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McNeese Football Notebook: Harden, Burkhalter take snaps with No. 1 defense

Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:21 AM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Change was afoot during Tuesday’s practice as freshmen Kyle Harden and Brodie Burkhalter suited up with McNeese’s No. 1 defense.

But head coach Matt Viator said not to read too much into the change in terms of permanence.

“It’s planned. We do that all the time trying to build depth,” Viator said. “I think they’re playing good. But we always try to do that with guys we think can contribute. They need to get in there and get live snaps against the ones.”

Deonte Thompson, Bo Brown and Hayden Dobbs have been getting most of the snaps with the starting defense throughout the first week of camp.

• GROWING ROLE: Sophomore fullback Dylan Long is lining up as a tailback in double-tight end sets, and has seen multiple touches on the ground and through the air this week.

Viator said he hopes to be able to incorporate Long and freshman Devin Eaglin as feature backs in short-yardage situations.

“We’re really running fullback stuff with two tight ends,” Viator said. “Dylan and Devin Eaglin are both big backs, about 225 pounds. … We probably weren’t as efficient last year with short-yardage running, so we’re trying to get bigger backs back there and work them in to it.”

SHELBY IMPRESSING: True freshman wide receiver Kent Shelby is going to make it hard to put a redshirt on him if he continues to progress.

The 6-foot-3 New Orleans product has a knack for pulling in jump balls near the sideline.

“He’s very talented,” Viator said. “It seems like he has really great hands. Some of those guys have the ability to get those tie-balls. We haven’t had one of those for awhile, where he goes up and it seems like every tie is his.”

BLOCKAGE: The final play of Tuesday’s practice was a blocked 43-yard Jean Breaux field goal attempt.

TOUGH ROAD: The Sports Network preseason Top 25 was released Tuesday with three McNeese opponents in the poll (see Page C2).

Two-time defending national runner-up Sam Houston State is No. 3 in the country, while Central Arkansas comes in at No. 7. Nonconference opponent Northern Iowa is ranked 17th. The Cowboys face all three in consecutive games, though there is a bye week between UCA and Sam Houston.

McNeese received votes in the poll, but not as many as Week 2 opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Lions were third among teams receiving votes outside the Top 25.

MEETING: The McNeese Petrochem Athletic Association meets at 6 p.m. today in the McNeese Alumni Center on the corner of McNeese and Common Streets. Viator will be a guest speaker.

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