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Gazzolo Column: Cowboys calm before the storm

Last Modified: Thursday, August 08, 2013 11:22 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Maybe this is just the calm before the storm.

Surely there will be rougher waters ahead.

But for now there is peace in the McNeese camp.

There is no circus of the Honey Badger like last year, no late Division I surprise like Janzen Jackson of two summers ago, either.

Tyrann Mathieu, better known as the Honey Badger, brought national attention to McNeese just a few days into training camp when he showed up on campus after LSU gave him the heave-ho.

There were Honey Badger sightings all over town and even talk he would join the Cowboys.

He didn’t.

Two years ago it was Jackson, a Barbe High grad, coming back home after running into trouble at Tennessee.  

That came just days before the first game.

Neither one of those proved very costly to McNeese’s season, just distractions, and coaches hate distractions.

So when McNeese officially began practice Wednesday, head coach Matt Viator was relaxed and, if not completely pleased, at least on schedule.

“I like it calm,” Viator said.

All the Cowboys who were supposed to be in camp were. Nobody missing, no late surprises.

“That is a good start,” said Viator. “That is the way you want it.”

He made sure to note that nothing which happened the last two years had anything to do with the McNeese season.

The Honey Badger went on his own way and Jackson played the rest of the season after the first game for the Cowboys.

Still, Viator likes knowing what he has got.

“It is good that everybody was here in the summer,” he said. “That gets everybody on the same page and used to the surroundings.”

That is especially key for a bumper crop of freshmen and a few transfers who are being asked to add depth to the lineup.

‘It makes things simple that they have all been here,” Viator said. “It is good for them, for the team. It is good for them academically, good for them to get comfortable with their surroundings.

“It just makes things go a little smoother.”

And that is what the coach and his Cowboys are hoping for, a smooth season.

The last few they have missed the playoffs, last year with a couple of key losses in the final minutes. Turn a game or two around and it is a different ending to the McNeese story.

Now, everybody is ready.

“We all know what to expect and what we have to do,” Viator said.

This was just opening day, if you will. No championships were decided, but there was a different kick in the Cowboys.

It might have been new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry jumping up and down on each snap like a man happy to be home, which he is. Maybe these guys are just comfortable with each other now after spending the summer together.

Or maybe it was the fact the players knew they only had to worry about playing and not who might or might not be here next.

Either way this promises to be an interesting fall at McNeese. There will be a new athletic director soon and this is a team that has been good but not reached Cowboy expectations of late.

“Every year is different, but one thing stays the same, we have high expectations here at McNeese,” Viator said. “Not just the fans but the players and coaches too.”

Those expectations can’t be met until November.

For August, the calm is perfect. The storm of a new season is on the horizon.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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