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McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

Five questions McNeese must answer during August camp

Last Modified: Saturday, August 03, 2013 7:29 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

The start of any football season brings plenty of questions, and they aren’t always obvious. Sometimes the answers aren’t, either.

Certain questions, particularly those regarding special teams play, will remain unknown until someone in a different uniform is lined up across the field.

Others should reveal themselves over the next three weeks as McNeese State prepares for its Aug. 31 season opener at South Florida beginning Wednesday.

Here are five things that August should reveal to us:

Does this team have enough depth at key positions?

At most spots, the names atop the depth chart are familiar. The Cowboys return eight starters on offense and seven on defense. But it takes more than one unit to win, and that is where things get a little murky.

All of the players listed at No. 2 in the secondary are freshmen or sophomores. Head coach Matt Viator has already attempted to add to the group’s depth by converting third-string quarterback Leon Blouin into a defensive back.

It’s a similar story on interior of the defensive line. Michael Ware and Kevin Dorn are proven entities at tackle, but don’t have much experience behind them. Sean Brown and Krishon Seastrunk have seen a little bit of playing time but finished last year with the same number of tackles (2) as punter Jean Breaux.

On offense, the depth questions are at wide receiver.

Diontae Spencer, Ernest Celestie and Wes Briscoe combined for 65 catches for 881 yards and six touchdowns last year. Who else in the receivers room can become a threat?

How well will the inexperienced offensive line mesh together?

Last season’s biggest strength was arguably the veteran offensive line, with the Cowboys allowing 19 fewer sacks than in 2011.

This year the line will be anchored by left tackle Antoine Everett and right guard Arinze Agada. Viator said he considers both to be among the best he’s ever had at their respective positions.

They better be, because the guys around them are pretty green.

Viator is high on Quinten Marsh and Nick Gorman, each of whom moved from the defensive to offensive lines in spring. Redshirt freshmen Mason Martin, Ben Jones, Patrick Jacobs and Taylor Donaldson could be in the mix, as well as sophomore Nick Smith.

There’s even a chance true freshmen Thor Miller and Adam Ziepke could get in on the action.

No matter what combination of five ends up starting on opening night, offensive line coach Rob Sale has work to put in the next couple of weeks.

How will the defense take to new coordinator Lance Guidry?

Hearing a new voice always takes time to get used to, and for some, Guidry’s booming Cajun drawl may be a shock to the senses akin to chugging a straight shot of Tabasco.

While replacing a coordinator after spring practice is not ideal, at least the 4-2-5 scheme won’t be changing. And odds are the players won’t hesitate to listen to a coach who has seen success at the Football Bowl Subdivision level the last few years. But it still might take a few practices for everyone to be on the same page with their new coach regarding terminology and expectations.

Is Will Briscoe finally healthy enough to compete for playing time at quarterback?

If there were a country song about a down-on-his-luck college quarterback, “The Ballad of Will Briscoe” might be its name.

Repeated injuries to both knees have kept the sophomore, who should be a senior like his twin brother Wes, from ever setting foot on the field in a game after being the most hyped recruit in his signing class.

Will is giving it another go this fall. He might not push Cody Stroud for the starting job, but in the past Viator has shown an affinity for using guys like Mark Fontenot and Riley Dodge in games as a change of pace from the starter.

Surely everyone is rooting for the chance to see a Briscoe-to-Briscoe touchdown connection at least once this season.

Which true freshmen will be ready to make an impact this season?

The majority of incoming freshmen will take a redshirt season, but every year there seems to be someone who forces their way onto the field straight out of high school.

Last year, punter/kickoff specialist Jean Breaux and linebacker Bo Brown filled that role.

The favorites this season are likely to fill in at the positions where depth is a question mark.

Defensive tackles Antonio McGhee and Anthony Yruegas are both candidates, as are Miller and Ziepke on the offensive line.

That doesn’t rule out any of the 14 other newcomers, one of whom can come on strong like Brown did a year ago.

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