Bad ending, but some things to look forward to for Cowboys

There’s no way around it: McNeese football blew it to end the season.

As teams around the country sat with each other and watched the Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection show, the Cowboys didn’t even need to show up to worry about being one of the famed “first three out”.

It’s a massive disappointment for a team that had the Southland Conference title and a potential national seed and first round bye within their control. To go from that to seeing three SLC teams in the playoffs ahead of you is nothing less than a failure to end the season.

While the wounds of the season’s conclusion are still fresh, I want to take this chance and look forward to next season and why I think the future could be bright for the Cowboys. I’m going to go unit by unit, position group by position group. Obviously, I can’t account for players transferring in or out, just who’s currently on the roster that’s projected to come back next season.

Let’s start on offense, at the glamor position: quarterback. James Tabary is gone and, despite a rough senior year, a lot of production leaves with him. I wouldn’t automatically pencil Cody Orgeron in as the starter just because he got playing time this past season. He still has to work on becoming a much better passer.

Plus, redshirt freshman Cam Smith was highly-touted coming out of high school. Fans clamored for him to play in 2018, but the coaches didn’t think he was ready. Smith, along with Matt Keller, Andrew McBride and Zach Hayes will get a chance to compete with Orgeron in the spring to see who should be the signal-caller in 2019.

At running back, McNeese loses David Hamm and Ryan Ross, who combined to account for 660 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.

Justin Pratt will be a senior and could be asked to shoulder the running load for the Cowboys. But Mac Briscoe should also be in line to see more carries. Reggie Williams and J’Cobi Skinner are two fast backs who should add a change of pace next season.

When it comes to wide receivers and tight ends, I think this could be a place where the coaching staff looks hard for an FBS transfer.

There were too many times in 2018 when the receivers didn’t help the quarterback out (look no further than the Lamar game).

Kylon Highshaw, Josh Batiste, Rodnell Cruell, and Tre Roberts are all gone. Those four combined for 37 receptions, 404 yards, and four touchdowns in 2018; the majority of that came from Highshaw.

Parker Orgeron has another year of eligibility, but he’s dealt with multiple concussions while at McNeese, and another one could have severe long-term consequences. No guarantee he comes back, but if he does, he will instantly make the offense better.

Cyron Sutton has great big-play ability. I think he’ll take another step and be even better next season. Trevor Begue was solid and Nate Briscoe should see more targets as well. McNeese’s tight ends could be huge, with Lawayne Ross, Trey Conerly, and Austin Nelson coming back, among others.

The offensive line struggled through injuries and some poor play throughout the season, but had one of its better collective performances against Lamar. They didn’t give up a sack and helped the Cowboys rush for nine yards per carry.

Jimmy Converse and Kyle Zenon graduate, so the Cowboys have to find a new left tackle to replace Zenon and someone to replace the versatility that Converse had across the line. Collin Fountain and Tyrae Johnson should return next year after injuries ended their seasons prematurely.

Defensively, there are big losses, but still plenty of reason for excitement. Only one defensive lineman graduates (Harris Tafah) and multiple others should return from season-ending injuries. If healthy, the defensive line could be the DWA’s strength next season. Chris Livings could break the McNeese career sack record in 2019.

Linebacker is the position that will arguably be hit hardest by graduation. B.J. Blunt, Tre Porter, and Christian Jacobs are all out of here.

Blunt and Jacobs were the two leading tacklers for the Cowboys. Those three combined for 196 tackles, 27.6 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks.

Darius Daniels, Tahj Samuel, and Dajun Jenkins are the only linebackers listed on the roster that return. Look for McNeese to comb the FBS and junior college transfer ranks to add another linebacker or two.

Every defensive back — with the exceptions of Kyree McLean and seldom-used senior Kamon Darby — should return next season. The Cowboy secondary had a lot of young players get experience in 2018. It hurt at times, but it should benefit them in 2019.

The special teams will have a challenge replacing punter Alex Kjellsten, who put up all-conference type numbers in 2018. Gunnar Raborn was good, not great as a senior, but finding a new kicker won’t be easy either. Look for Gunnar’s brother Bailey Raborn as a possibility to be the new punter.

There are still a lot of things to factor when looking at the 2019 McNeese football team: whole or partial coaching staff changes, transfers, injuries, disciplinary issues. I’ll go into what offseason changes I think need to be made soon, but there is plenty of reason for optimism for McNeese fans.

Local News

Cowboys look to use home stand to climb Southland standings

Local News

Breaking: Man killed in auto-pedestrian accident

Local News

‘We can do better’: Residents say not enough coastal protection in SW La.


Rash of school bus part thefts in Jeff Davis


Three LC men arrested in Bossier City robbery of Sulphur man

National News

War fears mount as US draws down Ukraine embassy presence

Local News

Living the Dream: Starks native advises others to ‘sieze every opportunity’

Local News

COVID closures continue to impact childcare providers

Local News

SW La. school lunch menus Jan. 24-28

Local News

Informer: No new mask mandate from governor

Local News

Calcasieu cleanup: Debris in drainage laterals being cleared

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column: What’s next for casting votes?

Local News

Andrew Gallien: Called to share the ‘love and knowledge of God’

Local News

SW La. students named to Northwestern State president’s list

Local News

Jeff Davis scales back on Elton Elementary renovations


SW La. has been fostering budding entrepreneurs for decade

Local News

Calcasieu Police Jury votes on zoning requests


Deputies searching for driver in Moss Bluff hit-and-run

Local News

United Way of SW La. sheltering community members in area hotels


1/21: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list


Sulphur man accused of stealing $367,000 from nonprofit

Local News

Cassidy touts SW La. benefits of infrastructure bill

Local News

Hurst-Trahan: Job lets her focus on her passion – helping people

Local News

Jeff Davis School Board declares critical shortage for several positions