Saddle up: Cowboys begin practice for spring schedule
Raymond Partsch III, Special to the American Press
From youth leagues to the professional ranks, tackling is one of the most fundamental and essential aspects of the sport. For the McNeese State Cowboys though, that simple act of wrapping up another player has been unavailable to them for more than a calendar year — 410 days to be exact.
That all changes today when the Cowboys officially open the 2021 spring season.
And first-year head coach Frank Wilson knows how important tackling is for his football team.
“We have to be able to tackle,” Wilson said in a school news release. “We have to be able to break tackles. We haven’t had a chance to practice tackle football, and that’s critical in our sport. You have to be able to do those things to have success.”
McNeese will start practice tackling — among other aspects of the sport — a few days early. The Southland Conference granted the Cowboys a waiver to begin early due to having their offseason workout program in the fall completely wiped out due to the destruction from Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
“We’re very fortunate,” Wilson said of the waiver. “We were able to petition to the conference to allow us to come in a couple days earlier with respect that we didn’t have a fall practice season like the remainder of our conference.”
McNeese players met with the athletic administration and conducted COVID-19 testing on Tuesday. Wilson laid out what the first week of practice will consist of for the Cowboys.
“We’ll have our five acclimation days,” Wilson said. “The first two will be in helmets then the second two we’ll be able to put on the helmets and shoulder pads and we’ll gradually make our way into putting the pants on as well and get a chance to do what our sport does.”
With not having conducted an actual practice since taking over, combined with 20 players deciding to opt out, Wilson admits that he and his staff don’t yet know what this team is capable of.
“We’re in a sport that requires so many moving parts,” Wilson said. “We need to see what we do well when we’re stressed, when passes are contested, when bodies are hanging on you, how quarterbacks stand in the pocket, how receivers create separation. Can we get a guy to the ground? Those things we don’t know.”
McNeese will play a seven-game schedule that kicks off Feb. 13 at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. The Cowboys will play three home games in Cowboy Stadium, which had new artificial turf installed over the holiday break.
Wilson said the ability to be able to play at “The Hole” makes this spring season even more special.
“I’m grateful,” he said. “At one point, when we talked about playing the season, and there was discussion of ‘Where will you play? Your field, your stadium was under water, coach. You guys can’t play at McNeese.’ And we have a president (Dr. Daryl Burckel) that said ‘There is no Plan B. We’re playing at McNeese.’ Even I didn’t know, but he said we’ll do it; we’ll be back.”
Feb. 13 — at Tarleton State
Feb. 27 — *vs. Incarnate Word
March 6 — *at Southeastern Louisiana
March 13 — *vs. Lamar
March 20 — *at Northwestern State
April 3 — *at Nicholls State
April 10 — *Sam Houston State
* — Southland Conference Game
Rick Hickman / American Press