(Rick Hickman/American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 4:48 PMAn early reminder that football season isn’t far around the corner came on Wednesday as the Southland Conference announced its preseason all-conference team.
And early reminders are a good thing for McNeese State, which also learned on Wednesday that its Sept. 6 season opener at Nebraska will have a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kickoff time of 11 a.m.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN U.
Taking the field at Memorial Stadium that morning will be 10 Cowboys who have been named preseason all-conference — though ironically a couple of them may not even be starters.
Four of those Cowboys have already lived up to all-conference expectations — senior offensive lineman Antoine Everett, senior defensive end Everett Ellefsen, junior linebacker Bo Brown and senior defensive back Aaron Sam were named all-Southland in 2013 and are on the preseason first-team.
Joining them are junior offensive lineman Quentin Marsh and sophomore tight end Zach Hetrick, both of whom were switched from defense to offense last season.
Used mostly as a blocker, Hetrick did not pile up the stats last year as McNeese’s No. 2 option at tight end, grabbing three catches for 16 yards. He did, however, make them count — two of Hetrick’s grabs were for touchdowns.
He figures to fill a similar role for the Cowboys this year as transfer Deondre Skinner arrived from Tulane this summer.
The final Cowboy on the first team is junior punter Jean Breaux, who planted 15 of his punts inside the 20-yard line last season.
Senior wide receiver Ernest Celestie, junior cornerback Gabe Hamner and junior running back Kelvin Bennett were named to the preseason second team.
The speedy Bennett was McNeese’s No. 2 rusher a year ago, running for 774 yards and four touchdowns. Bennett’s knack is for busting out big runs, as his 7.2 yards per carry attests. However, he’ll be sharing the load with Mississippi State transfer Derrick Milton and Arkansas transfer Nate Holmes.
Celestie is back for an unexpected encore season after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in the offseason. He had 31 catches for 565 yards and five scores last season.
Hamner started every game for the Cowboys last year and had 48 tackles and two interceptions.
McNeese had the second-highest number of players named to the preseason all-conference team, trailing defending Southland champion Southeastern Louisiana’s total of 15. The Lions have nine first-teamers, led by returning conference player of the year quarterback Bryan Bennett.