Well everybody, it's August.

You know what that means? A meaningful McNeese State football game will be played this month.

The Cowboys have a lot of work to do before they host a Southern University team that should be more than ready to make the 2-hour drive on Interstate 10 to play on Aug. 31.

If I'm being honest, I know that the Cowboys won't need my motivation. They're college football players, most of whom are on full scholarship. There‘s a reason why they are where they are.

But I spent the last few years coaching high school football and whenever training camp started, I always gave a speech to motivate the team for practice and the season. Some players didn't need the motivation at all because they were ready. Some needed that little bit to push and get them ready. Some really needed it and there were a few that it didn't reach.

So I might as well keep it up right here and right now.

Why should McNeese football be motivated? Because it has a ton to prove, from the top down.

First-year head coach Sterlin Gilbert needs to prove that he's not in over his head at his first collegiate head coaching position. As the offensive coordinator and playcaller, he needs to prove that he can turn around what was a dreadful offense last season. Gilbert has his skeptics from his prior school, South Florida, where he got blamed by fans for the offense's woes despite putting up good numbers. A good season will surely silence critics.

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jim Gush needs to show that he's not in over his head with his first coordinator position at the Football Championship Subdivision level since 2010. He also has to replace former head coach/defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, who produced elite defenses in his time at McNeese.

Now Guidry is at Southland Conference rival Southeastern Louisiana. Gush was left a substantially stocked cupboard of talent, and he will need to prove that his scheme can work just as well or better than Guidry's.

Every aspect of the offense needs to prove that last year was just an aberration. Junior Cody Orgeron, who was named starting quarterback, needs to prove he can throw as well as he runs it. The running backs and wide receivers have to demonstrate they can be more productive, and the offensive line needs to show they can block way better than last season.

The defense? Like I said, quite talented. But they should be motivated to prove that it's not just Guidry's scheme that made them look good. The linebackers have to prove they can step up and replace the talent lost to graduation and the defense as a whole needs to prove they can stay healthy after they were plagued with injuries last season (that applies to the offensive line, too).

The special teams needs to prove they can replace two solid players who graduated. Will the new punter be able to bail out the offense like Alex Kjellsten did? When they need a clutch field goal, who will take it and will they make it?

The players who transferred in needs to prove that they're worth that transfer. The players who return need to prove to the new coach that they still belong. The assistant coaches, a lot of whom have never coached their respective positions at the FCS level, have to prove they're worth the hire.

Overall, this is a team being doubted. The Southland coaches and sports information directors predicted the Cowboys to finish sixth and even a team picked lower than them (Abilene Christian) somehow picked up a first-place vote.

McNeese won't be able to prove anything in practice, though it will help them. All practice — which starts on Friday — does is get the team ready for the first proving point of the season, on Aug. 31.


David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at dberry@americanpress.com

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