Camp Goff opens, Road back to respectability

Published 8:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2022

Under a blazing sun, the first drops of sweat were spilled on the McNeese State practice field Wednesday morning.

With drones hovering above and recording their every moves, 110 Cowboys began their journey to what they hope lands them back atop the Southland Conference standings sooner rather than later.

The long road back started with a feisty practice that saw a small dust-up between two players. While it didn’t register as much, it did go to prove football was back.

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“We don’t condone that, but then again it was good to seem them holding each other accountable,” said first-year head coach Gary Goff.

Of the 110 players, more than half are newcomers to the program. Fifty-eight fresh faces were seen, 15 of those arriving to camp by way of the NCAA transfer portal.

That alone got the respect from one of his holdovers.

“They got a lot of good players in here to fill holes,” senior offensive lineman Calvin Barkat said. “It is good to see them here.”

Goff and his staff have a lot of work ahead, trying to mold this group into a football team ready for the season opener in less than a month at second-ranked Montana State.

“We have been waiting for this moment a long time,” Goff said. “This is what we love to do, to play football.”

The heat put extra stress on the players who are not only still learning Goff’s Air Raid system and way of doing things, but also trying to catch up to the pace he runs his program.

“It felt like it was 200 degrees out there,” said  junior linebacker Brayden Adams, who played at Barbe High.

The redshirt junior was not the only one feeling the heat.

“It is hot, but this is Southwest Louisiana and it is summer so we are used to it,” Barkat said. “That’s what football camp is.”

Barkat is one of the mainstays on this year’s Cowboys club. Goff is his fourth head coach since he arrived on campus. Still, the first day never gets old.

“This is a great feeling to be out here,” Barkat said. “We have a lot to work on and are excited to get going.”

It will likely be a different camp with so many newcomers, player and coaches.

“There will be a lot of correction going on, a lot of teaching,” Goff said. “We are not going to learn everything in a week.”

For the players who have been through a McNeese camp before there was something different about this one.

“People were more excited to be out here,” Adams said. “Everybody wants to be here. It gives me goose bumps.”

Adams said this group, despite the number of newcomers, is already closer than other recent McNeese teams.

“In the past it has been a struggle to get people on the same page,” Adams said. “This is very different. Everybody wants to be out here and wants to win. It’s a different energy.”

McNeese is coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 32 years, something this team wants to change before it becomes a habit.

“I am sick of losing,” Barkat said. “This is a different feeling.”

Barkat and the Cowboys have been through tough times the last five years and said he expects more, but with this group he is ready.

“Adversity never sleeps,” Barkat said. “We will keep fighting.”