Starting from scratch: Camp opens with big turnover — new coaches, players

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Finally, after spending the last seven months recruiting players, shaking hands and talking to fans, Gary Goff gets to coach his football team.

The man picked last December to turn around McNeese State football will conduct his first official practice today under the morning sun. His won’t be the only new face on the practice fields either.

Goff brings an entirely new staff, 110 players — including 58 fresh players— with him as McNeese starts its camp in preparation for the season opener 31 days and 1,482 miles away at second-ranked Montana State.

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Roughly half the McNeese roster will be new as the Cowboys go through workouts today with their sights set on Sept. 3 in Bozeman, Montana.

“I’m excited to get out there with our new team,” Goff said. “We have to see how we can put this thing together.”

Goff takes over a program reeling, trying to recover from academic sanctions, a pair of hurricanes and three coaches in six seasons. All that led to back-to-back losing campaigns for the first time in program history since 1988-89, 33 years ago.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Goff said.

McNeese finished 4-7 last fall, ending with an embarrassing home loss at the hands of Northwestern State. The Cowboys were a little better during the spring season as they went 3-4 after COVID shut down the 2020 fall campaign.

After serving their NCAA-imposed one-year postseason ban for academic issues dating back three coaching staffs, McNeese is hoping that Goff returns the program to prominence.

“This place has a lot of tradition and we will play for championships here,” Goff said. “This community has supported McNeese and deserves a winning team.”

Everybody is fighting for playing time. Despite having eight players named to the preseason all-Southland Conference teams, not one guy has a guaranteed starting job as workouts begin, Goff said.

“We don’t have any starters right now,” Goff said. “Every position will be open to competition.”

Goff didn’t get a good look at many players during spring camp as the Cowboys were limited by injuries and those who left the program. That leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

“In the spring we would run a series or two and then have to take a break,” Goff said. “It is not the way you we want to go. Now we are almost four deep, so we are excited about getting after it.”

No position will be watched more closely than quarterback where three former Football Bowl Subdivision players will compete for the starting job.

Newcomers Cam Ransom (Georgia Southern) and Knox Kadum (Virginia Tech) will join Walker Wood (Kentucky) in the quarterback room with the starter’s spot on the line. Kadum is recovering from an injured thumb but is expected to start throwing again this week, Goff said.

“I’m really excited to see those guys compete and how that works out,” Goff said. “That should be fun.”

Another spot to watch will be at defensive back, a position that saw a huge turnover right after last fall’s season ended.

“We lost some good players in the secondary but we think we brought in some good ones as well,” Goff said.

The new coaching staff scoured the NCAA transfer portal hard in order to upgrade the talent pool which had been leaking the last few years. Fifteen transfers are expected to play big minutes.

“One thing we will do is set standards and expectations for those on the field,” Goff said. “No matter who is out there that won’t change.”