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I can't wait.

Originally I planned on writing next week's column previewing the start of spring practice for the McNeese State football team. But next week will be dedicated to either men's basketball in the Southland Conference Tournament or eulogizing both the men's and women's hoops teams.

And, since football starts practice on March 17, the next column after that will be after spring drills have kicked off.

So there's no better time than the present to look at what you and I should expect from the Cowboys as they start practicing real football stuff for the first time under new head coach Frank Wilson.

This column will ask four big questions that Wilson and the Cowboys hope to answer by the end of spring practice, or at the least have the awareness of them going into the rest of spring and summer before fall camp starts.

So without any further ado, here we go.

Who will step up along the defensive line?

Three of the four starting defensive linemen (end Chris Livings along with tackles Marval Bourgeois and Jonta Jones) have exhausted their eligibility and either have graduated or will soon graduate.

On Monday, defensive end Cody Roscoe announced that he will enter the NCAA transfer portal and will not finish his career at McNeese. He did not make the reason for his departure public, but the 2020 postseason ban because of unsatisfactory NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores could be a reason. With one season of eligibility remaining, Roscoe may want to go somewhere he feels has a chance of getting to the playoffs.

I obviously think he should do what's in his best interests, but this no doubt hurts the Cowboys. Roscoe was second on the team in sacks last season with nine, behind Livings' 91⁄2.

So with the starting four defensive linemen gone, that's 21 of last season's 34 sacks gone with them. And along with the sacks, the front four also helped contribute to a rushing defense that was seventh in the Football Championship Subdivision, allowing 93.4 rushing yards per game.

So we know there's a lot to be replaced. Who are the early candidates?

Barbe High graduate C.J. Semien leads all returning players with two sacks, but I imagine he will get a shot during the spring. Steven Conerly should get a chance to show he can shine as one of the interior defensive linemen. Fresno State transfer Damien Degruy showed flashes last season, but he will have to step up. Other names include Tyrique Gibson, Cameron Peterson, Marcus Foster and Chase Davis.

There are some players who redshirted their freshman year in 2019 who will hope to catch a coach's eye: Kaleb Wenson, Earenest Grayson III, Arthur Lott and Logan Sonnier.

I expect Wilson to dip into the transfer portal to get a defensive lineman or two, but no use doing it now. Wait and see who performs well and who doesn't during spring practice and go from there.

What should we expect from the new offense?

New offensive coordinator Ronnie Letson comes to McNeese from Colorado State, where Mike Bobo ran a pro-style offense. When Letson was introduced at McNeese, he said he can run different offenses but first he wanted a chance to see the personnel.

Last season the Cowboys were by no means perfect, but they got better as the season wore on. For all of the faults I could find with him, former Cowboys head coach Sterlin Gilbert did improve quarterback Cody Orgeron.

I think Letson will be best served running a quick-strike, hurry-up offense that can also heavily utilize running backs Elijah Mack and Sulphur's J'Cobi Skinner. The wide receivers are still there, led by rising seniors Cyron Sutton and Trevor Begue. Look for sophomore Mason Pierce to try and earn a spot in the rotation.

The offensive line will need work with the graduation of Tre Newton and Grant Burguillos. This is another area I expect to see at least one transfer.

How will the quarterback situation play out?

Cody Orgeron is going into his senior season and was solid as a junior (2,628 and 24 touchdowns passing, 482 yards and three touchdowns rushing). Former Kentucky quarterback Walker Wood has transferred to McNeese and figures to give Orgeron competition.

But how much? Can Wood realistically win the starting job? Or is Wood a backup placeholder until the 2021 season because he has two years of eligibility remaining? Wood hasn't produced in college, although I'd imagine he has talent because he was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at a Southeastern Conference school.

Another name that shouldn't be forgotten is redshirt freshman Cade Bartlett. The Waller, Texas, native has prototypical size and a good arm, but it remains to be seen how he will perform against college competition. He, like the other quarterbacks on the roster, have to learn another offense.

Will a kicker step up?

Noah Anderson was given the starting kicker job in preseason camp, but he hit 4 of 9 of his field goal attempts, including 0-for-3 from 40 yards or longer. Bailey Raborn, who was already punting and doing kickoffs, inherited the placekicking duties, and he performed admirably (8 of 10 FGs with a long of 43).

Can Raborn do it again? Maybe. But he shouldn't need to. New special teams coordinator Gary Hyman said he wants to take some of the stress off Raborn's leg. Anderson, Eric Martin and Kade Dixon will get a chance to earn the job. Otherwise, another leg could be brought in, via the high school or transfer routes.

Let me know what other questions you have about Cowboy football going into spring practice. And see you March 17.

David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at

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