squad practices.

“It’s for the development of our football team, for our roster,” he said. “Those guys who are new to our team, those guys who have played some for our team, we just want to upgrade the quality and quantity of our football team so that we can put a guy in the game and see as little a drop off as possible. The only way you can do that is to play. Experience is the best teacher. With our divided practices, we can give undivided attention at least to two deep, and so ultimately in one day, we’ve repped four deep opposed to one practice where we can’t get all four of them or their minimal in opportunities.”

Newcomers that participated in the morning group with the veterans included Tulane transfer running back Stephon Huderson and Louisiana Tech transfer receiver CeeJay Powell. Powell practiced with the Cowboys during the spring but was ineligible due to transfer rules. He’s eager to the fall started and build on the things he learned during the spring.

“The terminology and the way the receivers move around, it’s diverse,” said Powell. “When I first got here, I was scared. I was afraid I may never get this. But coming in every day, staying in my playbook, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Now that we’re in fall camp, I’m running and repping it, it’s easier for me to grasp.”

Powell made several nice catches in the morning while Huderson showed some explosiveness when carrying the ball, making impressive cuts, and bursting up the field.

All-conference wide receiver Josh Matthews is excited about what the Cowboys have in store for the upcoming season.

“I feel like it’s going to be a successful season for us,” said Matthews. “We had a great offseason where we all got bigger, faster, and stronger. As a receiving group, we’re a close-knit unit and have gelled together really well. I’m excited about what we have.”

One question mark during the spring was the offensive line. The Cowboys appear to have answered that with the additions of some giants in transfers Romello Tarver (6-5, 272, Central Michigan) and Trey Winters (6-6, 338, Iowa Central CC/Univ. of Iowa). The two, along with veterans Calvin Barkat, Caron Coleman, and Nick Holiday, along with a handful of capable freshmen, give the Cowboys an offensive line they haven’t seen in quite some time.

“It’s great to be back out here and have a sense of normalcy,” said Barkat. “It was a quick turnaround from the spring but with our strength staff, trainers, coaches, we worked our butts off in the offseason and got a lot better.

“When you look back at the spring, we had the injury bug hit us and guys mixed and matched all season,” said Barkat. “Having the transfers and freshmen come in to give us some depth is definitely a blessing.”

Quarterback Cody Orgeron enters the season ranked in the top 10 in the school career record book in numerous categories and has more weapons to target and because of that, might not have to use his feet as much.

“Coach Bunting (strength coach Jimmie Bunting) did a great job with us in the offseason and made us a lot better,” said Orgeron. “The guys coming in have gelled great with the veterans and they’ll make us better. We have a great receiving group and the offensive line will be great as well. Of course, sometimes you have to tuck the ball and run, but this year the plan is to be able to stay in the pocket as much as possible because we have the playmakers out there.”

The Cowboys will be back on the practice field again at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, will take Monday off, then will come together as a full unit for the first time on Tuesday at 9.

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