Survey says: Game day benefit for LSU tailgaters

TOPIC OF TIGER TALK:  Standout receiver Kayshon Boutte will be a focal point of conversation this fall among LSU football fans. 

JOURNAL SPORTS

LSU fans at Tiger Stadium this season spoke up, and have been heard.

However, three times this fall, local LSU fans will not hear their coach where they’ve listened for years. They’ll have to rely on a secondary source to listen to the weekly radio show featuring new LSU coach Brian Kelly.

TAILGATING: There are 102,321 seats in Tiger Stadium and during any home game, there are tens of thousands of people, including many LSU fans, tailgating outside. Before pre-game warmups, they’re all around the stadium, often looking for bathrooms and shelter and air conditioning.

LSU Athletics has taken a logical step, as the result of a fan survey, to address tailgating comfort. Athletics director Scott Woodward recently announced the Pete Maravich Assembly Center will be open to the public to use restrooms and seek relief from the weather.

Beginning five hours before an evening kickoff, the PMAC will be open with live telecasts of other games shown on the video board inside. The Tiger Band will perform in the PMAC after the Victory Hill parade, he said.

No plans were announced for use of the PMAC before day games, however.

BYRD FOOTBALL 3, THE BRIAN KELLY SHOW 0: New Tigers football coach Brian Kelly has made sweeping changes in the program, and one created a quandary for Townsquare Media, the radio group that airs LSU sports on KWKH 1130 “The Tiger” locally.

For many years, the LSU coach’s radio show was broadcast on Wednesday during the season, but Kelly decided it best fit his schedule to do the show on Thursday nights (so don’t expect to see him at Thursday night prep games).

One other mainstay of 1130 The Tiger’s fall broadcast slate for many years has been game broadcasts of C.E. Byrd football games. Every season, the Yellow Jackets play a few times on Thursday nights – three times this fall, to be exact, in the regular season. Never a conflict – until now.

That presented a miserable dilemma for Townsquare: forgo coverage of Kelly’s show, or those three Yellow Jacket game broadcasts?

The Charlie Cavell-led Byrd broadcasts got the nod on the three “conflict” dates of Sept. 15, Sept. 22, and Oct. 20. There won’t be a Kelly Show on 1130 AM the Tiger those nights, nor will there be a Talkin’ Tiger Football show with our own Tony Taglavore.

His locally-based show has aired in the hour following the LSU coach’s show, on Wednesdays. Now it shifts to Thursday nights – except when Byrd is playing.

Kelly’s first show is Aug. 25. Talkin’ Tiger Football begins after the Sept. 1 Kelly show.

Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics


Still time to get tickets for Mulkey’s Aug. 30 speech at I-Bowl Dinner

AS GOOD AS IT GETS:  LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey is one of the all-time greats in the coaching ranks in her sport, or any other. The former Louisiana Tech All-American and USA Olympic gold medalist speaks at the I-Bowl Kickoff Dinner here Aug. 30.

JOURNAL SPORTS

The event that officially starts the countdown to Shreveport’s annual college football bowl game, the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Kickoff Dinner, is approaching on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at the Shreveport Convention Center with another superstar featured speaker.

In the 50th anniversary year of Title IX paving better opportunities for women in America, and certainly in sports, LSU women’s basketball coach and former Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters star Kim Mulkey will be the first woman to be the featured speaker for the 12th annual event. She was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020, introduced by Michael Jordan, and a year later made the move from Baylor to LSU.

Doors at the Shreveport Convention Center will open at 6 p.m. for a cocktail hour, dinner buffets will open at 6:15 p.m. and the program will begin at 7 p.m. with a brief audience Q&A following the program. 

Individual tickets to the 2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Kickoff Dinner are on sale for $50 apiece, while a table of eight is $400 apiece. Tickets are available for purchase at RadianceTechnologiesIndependenceBowl.com/shop or by calling the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl office at 318.221.0712 or toll-free at 888.414.BOWL.

A six-time national champion as a player and coach, Mulkey is one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all-time. She was an integral part of building the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters into a national power in the 1980s. After 19 years at Louisiana Tech as a player and coach, as well as 21 years as head coach of the Baylor Lady Bears, the native of Tickfaw, a few miles south of Hammond, returned home to take over the LSU women’s basketball program in April 2021.

In 1990, she became the youngest-ever inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame for her playing career at Hammond High School, Louisiana Tech and as a member of the 1984 USA Olympic gold medal women’s basketball team. She was also included among the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Top 25 Sports Figures of the Century selected at the turn of the century in summer 1999.

Mulkey has justifiably earned a reputation for being a dynamic speaker, and someone who will not hesitate to make bold statements. While being enshrined in the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions several years ago, she pledged $25,000 toward installation of a statue at her alma mater honoring her college coach, Leon Barmore, and challenged the university’s president to move forward on that front. Barmore’s statue now stands outside the Thomas Assembly Center.

Mulkey has always been one of her sport’s top recruiters and recently earned the verbal commitment of the USA’s No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023, Parkway High’s Mikaylah Williams.

The presenting sponsors of the 2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Kickoff Dinner are the Shreveport Convention Center, Willis-Knighton Health System, Morehead Pools, Home Federal Bank, Shreveport Rubber & Gasket and Wieland. For more information on the Kickoff Dinner, visit RadianceTechnologiesIndependenceBowl.com/fan-events.

Photo  courtesy of LSU Athletics


Brennan exits LSU program after struggle-filled seasons

HE’S DONE:  Senior quarterback Myles Brennan ended his football career Monday, announcing his departure from the LSU football team. (Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics)

JOURNAL SPORTS

BATON ROUGE – LSU quarterback Myles Brennan, who earlier this year was thought to be the presumptive starter this fall for the Tigers, ended his college football career on Monday.

Brennan, who was entering his sixth year with the Tigers, finishes his LSU career having played in 20 games with three starts. He entered the transfer portal after the 2021 season, but new coach Brian Kelly persuaded him to stay at LSU in anticipation of a starting role this fall.

After the transfer of three-year Arizona State starter Jayden Daniels, and the emergence of young LSU quarterbacks Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard, the Tigers’ quarterback room was suddenly crowded.

Brennan appeared the odd man out at last Thursday’s scrimmage, even though Nussmeier sat out with an injury. Brennan ran plays with the second-teamers, and Kelly said afterward if Nussmeier had been available, he would have gotten snaps with the first team.

Brennan started the first three games of the 2020 season before an abdominal muscle tear against Missouri sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He did play through the first-half injury at Missouri, and had the third-best single-game passing yards total (430) in school history.

Brennan recovered from surgery, then suffered a season-ending broken left arm (non-throwing) just days before LSU reported for training camp a year ago. He caps his career having thrown for 1,712 yards and 13 touchdowns, 11 in his three starts.

He was a backup to Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow as LSU won the 2019 national championship.

“What a journey it has been,” wrote Brennan in a Twitter post on Monday. “I have given my all to this university and football team. I love every one of you. I will be a Tiger for life.”

He wrote that he is “stepping away from football” midway through preseason practice and “it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life.”

“We are grateful to Myles for everything he has done for LSU Football.,” Kelly said. “Myles is a great leader who has made a tremendous impact on this program, and he has earned the respect of everyone here through his commitment and love for LSU.

“Myles has always embodied the traits required to fulfill our mission to graduate champions, and we have full confidence those traits will help him succeed at every step in his journey as he moves forward.”

Brennan graduated from LSU in May of 2021 with a degree in sports administration.


Miles later, Brennan makes his last audible the right call

Nobody’s mad, or admitting to it, regarding Myles Brennan’s semi-surprising decision to end his football career, leaving the LSU quarterback room without its security blanket.

All the nice things were said Monday. There was plenty of feel good. It’s textbook PR, to get out in front of a negative story with (apparent) transparency and (seemingly sincere) respect and mutual admiration. Perhaps the hierarchy at Louisiana Downs takes note of that approach.

But no horsin’ around here. Myles Brennan is unhappy. He feels betrayed by new LSU coach Brian Kelly. As a descendent of one of New Orleans’ great restaurant families, he surely understands business decisions. Doesn’t have to like Kelly’s depth chart, but it is what it is.

So he, and Kelly, took the high road out of Baton Rouge, elevation 56 feet above sea level.

Brennan was the Tigers’ only SEC-tested quarterback, and his credentials were at the very least, solid.  In three games as the 2020 starter, he threw 11 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, going 79 of 131 and becoming the first Tiger to throw for 300-plus in his first three starts.

His leadership ability and toughness were unquestioned after he played through a muscle-mangled outing at Missouri, when he completed 29 passes for 430 yards and four TDs.

That turned out to be the last game of his life. In basketball, there’s a credo among shooters, when practicing, that you always leave on a make. Wasn’t planned that way, but Brennan has left on a make.

Degree in hand, fiancée on arm, future away from football very bright, Brennan is no dummy. As for football, he can live as a fondly-regarded, much-admired Tiger who can enjoy reunions of the 2019 National Championship team forever, and whatever business field awaits, he will have LSU goodwill always at his back.

He probably realizes due to his pair of injuries (remember, he broke his left arm slipping on the deck during a July fishing trip, costing him the 2021 season) that his skills may have diminished.

Kelly and staff concluded that was the case.

Brennan was stepping into the transfer portal while LSU was in limbo at the end of the Ed Orgeron era, but when Kelly came in from Notre Dame, he persuaded Brennan to backtrack to Baton Rouge, for what seemed to be a senior season do-over that had all the potential for a big finish.

Then Kelly created more competition, or chaos – take your pick. He landed Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels, who entered the portal with 6,025 yards and 32 TDs in three seasons starting in Tempe as a dual-threat QB.

It was “one of the more difficult decisions that I made in the offseason,” said Kelly, “but it was about … upgrading the competition on this roster across the board.”

That couldn’t have been well received by Brennan. At least Kelly didn’t string him along. The LSU QB pecking order was outlined in last Thursday’s scrimmage and none of it favored Brennan. It was apparent Daniels was in front and redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier was in the race. Kelly said if he had been healthy enough, Nussmeier would have gotten snaps with the first team. Brennan was clearly on the outside.

He didn’t mind the competition, he said in spring and during the summer. He wasn’t bad at all, but he wasn’t mobile, and if you recall LSU’s offensive line the past couple of years, that’s a volatile combination.

His quality of life got better Monday. He departs with dignity, instead of carrying a clipboard this fall. And he gets to keep that NIL money – from five businesses, including Raisin’ Canes and Smoothie King.

Leaving was a bittersweet call but, undeniably, the right one for a guy who gave it every chance to work at LSU.

Contact Doug at SBJDoug@gmail.com


Grambling, NSU finally announce details on Sept. 10 ‘Shreveport Classic’

JOURNAL SPORTS

Kickoff time is finally set at 6 p.m. for an attractive Sept. 10 college football matchup between Grambling and Northwestern State at Independence Stadium.

The teams, meeting for the first time since 2018, will play in what’s billed as the “Shreveport Classic.”

Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster at this link. Parking information and rates for tailgating are available by contacting the State Fair of Louisiana at 318-635-1361 or via email at info@statefairoflouisiana.com.

The release of ticket information for the contest was woefully late in a contest brokered by the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. Since the initial agreement was reached well over a year ago, both institutions have gone through transition in their athletic directors’ positions, while Grambling has endured a coaching change and Northwestern has a new president. That turbulence and accompanying change with Sports Commission leadership this spring resulted in much uncertainty and no local promotion of the contest to date.

Fifth-year Northwestern coach Brad Laird and new Grambling coach Hue Jackson will take part in the Shreveport Classic’s pregame press conference Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Stadium Club.

The teams met for the first time at what was then called State Fair Stadium in Shreveport in 1974, while Eddie Robinson was coaching Grambling. The contest was perhaps the first matchup in the Deep South, if not anywhere, between a Historically Black College or University and a predominantly white institution. It drew a near-capacity crowd and came down to the final moments in a narrow Grambling victory.

Grambling is the designated home team for the contest and fans can purchase tickets at the gsutigers.com website. In addition, Tiger fans have the option for prepaid parking or reserved tailgate space (or RV hookups) at the Independence Bowl. 

Grambling season tickets include games against Northwestern State, Prairie View A&M (State Fair Classic), Florida A&M, Alcorn State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Homecoming) and are on sale by visiting the GSU Ticket Office or by calling 318.274.2629. 

Monday’s announcement means kickoff times for all 11 of Northwestern’s games are set. All four of NSU’s home games all will be played in the afternoon.

NSU will kick off at 3:30 p.m. against Lamar (Sept. 24) and Nicholls (Oct. 1) and at 1 p.m. for Homecoming against Southeast Missouri (Oct. 22) and in the regular-season finale against UIW on Nov. 19. It is thought to be the first time in over 80 years that no nighttime home games will be played by the Demons.


Plenty of talented Tiger receivers in Kelly’s tank

TOP TIGER:  Kayshon Boutte is one of the most explosive, productive receivers in the country and anchors a deep and talented pass catching corps at LSU.

By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine

BATON ROUGE — New LSU coach Brian Kelly has pulled back the curtain in preseason, giving media – and by extension, the public – much greater insight into this year’s Tiger football team than we’ve had in many years.

Thursday, I was among the media able to watch the whole practice, mostly a scrimmage, that lasted about three hours. I came away really impressed with many position groups — standouts that included the defensive and offensive lines. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw up front, especially on offense in contrast to the last couple seasons — but most of all I wanted to see if these young, talented wide receivers getting the hype are starting to come together as a unit.

I was blown away by the talent, and depth, LSU has at wide receiver.

We all know what junior Kayshon Boutte can do. He’s one of the best not only in the Southeastern Conference but also in the country, and is now wearing Jersey No. 7, reserved annually for the elite homegrown Tigers who are proven leaders on and off the field.

Boutte (6-0, 205) looked sharp again and appears completely healthy for the first time in over a year. I was glad I picked a practice that had the players wearing full pads and scrimmage tempo. You get the best upside viewing and translating what to project on game day, because the game is played in full pads and fill tilt on Saturdays. Boutte showed he is back in form and displayed his 4.4 speed in the 40.

I was able to see a more confident, stronger Brian Thomas. The 6-4, 201-pound sophomore from Walker was showing signs of greatness with his ability to handle the ball thrown over his right shoulder on sideline throws. He looked better than ever, like a future star about to blossom.

I saw another talented sophomore, Malik Nabors, who is 6-0, 195 with 4.5 speed or better, and can be an all-conference player in due time. A lot of people saw a glimpse of his potential in the Ole Miss and Kentucky games in 2021.

Jack Bech, and talented Chris Hilton, two more future NFL players, were sidelined with minor injuries but were dressed out.

Both of these kids are incredible leaders and both have great talent. Bech is now 6-2, 212 with 4.55 speed and as you saw in 2021, he has a competitive drive as strong as anybody else’s on the team. Hilton is bigger now, but added good weight at 6-1 and now 182 pounds. Hilton still runs a 4.4 in the 40.

We saw Hilton’s ability in the Texas Bowl game against Kansas State on the last play when he caught a long TD pass from Jontre Kirklin, who is now an NFL free agent with the Cardinals.

The player I came away most impressed with, who made another step toward being in the primary rotation, is UL Lafayette transfer Kyren Lacy. He is a grown man at 6-2, 217 with 4.5 speed. He is not someone you want to have to tackle in the open field.

This kid has a chance to be special. Lacy started for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2021 and showed some of the ability that is evident now in the more explosive LSU offensive scheme. Lacy will be a redshirt junior and has two years left in college.

Don’t forget the understated Jaray Jenkins, the Jena product who is 6-2, 200 with 4.5 speed. Henkins has a ton of experience, lettering three years and making a bunch of big plays. What Tiger fan can soon forget the two big-time TD’s he caught in the Swamp from Max Johnson in that big 2020 upset of No. 5 Florida by LSU.

Jenkins just needs to catch the ball more consistently as a senior. He has all the tools to be an NFL player.

I am not done yet! There’s a freshman from one of Louisiana’s more tradition-rich, powerhouse programs, St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, who turned down scholarship offers aplenty to walk on for LSU. Javen Nicholas (5-9, 180) might be the fastest player on the team with 4.39 speed. I saw this kid returning punts and he showed stealth, speed and elusiveness. If he can catch the ball he just might find his way on the field as a punt returner for LSU.  Running backs coach Frank Wilson, one of the top recruiters anywhere, and Kelly talked Nicholas into walking on at LSU, but he’s not a walk-on in the talent department.

Speaking of walk-ons, Evan Francioni (6-0, 201) deserves mention because he will return for his fifth year with 4.59 speed as one of LSU’s best special teams gunners.

The program has two more young receivers who have great upside in true freshman Landon Ibieta (5-11, 192) from Mandeville, who was extremely productive for the Skippers with 4.45 speed.  Keep an eye on a walk-on from Catholic-Baton Rouge, Noah Nash (5-11 182), who has 4.5 speed and showed great hands and route running in the spring game. He could be a player who makes his mark in the near future, faster than a typical walk-on.

Who will be the Tigers’ starting three receivers? I think it will be hard to name just three, and you’ll play 6-8. To produce W’s in the SEC, you’ll need at least six getting it done. LSU has that covered better than any other team in the league in 2022.

Contact Lee at LeeBrecheen@aol.com

Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics


Demons’ offense, Tigers’ defense notch wins in opening scrimmages

EARLY STRIKE: Zach Patterson streaked 65 yards for an early score Saturday in Northwestern State’s first preseason football scrimmage Saturday, with the Demons throwing for 502 yards and five TDs.

JOURNAL SPORTS

Grambling and Northwestern State collide on Sept. 10 in Independence Stadium aiming for improvement from their 2021 seasons. Saturday, each squad got its first full scrimmage action of preseason and each head coach noted progress.

NORTHWESTERN STATE:  In Natchitoches, the scrimmage had a little of what fifth-year head coach Brad Laird hoped for and expected.

There was a fast start by the Demon offense that included several big plays and a plethora of playmakers and a defense that made the necessary adjustments later in the day.

Finally, there were teachable moments on both sides of the ball and approximately 100 plays of information from which Laird and his staff can continue to glean information.

“A good day – close to 100 snaps, (in a) clean football game,” Laird said. “There’s things in all three phases we did well and things we need to correct. The one thing through 100 snaps and another 20 special teams plays, we only had five penalties. Offensively, we protected the ball. Defensively, you want to force turnovers, but we protected the ball.

“Offensively, we came out fast. Three touchdowns the first four drives and four of five in one stretch. Then the defense did what you wanted to see. They made adjustments once we got into the situational scrimmages – the coming out, the red zone and the 2-minute. You saw the defense make some key stops. Great film to evaluate, which was key for us. We’ll make our corrections and see where we are.”

The Demon offense started quickly, scoring on three of its first four possessions.

Two of those touchdowns were chunk plays, starting with Zach Patterson’s 65-yard, catch-and-run score on the second play of the second drive.

“I came off the ball, put a good tempo on it,” he said. “The DB tried to play the ball, I caught it and I knew I had to score it. When you have those opportunities, you have to make the best play you can.”

Patterson’s scoring grab was one of four touchdowns that covered at least 21 yards – all of which came through the air.

Quarterbacks Miles Fallin, Zachary Clement and Kaleb Fletcher combined to go 34-for-59 for 502 yards and five touchdowns. Fallin and Clement each threw a pair of scores while Fletcher added a 40-yard strike to Jaren Mitchell for his touchdown toss.

The trio of quarterbacks had plenty of options to distribute the ball and took advantage as 13 different players caught a pass. Freshman Hogan Wasson collected a scrimmage-high six catches while Stanley King hauled in four passes for 100 yards, including a 32-yard scoring pass from Clement.

While the offense started quickly, the Purple Swarm defense settled in late in the scrimmage, keeping the offense scoreless in four of the final six drives. The only points they allowed in that time came in the two red-zone possessions that ended with a 2-yard Kennieth Lacy touchdown run and a 37-yard Eddie Godina field goal after a three-and-out.

GRAMBLING:  New GSU head coach Hue Jackson was pleased with what he saw Saturday morning and how his team is developing its new culture. There was productivity from the offense in the scrimmage, but the Tiger defense clearly had the best day.

Grambling has five new quarterbacks — Chance Amie, Julian Calvez, Amani Gilmore, Quaterius Hawkins and Kajiya Hollawayne, vying to operate the first-team offense and Jackson played all five during Saturday’s scrimmage. 

Calvez, a freshman, and Amie, a junior transfer from Syracuse, threw the longest completions of the scrimmage, but none of the five quarterbacks appeared to truly lock down the top spot in GSU’s “arms race.” 

“I think we’re where we need to be at this point,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to name a quarterback soon, at some point of time here because I think that’s what takes the team over the top — somebody they can go follow and believe in. We’re getting closer to that. 

“Today there were some good things and there were some throws I wanted to jump on some people about. But at the same time, there were some plays that were made and that’s all you ask for. They didn’t turn the ball over and that’s really important. That’s the key to winning many a football game. So that message has been pounded into them. I’ve seen a couple of times where fans might think it’s a bad play, but they’ve been told to throw the ball away. Our goal is to always get to the next down with the ball. So that was very rewarding to me as a coach. That’s what we preach and that’s what was done today.” 

As far as GSU’s running back corps, freshman Jaden Handy broke off the longest run of the day, racing around 60 yards to paydirt, but that play was backed by an illegal blocking call. 

Keilon Elder, Jaylen Joseph and CJ Russell are the returning running backs for the Tigers and have been joined by newcomers Floyd Chalk IV, Jaden Handy, Dedrick Talbert, Maurice Washington and Chance Williams to give Jackson a full stable of diverse talent to run the football. 

“I saw things from Williams, I saw Chalk, Handy, and even CJ Russell and Elder. I mean, we have some guys, and they’re all different shapes, sizes and forms. But they’re talented, and I’m excited about that because I truly believe how you win in football is run,” Jackson said. “I think you throw to score but run to win. At some point we’re going to have to run the ball and I think we can. But you’ve got to be able to throw as well, so I think we have the chance to be very dynamic on offense as we move forward.” 

But while gaining confidence in his offense, it was the defense that Jackson knew won the day on Saturday. 

“The strength of this team is our defense,” Jackson said. “The defense is the heartbeat of this team. We have some very talented players over there that everybody knows, and they’re really coming on.” 

Jackson said the best thing about scrimmage was the forward vision it will help provide. 

“I’m happy about where we are as a football team,” Jackson said. “I see where we need to improve. I see the improvement we’ve made from spring to now. The next jump is going to be the next two weeks and I think if we can get there I’m excited about starting the season the right way.” 

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


Tech, NSU developing confidence and raising expectations in practice

COMING TOGETHER:  With preseason workouts settling into a routine, Louisiana Tech football players and coaches are encouraged by the progress under new coach Sonny Cumbie.

JOURNAL SPORTS

RUSTON – With four fall camp practices complete, the Louisiana Tech football team continues to focus on improving daily and applying concepts from meetings to the playing field.

“At this point, it is just to get better from practice three and I think we got that done,” defensive coordinator Scott Power said. “We wanted to run the ball better and tackle better than we did last practice. Every day we teach new concepts, so guys are learning and applying them to the field. They did a good job of that and we will try to do the same thing when we come out here for practice five.”

One of the major themes of camp thus far has been the focus on meeting rising expectation levels.

“Yesterday in our meetings, our coaches raised our expectation levels,” stated defensive lineman Deshon Hall. “We took a step in the right direction today. We made those adjustments that Coach Power asked us and we have to keep making adjustments and improving as we raise those expectations throughout fall camp.”

In addition to improving each day, some things that have impressed Power about the LA Tech defense are the players’ retention of information, added depth and willingness to show up every day ready to work.

“I am impressed with our guys and how we have retained our information in the spring and the work they put in over the summer,” Power observed. “I think we have improved our depth from day one to where we are now. Everyone has bought into what we do and comes to work every day. It has been a really fun group to coach and work with. I want to see continued growth and improvement from our players. They have been really receptive so far in camp and I do not expect that to change.”

NORTHWESTERN STATE:  Every preseason football camp has mileposts, and Northwestern State hit a pair Tuesday morning.

Not only did the Demons don full pads for the first time, they did so at the one-week point of training camp.

“I think more importantly than talking about whether we’re in full pads or soft shells or just helmets is the consistency in execution,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “We’re six practices in. As we keep installing in all three phases, we have to continue to keep up. The consistency has not been there like I like it. Yes, it’s early on, but from an offensive and defensive standpoint, every part of practice is important.

“We were in full pads today, and there were a few live sessions, but there were a few sessions where we were thud. Those are just as important as the ones that are full go.”

The longer camp wears on, the less likely players are to relish workouts.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday.

“We’ve been looking forward to today for a long time,” said junior defensive lineman JaBralen Yarber. “Today was a very good first day in pads.”

NSU will conduct its first preseason scrimmage at around 9:45 Saturday morning.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech


Tigers get physical in first preseason full pads work under Jackson

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Special to the Journal

GRAMBLING — The popping of pads against pads filled the sweltering air at Grambling State University’s football practice field Monday morning as the Tigers donned full gear for the first time this preseason.

First-year head coach Hue Jackson said the practice presented for the most part exactly what he expected to see.

“It was a typical first day in pads — sloppy but physical,” Jackson said. “I didn’t expect to see anything more or anything less. The players are focused and working hard, and it was a good practice.”

Good, but by no means perfect, Jackson added.

“I think a lot of the sloppiness is it being the first day in pads,” Jackson said. “And that’s the way it usually happens. The players have been anticipating putting on the pads and doing some hitting and doing some live tackling. That raises the anxiety levels, and that turns into sloppy play sometimes.

“But today was a good day and last week was a good first week. Now we still have a long way to go before the season begins, but we’re off to a good start. We just have to stay focused on getting better every day.”

Jackson said newer players who weren’t out for spring practice are grasping more and more of GSU’s schemes and systems day by day.

“They’re catching on — they’re coming,” Jackson said of GSU’s newcomers. “They’re still learning and don’t know how it all works yet, but I think they’re handling it well.”

Another thing Jackson’s Tigers are handling well is the blistering heat that hovered around 95 degrees by the end of Monday’s practice.

“They can take it,” Jackson said. “I have a team that wants to win and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. That’s where it all starts.

“You’ve got to have the desire, the discipline, and dedication to doing it the way we do it. And that’s what they’re doing. So we just have to keep pushing through the heat and keep moving forward and getting better.”

The Tigers will take a break today before returning to the practice field on Wednesday.

Contact Scott at TScottBoatright@gmail.com

Photo courtesy Grambling State University


Generations bond as Demon Brothers’ tradition continues to develop

BONDS RENEWED:  Northwestern State football coach Brad Laird, who set the Demons’ career passing records from 1991-95, visited with fellow former players during Saturday’s Demon Brothers Booster Club ‘Feed the Team’ event in Natchitoches. 

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal

NATCHITOCHES – What began a few years ago as a stopgap measure to help the Northwestern State football team has morphed into a true fall camp tradition that bonds generations of Demon brothers.

A report-day lunch in 2018 that sent then-first-year head coach Brad Laird scrambling launched a reunion of sorts for several local NSU football alumni. Four years later, the number of former players involved in the event had grown nearly tenfold and added the support of the Demon Brothers Booster Club.

Saturday’s meal under the Collins Alumni Pavilion brought to an end the first week of fall camp for the Demons, who open their season on Sept. 3 at Montana.

It also capped a weekend in which the Demons heard from three-time All-American and two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Gary Reasons, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

“This thing has grown,” Laird said. “There were four men, former players, who really kick-started this thing. The cafeteria wasn’t available that year, so this started with four guys and now you’re at 100-plus involved. It shows our players — we talk about family and once they leave here the memories they’re going to have, the relationships they’ll develop – this shows them what we’re talking about. It works both ways.

“It’s good for our players to see these former players come back, and it’s good for these former players to be able to see who’s now in their locker room and on the same practice field they were.”

Those generations gathered following the fourth practice of camp for the Demons, listening appreciatively to the list of Demon football alumni who were involved with or donated to Saturday’s effort. It raised over $13,000 through the Demon Brothers, established by former players for their peers, coaches, staff, and their families to directly support the football program.

Like Laird, the original group of NSU alums who pitched in to start the impromptu tradition remains thankful for the bonds it has forged in a relatively short period of time.

“We’re just taking care of the kids,” said Gary “Mojo” Morgan, a linebacker from 1981-83 who fielded one of the initial calls from Laird in 2018. “We never had anything like this as players. It turned out to be a great deal, and we said then, ‘We need to continue it.’

“When you get to mingle with the kids, especially the ones who come up to you and want to talk to you about anything – whether it’s education or something you understand – when you go to a game, you find yourself watching that kid. It becomes special.”

Retired 17-year head coach Sam Goodwin (1983-1999), longtime team physician (1982-2021) Dr. Jim Knecht, and other former staffers mingled with current Demons and players from the mid-1960s to recent years. Demon Brothers brought meals to the players at their seats, then after the program, lingered for quite some time trading memories.

The decades of camaraderie and the wisdom from older players continue to resonate within the current Demon roster.

“It’s really important to know what it took for these guys to be successful, win college championships, be All-Americans,” sophomore wide receiver Dylan Fluellen said. “It’s very important for us to take that and use it to our advantage. We hear all year what these guys are talking about, but to hear it from guys in the Louisiana (Sports) Hall of Fame or the N-Club Hall of Fame, it’s that source that proves to us that it’s possible, and we’re capable of doing it. Same message, different voice.

“Having those guys come out here and share that with us today is a real boost for us going into the season. We’re always going to be connected no matter what happens or what adversity we face.”

Contact Jason at PughJ@nsula.edu

Photo by JASON PUGH, Northwestern State


Area colleges kick off preseason workouts with energetic sessions

TIGER LINE: Grambling players line up for a drill Wednesday morning during the Tigers’ first preseason practice under former NFL head coach Hue Jackson. (Photo courtesy Grambling State).

JOURNAL SPORTS

“Excitement” and “energy” were the words of the day Wednesday as the football teams at Grambling, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State kicked off preseason practice.

It was the first fall session for the Tigers under new head coach Hue Jackson, and for the Bulldogs led by their rookie head coach, Sonny Cumbie.  For the Demons, Brad Laird began his fifth season as head coach at his alma mater.

The workouts all were staged before lunch, avoiding the heat, but each had its self-generated intensity.

“There was a lot of excitement and emotion,” Cumbie said. “Everybody was looking forward to this first day and we just really wanted to come out and focus on improving our execution. I am really proud of how our guys practiced from an energy standpoint. There was a lot of enthusiasm from everyone, especially on the defensive side of the football.” 

Senior defensive back Jaiden Cole has played in 44 games and made 15 starts throughout his Bulldog career. Last season, he tied for fourth on the team with 48 total tackles, while his 29 solo tackles ranked fifth among all Bulldogs.

“It was nice to get out on the field and show our coaching staff what we can do,” Cole said. “On defense, Coach (Scott) Power has preached pursuing the ball, so that is one of the things we really have been focusing on. We are all happy to be back on the field playing ball. We have been talking about daily progressions and each day, and we will focus on a specific thing to improve.”

The quarterback position is one of the many changes in 2022 for Tech. Transfers Matthew Downing (RS Jr., TCU/Georgia) and Parker McNeil (RS Sr., Texas Tech, Troy, Navarro CC) headline the quarterback position. 

“Both Matthew (Downing) and Parker (McNeil) are the two that have the most experience, but that does not mean others can’t get into it. It is not a job that is decided by one play or one day,” said Cumbie, whose squad opens Sept. 3 at Missouri. “It is decided by consistency throughout fall camp and how they prepare and execute in live situations.”

The Demons gathered as a team for the first time in preparation for the Sept. 3 season opener at Montana on Wednesday, going through a roughly two-hour practice on the new turf at Turpin Stadium.

“Coaches, players, trainers, managers, everyone has to get back into the routine of making it flow throughout practice. We’ll be better Day Two. When you talk about the Xs and Os, we’ll be better Day 2,” said Laird. “There was great energy. Was it consistent energy? Probably not. I’m going to hold the older guys accountable. They talk about what they want to do. To do that, you have to be consistent and locked in for 22 periods, and that’s not always easy – but winning championships isn’t easy.”

Laird has been joined on the Demon roster by fifth-year senior defensive end Isaiah Longino since Laird returned to Northwestern State as the defensive coordinator in 2017.

For Longino, Tuesday’s practice marked his final first day of camp as a Demon – one where he is an unquestioned veteran leader on the team.

“We definitely need to get used to the conditioning,” said Longino. “It’s not the same as summer workouts, but I’m definitely happy that I took advantage of all the moments I had out there. It was good to be out there with my team.”

While Laird and Longino have been around the Demon program for years, several newcomers made impressions on the first day of camp.

“You saw guys we expect to make plays in all three phases do it,” Laird said. “Whether it was a freshman or a newcomer we’re counting on to either provide depth or have a solid role, you saw them step up and make plays.”

Grambling opened fall camp gearing up for their season opener on Sept. 3 at Arkansas State. 

With more than 130 student-athletes reporting to camp, Jackson was excited to get the first practice in the books. 

“We have a lot of guys out here competing,” Jackson said. “We got a lot of work to do. We play a game a month from today, so I am looking forward to it. We just got to keep working. We want to start getting better and be better every day.”  

Unlike at NSU and Tech, Grambling’s practices are closed to the fans and media until Aug. 13’s Fan Day scrimmage.  


It’s more than football on the first day of NSU fall camp

VITAL INSIGHT: Former NFL scout and director of player personnel Lionel Vital speaks to the Northwestern State football team on Tuesday.

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal 

NATCHITOCHES – Thirty-five years of pro football experience stood before the Northwestern State football team as it gathered for Tuesday’s report day activities.

Former Nicholls running back Lionel Vital was a guest speaker who livened up what typically is a day full of administrative meetings and paperwork. Vital played with the then-Washington Redskins in 1987 before beginning a scouting and executive career that lasted until his retirement six months ago.

“He has lived that journey, and it’s where all these guys want to go,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “To be able to hear from somebody who has come from where they came from, being a running back from Nicholls, lining up against the Demons in college, going on to play in the NFL and CFL and, more importantly, becoming a scout.

“He knows what the NFL scouts are looking for, and he was able to relay that message to them – not just on the field, but he talked just as much about off the field. That’s a message these guys need to hear.

“It’s a different message. It fit his schedule for him to come here Day 1. It was a fitting way to kick start fall camp.”

Vital’s message of perseverance and success resonated with the assembled Demons, who begin the physicality of fall camp with a 9:15 a.m. practice today.

A former NFL scout and director of player personnel, Vital spoke and answered questions from a rapt audience, who hung on nearly every word of his journey from seventh-round draft pick, to being cut, to nearly turning down what became a decades-long career in scouting and front-office work.

Vital credited a “raw” uncle, who told him upon hearing Vital initially turned down an offer to scout that his nephew “must have rocks in his head.”

As he considered what to share with the Demons Wednesday, Vital focused on life lessons, not football techniques.

“I just threw out pieces of 35 years, pertinent things that they can take with them,” Vital said. “It can be one or two things, it can be 10 things, that can help them get to the next level. That’s their dream. You have to push them to go to class, but they all want to go to the NFL. They all are trying to get to that level. I’m trying to make life lessons. This all parallels to life.”

Ahead of Vital’s question and answer segment with the players, he offered up a few questions to the Demons including what their goals as a team are for the upcoming season and what it means to win as a team.

As Vital echoed some of the responses from the team, those words sunk in equally as much as the ones he spoke later.

“He gave us a lot of great information we need as a team before we start our camp,” said senior safety Jabari Reddock, who transferred from Stony Brook in the spring. “We can connect more. As he said, culture is a big thing in any business setting. As a team, if we come together as one, have a great culture and are on the same page, the sky is the limit.”

A limitless future is one Vital saw himself with nearly 40 years ago when another professional athlete spoke to him, one whose career carried him to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“It makes me feel good to see young men sitting, listening and asking questions when they’re deep into what I’m saying,” Vital said. “I feel like I’m helping. They may be doctors or lawyers or one may end up speaking around the country.

“I was at Nicholls State when Willie Stargell came in. He was speaking, and I loved him. It impacted me. I wanted to do that. Maybe not at that moment, but as the years passed, I thought, ‘Man, that was pretty cool.’ I don’t think I could fathom doing this if he had not come to my school. This is going to impact somebody eight to 10 years down the road. Someone’s going to grab a mic and talk.”

Contact Jason at PughJ@nsula.edu

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


Shreveporter makes history with college commitment

Even before he knew anything about college hockey, Kason Muscutt heard stories about what it’s like to play inside the University of Maine’s Harold Alfond Sports Arena.

“Maine has been my dream school ever since my dad told me about the environment in that building,” said Muscutt, whose father, Scott, made trips to Orono, Maine, as a member of the University of New Brunswick hockey team from 1992-97. “He felt like the (opposing) players were watching the fans instead of the fans watching you. And then they would erupt when Maine would come out.”

Kason is looking forward to a little different perspective and likely created another piece of local history this weekend. The 17-year-old Shreveport native committed to play for the Maine Black Bears, a two-time national champion.

It’s not every day Louisiana born-and-breds commit to play college hockey. In fact, Scott Muscutt, who (since 1997) has served as a player, coach and now general manager of the Shreveport Mudbugs, believes his son could be the first.

In June, Kason Muscutt participated in the 2022 USA Hockey Boys Select 17 Camp, where the best 60 players in the country showcased their talents to the top junior hockey organizations and college programs.

Muscutt was believed to be the first Louisiana-born player selected for that camp – he was certainly the first from Northwest Louisiana, where there is just a single sheet of ice (George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum) and it’s not available 12 months a year.

“It feels nice to be committed to college, there’s no question, but the work is really just now starting,” said Kason, who visited the Maine campus last week. “I still have a lot of work to do.”

That work will continue at The George, where Muscutt will attempt to make the 2022-23 Shreveport Mudbugs roster when training camp begins Aug. 12.

“I don’t really have any expectations,” the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Muscutt said. “I’m going to do what’s given me success – I’m going to work my butt off.”

The Mudbugs have won two national championships in the North American Hockey League, which features 16-to-21-year-olds. Unlike many athletes, who enter college immediately following high school, hockey players often play in junior leagues past the age of 20 before they enter college.

Former Mudbugs captain David Breazeale, 22, is set to enter his sophomore season at Maine. When will Muscutt don a Black Bears sweater? That’s anyone’s guess.

“It’s not necessarily going to happen when I want it to happen, it’s a matter of when I’m ready,” Muscutt said. “(Maine) is not committing me now because they think I’m ready to play Division I hockey right now. They see the potential and I’m going to work harder than ever to get there.”

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com


NSU basketball is destination for one-armed Gatorade sensation

UNIQUE PROSPECT:  A one-armed high school basketball standout, Hansel Enmanuel, announced Saturday he is committed to play at Northwestern State.

JOURNAL STAFF

New Northwestern State basketball coach Corey Gipson hinted weeks ago that he had a solution to Demon fans’ desire for media exposure, but said they’d have to wait and see.

The curtain opened Saturday when Hansel Enmanuel announced his commitment to the Demons, resulting in waves of social media attention reporting the news.

Enmanuel’s story is featured in a Gatorade commercial that began airing during the NBA Finals and is pinned on the @Gatorade Twitter account. He has been profiled on SportsCenter and featured by other national media.

The news of his commitment was quickly picked up by Sports Illustrated and Apple News, among an array of national and even international social media and online outlets.

Enmanuel is a one-armed prep standout who has played at Life Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla., where he was averaging 25.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 3.4 blocks through Feb. 15, according to SI.com reporter Wilton Jackson.

He narrowed his choices to Memphis, Tennessee State and Bethune-Cookman in June before announcing his commitment Saturday at the Drew League prospect showcase Saturday.

Enmanuel had his left arm amputated at age 6 after a wall collapsed on it in his native Dominican Republic. He emerged as a college prospect in the past couple of years. A 6-4 guard, Enmanuel is ranked as the No. 195 overall prospect in the class of 2022, according to the On3 Consensus, which is self-described as “a complete and equally weighted industry generated average that utilizes all four major recruiting media companies.”

On3 reported the Demon commit owns a $1.4 million “NIL valuation” that is the 11th highest among 2022 prospects. On3 reporter Joe Tipson said Enmanuel has over 4 million followers across his social media platforms.

The On3 NIL Valuation is an index that “looks to set the standard market value for both high school and college-level athletes (that) … signifies an athlete’s value at a certain moment in time.”

Enmanuel has an NIL deal with Gatorade, and appeared in a trailer for rapper J. Cole, reported Tipton.

His native language is Spanish, and he is beginning to learn English after enrolling at the Florida high school for his senior year.

His father played professionally in their native country.

NSU is unable to announce the addition until scholarship documents are received, although both president Marcus Jones and athletics director Kevin Bostian shared the news on their social media accounts. Enmanuel’s decision was widely rumored to be imminent among Demon staff and supporters.

Photo by KEN JACKSON


LSU’s Kelly takes first steps in SEC media madhouse

ON THE GRILL IN HOTLANTA: New LSU football coach Brian Kelly was well prepared Monday for the wide variety of questions he fielded in 25 minutes at the podium in Atlanta at SEC Media Days.

JOURNAL SPORTS

As head football coach at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly was always in a national media spotlight.

But during his 12 seasons with the Fighting Irish, he never got to participate in a conference media day, not since he was head coach at Cincinnati well over a decade ago. The Irish have steadfastly maintained their independence.

That fact, coupled with the opportunity to compete in the country’s premiere football league, helped bring Kelly to Atlanta and the podium at the Southeastern Conference Media Days. LSU’s new coach acknowledged the allure of the SEC, the opportunity to coach a program at a university that is fully committed to providing resources to compete for national titles, and crawfish etouffee as reasons he is now favoring purple and gold ties.

Kelly clearly relished speaking to a media horde blended between national outlets and SEC local papers and broadcasters. He was the first in a parade of SEC head coaches who will command the attention of the media through the end of Thursday.

While he expressed his newfound passion for etouffee and chargrilled oysters, Kelly spent most of his 25 minutes on the podium fielding the typical array of topical issues along with a few specific queries about the LSU team, and a healthy share related to his time at Notre Dame and his view of the Irish from the outside.

The overwhelming topics for Kelly and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey were conference realignment and the Name, Image and Likeness issue.

Kelly kicked back at the notion that NIL resources among boosters at Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia gave those programs big recruiting advantages over LSU.

“I don’t think we’re being outbid by anybody,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the place of NIL anyway. So if we were being outbid, then we’re going to be outbid if we have $50 million in our collective.”

Sankey said he and other SEC leaders have had bi-partisan discussions with congressional leaders, hoping for federal laws to refine the NIL landscape. If that’s impossible, Sankey said the SEC would look to the state legislatures in its footprint hoping uniform laws could be enacted to manage NIL.

Kelly said he didn’t sense any urgency at Notre Dame to jump into a conference affiliation, but mused about the challenges he and his team will face this fall in the SEC.

“We’ll go play at Auburn, at Florida Field, at Kyle Field, some of the most storied venues in college football, and that’s a new experience for me, after 32 seasons as a head coach. That’s exciting for me and for our team,” he said.

In his annual address to the media, Sankey said the SEC was in no hurry to expand beyond 16 teams, but hardly closed the door on speculation that ACC programs like Clemson, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia might be indicating interest.

“There’s no sense of urgency, no sense of panic,” said Sankey, who declared the SEC was a “super conference” and said the SEC’s pending additions of Texas and Oklahoma “trumped” the Big Ten adding USC and UCLA. “We’re not just shooting for a number of affiliations that make us better. Could they be out there? I would never say they’re not. I would never say that we will. We’re going to be evaluating the landscape.”

Kelly’s LSU debut comes Sept. 4 in the Superdome against Florida State, a program he faced three times in the last four years at Notre Dame, escaping with an overtime win last season.


As LSU enjoys recruiting rebound, slippery slope approaches

It’s been a great week for LSU football recruiting. With each passing day, it seemed as though another recruit was signing up to be a future Tiger. (Figuratively, not literally.)

It was topped off by the news that five-star wide receiver Jalen Brown had let the world know he wanted to play in Baton Rouge.

A few weeks ago, LSU stood at No. 37 in the always-exact recruiting rankings; after the slew of Instagram announcements – hey, at least they aren’t playing the shell game with caps anymore – the Tigers moved up to No. 8.

Or No. 9.

Or is it No. 10? Depends on who’s doing the rankings.

If nobody was worried about the Tigers’ recruiting ranking because “it’s only July,” then doesn’t it stand to reason that they shouldn’t be excited because “it’s only July?”

If the Jalen Brown news has you thinking about him catching touchdown passes, then are you just as excited about Alex Adams doing the same?

Who?

That’s another wide receiver who LSU landed a few years ago. He caught all of two passes and is now waiting for his turn at Akron. Yes, the Zips.

Brown may work out just fine for the Tigers. Or maybe he won’t. Look at any recruiting class and you’ll find that about a third of them are total non-factors. But there is no doubt that the process has been sped up considerably, which means it’s become even dicier to project.

Coaches love to tell you that recruiting is “the lifeblood of a football program,” but the true lesson for everybody else is that it is the ultimate in things that you can take as seriously as you want or pay no attention to at all.

The more you follow it, the easier it is to keep following it. Or you can just ignore it and you won’t miss it one bit.

It might interest you to know that of the three most highly sought-after national recruits from a year ago, exactly zero of them had the school they eventually ended up at as one of the those they had narrowed it down to last summer. Can you say N-I-L?

That is sure to evolve into something we may not recognize in a few years, which is what the whole sped-up college recruiting concept has done.

Look at what has happened already. For years, signing day was held on the first Wednesday in February. It was cemented on that day like Christmas or the Fourth of July.

Then came early signing day on December, which everyone thought would bring in a trickle of activity. Instead, it brought a tidal wave. By the time February comes along, many of those who used to be making decisions were already in a college classroom.

Here’s where things can get tricky. If all of these future college athletes are making announcements in the summer, then how long until the early signing gets pushed into July?

Longshot? Perhaps. But think about the effect it would have on high school football. Because if they have already signed up for college, what incentive would they have to actually play their senior seasons?

If you think college players skipping out of bowl games to get ready for the NFL Draft is a problem, then sit back and watch this.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com


Southland shuffle scuttles 70-season NSU-McNeese football rivalry

CARDINAL SIN:  The Southland Conference has halted a 70-season string of rivalry matchups between Northwestern State and McNeese, in a schedule shuffle prompted by Lamar’s return to the league this fall.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – The return of Lamar to the Southland Conference was good news for Northwestern State – until Wednesday.

That’s when the conference office issued a revised 2022 conference football schedule without a matchup between NSU and its biggest rival, McNeese.

For the first time since the 1951 season (except for 2020 when the pandemic pushed the season to spring 2021), the Demons and Cowboys will not meet in football.

They were previously slated to collide in Natchitoches to end the regular season on Nov. 19, but now McNeese will meet Lamar and the Demons will face Incarnate Word in Turpin Stadium.

Earlier this year, Lamar withdrew from its brief and ill-fated membership in the Western Athletic Conference and announced it would rejoin the Southland effective with the 2023-24 athletic year. Earlier this week, Lamar and the Southland announced the Cardinals were back in the SLC effective immediately.

That decision had actually been reached some time in June, when the conference office and scheduling consultants began restructuring the Southland football slate to accommodate Lamar’s return.

NSU will play Lamar in Turpin Stadium to kick off the Southland season on Sept. 24. Earlier this week, coaches from Northwestern heard from their counterparts at McNeese that the Demons-Cowboys contest originally slated for Nov. 19 would move up to that date.

But an apparent late shuffle in the Southland office scuttled that.

Fans, coaches, and staff at Northwestern and McNeese were stunned to learn their teams would not meet, pausing the annual rivalry – the longest in the conference by far. The Southland’s failure to prioritize that matchup was already being criticized after the league’s announcement.

The revised slate didn’t impact the Demons’ non-conference slate. NSU opens at Montana and on Sept. 10 comes to Independence Stadium in Shreveport to match up against Grambling.

The Demons have only four games at home in Turpin Stadium. Twice, they will play two consecutive road games and four of their last six contests are away from Natchitoches.

The revised 2022 Northwestern State football schedule:  Sept. 3 at Montana, Sept. 10 vs. Grambling (Independence Stadium, Shreveport); Sept. 17 at Southern Mississippi; Sept. 24 home vs. Lamar*; Oct. 1 home vs. Nicholls*;  Oct. 8 at Eastern Illinois; Oct. 15 at Houston Baptist*; Oct. 22 home vs. Southeast Missouri (homecoming); Oct. 29 open date; Nov. 5 at Texas A&M-Commerce*; Nov. 12 at Southeastern Louisiana*; Nov. 19 home vs. Incarnate Word*

Note = *asterisk indicates Southland Conference games.

Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


I-Bowl lands LSU’s Mulkey as keynote speaker for Aug. 30 dinner

FLASH AND FIRE: Kim Mulkey’s coaching acumen is second to none in any sport, and her distinctive wardrobe regularly turns heads. Her intensity is legendary in college women’s basketball.

JOURNAL SPORTS

After a pandemic pause, the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Kickoff Dinner is back on the schedule for 2022 and it’s back with a flourish — LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey will be the featured speaker, the first woman to step into that spotlight.

The annual dinner is Tuesday evening, Aug. 30 at the Shreveport Convention Center.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. for a cocktail hour, dinner buffets will open at 6:15 p.m. and the program will begin at 7 p.m. with a brief audience Q&A following the program. 

Individual tickets to the 2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Kickoff Dinner are on sale for $50 apiece, while a table of eight is $400 apiece. Tickets are available for purchase at the bowl’s website or by calling the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl office at 318.221.0712 or toll-free at 888.414.BOWL.

Featured speakers at the annual kickoff event have included Marcus Spears, Devin White, Drew Brees, Steve Spurrier, Herschel Walker, Archie Manning, Emmitt Smith, Jason Witten, Lou Holtz, Bobby Bowden and Terry Bradshaw.

Mulkey’s credentials and effervescent personality make her a good fit on that list. Being the first female is second-nature for her:  as a pre-teen, she played All-Star baseball with the boys in Hammond in the mid-1970s, not long after Title IX legislation was passed the summer of 1972. She and her parents actually needed to use legal action to break one roadblock.

Doing things others haven’t comes naturally to the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, who has won national championships as a player and assistant coach at Louisiana Tech and as head coach at Baylor. At 29, in 1990, she became the youngest ever inductee, a distinction she still holds, in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame based on her playing days at Hammond High and Tech. She was enshrined in the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions a few years ago.

Last season, her first at LSU, Mulkey earned national Coach of the Year honors. She led her first LSU team to a 26-6 record, second place in the SEC and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was the greatest turnaround in SEC history by a first-year head coach, and she was named the Associated Press National Coach of the Year – joining Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw as just the third coach to win the AP Coach of the Year award three times.

“It is an honor to be invited to speak at the kickoff dinner for the Independence Bowl,” said Mulkey. “The Independence Bowl is such an important event to north Louisiana which is where I went to school and began my coaching career. I have created a lot of great memories in north Louisiana and I am excited to be back Aug. 30 to share my story.”

“We are very excited to have Kim Mulkey speak at our annual Kickoff Dinner,” noted 2022 Independence Bowl Foundation Chairman Rob Rubel. “She is such an important figure in the history of Louisiana sports and in college athletics, and it will be an honor to learn more about her story at this great event.”

Photo courtesy of LSU ATHLETICS


LSU teammates teeing it up in Tahoe celebrity tourney

ENTERTAINING TIGER: LSU All-American Kyle Williams is not just a Pro Bowl football star, but he’s a funny guy. He cracked up Tim Brando (right) and Jahri Evans (left) at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Roundtable Lunch two weeks ago.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Two weekends ago, former LSU football All-American Kyle Williams was front and center in the state’s sports spotlight as he was inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

This weekend, he’s playing to a bigger audience. Williams will join his good friend and former LSU roommate Andrew Whitworth in Lake Tahoe, Nev., playing in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament that begins today.

Today’s first round will be carried on NBC’s Peacock Channel and NBC Sports Digital from 3-5 CT, and on GOLF Channel via tape-delay from 6:30-8:30. Saturday and Sunday, coverage will be on NBC Sports (locally KTAL-TV Channel 6) from 1:30-5.

Williams and Whitworth tuned up for Tahoe just before the LSHOF Induction Celebration, getting in a round at Louisiana’s top-ranked golf course, Squire Creek in Ruston. They were starters on LSU’s 2003 BCS national champion football team coached by Nick Saban.

Williams was the 2020 runner-up in the ACC event, leading going into the final round in his first appearance in Lake Tahoe. He plays to a zero handicap. Whitworth is listed with a 4 handicap.

The event is being billed as featuring the most celebrity-laden field in its 33-year history.

The sports and entertainment stars hitting the links along with Whitworth and Williams include Justin Timberlake; Stephen, Dell and Seth Curry; Annika Sorenstam; Patrick Mahomes; Tony Romo; Aaron Rodgers; Charles Barkley; and first-time participants Colin Jost of Saturday Night Live, WWE Superstar The Miz, and singers/songwriters Nick Jonas and Jake Owen.

Whitworth, a West Monroe native and resident who retired after his Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl in February, is one of a dozen rookies in the 87-person field for the 54-hole tournament.

“Whit” was named the 2021 NFL Man of the Year for his extensive charity and community work. He had four Pro Bowl appearances in his 16-year pro career, mostly in Cincinnati. At LSU, he started 52 games at left offensive tackle from 2002-05.

Williams, a Ruston native and resident, made six Pro Bowl appearances in his 13 seasons with the Buffalo Bills. A three-year starter and a 2005 All-American defensive tackle for LSU, he was elected to the LSHOF in his first year on the ballot. Whitworth will be eligible for the 2025 LSHOF class.

Among the participants this weekend are 17 members of their sports’ Hall of Fame, 13 MVP winners, multiple Cy Young and Player of the Year award winners, and several Grammy and Emmy award recipients.

Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com

Photo by CHRIS REICH, LSWA


NSU completes new athletic administration with deputy AD/SWA hire

JOURNAL SPORTS

NATCHITOCHES – New Northwestern State athletics director Kevin Bostian has finished filling his administrative team by hiring a woman as the No. 2 figure in the Demons’ athletic hierarchy, naming attorney Sydney Jones as Deputy Athletic Director for Business and Finance and Senior Woman Administrator.

Jones comes to NSU from soon-to-be fellow Southland Conference member Texas A&M-Commerce where she spent the past five months as the department’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for business services and SWA.

“First and foremost, the leadership and personnel from top to bottom make this a really exciting team to join,” Jones said. “With Kevin being in his first few months he’s forward-thinking and focused on getting tasks across the finish line which is advantageous. I’m excited to join this team and get some of those bigger goals accomplished.

“Northwestern State is an all-hands-on-deck institution. All personnel work hard and are committed to the bigger picture for the overall department. That was really enticing for me.”

Jones will serve as the chief financial officer for Northwestern State athletics as well as the department’s SWA. Bostian took over as AD Feb. 7.

“In a short period of time, Sydney Jones has made her mark as a college athletics administrator,” Bostian said. “Throughout the hiring process, she impressed our committee with her presence and command of what we expect. Adding someone with Sydney’s skill set and abilities makes our department stronger. Her ability to relate to our student-athletes through her experiences as a college athlete will benefit them during their time here at Northwestern State.” 

A four-year softball letterwinner at Nevada, Jones has a varied professional background.

Jones was the Director of Procurement and Contracting at the United States Air Force Academy before moving to Texas A&M-Commerce. While at Air Force, Jones had oversight of purchasing, procurement and game guarantees while developing and maintaining key relationships with internal and external shareholders. She also played important roles in improving Air Force’s athletic facilities, construction projects, policy analysis and reform.

While at Texas A&M-Commerce, Jones was a key part of the transition team for the Lions’ July 1 move to the Southland Conference.

In addition to her time at Texas A&M-Commerce, Jones was the Assistant Director of Athletics for External Operations and Development/SWA at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. While at LMU, Jones was responsible for developing and implementing fundraising initiatives, had oversight of fiscal management and procurement, assisted with compliance and had sport supervisory roles for softball, women’s volleyball and beach volleyball. Additionally, Jones was an adjunct professor of sport management classes in the LMU school of business.

Jones also brings experience in the legal realm of minor league baseball with roles involving contract negotiation and interpretation as well as player representation.

As an undergraduate at Nevada, Jones served as a representative on the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council while earning her degree in political science and economics in 2015. During her time at Nevada, Jones interned with the Nevada State Senate and Political Caucus.

She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, focusing on sports and entertainment law, in 2018. Jones was a Sports Law Fellow, was honored by the World of Sports Law in 2017 and won the Am Jur Award for Sports Law and Analytics in 2018.


Tiger fans, set your DVRs, or settle into your favorite chair

JOURNAL SPORTS

The annual 24-hour takeover of the SEC Network by LSU Athletics begins tonight at 11 p.m. CT  and continues Friday, giving Tiger fans plenty of DVR-worthy programming to tide them through until the 2022 sports slate kicks off.

The opening replay will be LSU’s thrilling 27-24 win over Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium that concluded the 2021 regular season.

Football will be the first of seven different LSU sports featured during the 24-hour period that runs until 11 p.m. CT on Friday and highlights events from the 2021-22 season. LSU gymnastics, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball and women’s golf are also included in the takeover.

Among the featured events are the LSU women’s golf team capturing its first SEC title since 1992, and a special episode of SEC INSIDE that focuses upon the women’s basketball squad.

The SEC Network’s LSU Takeover Schedule

(beginning tonight, at 11 p.m. CT and concluding Friday, July 8, at 11 p.m. CT)

  • 11 p.m. – Football vs. Texas A&M
  • 2 a.m. – Football National L-Club Spring Game
  • 4 a.m. – Softball vs. Arkansas
  • 6 a.m. – SEC INSIDE (Women’s Basketball) 
  • 6:30 a.m. – SEC Women’s Golf Championship
  • 9:30 a.m. – Gymnastics vs. Auburn
  • 11 a.m. – Men’s Basketball vs. Kentucky
  • 1 p.m. – Baseball vs. Vanderbilt
  • 4 pm. – Women’s Basketball vs. Kentucky
  • 6 p.m. – Softball vs. Alabama
  • 8 p.m. – Football vs. Florida

Graphic courtesy LSU ATHLETICS


NSU coach to visit Colts through Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship

JOURNAL SPORTS

NATCHITOCHES – With the way his summer has gone, it is a good thing Kyle Washington pledged to be a lifetime learner.

The first-year Northwestern State quarterbacks coach will have a chance later this month to learn from an NFL staff, taking part in the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship with the Indianapolis Colts. Washington will spend approximately 10 days with the Colts at their Westfield, Indiana, headquarters.

“I’m excited to be a part of it,” Washington said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to lean and grow within the profession. I made a vow to myself to be a lifelong learner, and this is another opportunity to exercise that.”

Washington departs July 22 to join coach Frank Reich’s staff and work closely with offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who is in his first year with the Colts. Washington said mutual connections between himself and Brady led to the Demon coach’s latest opportunity for professional development at the highest level.

For the better part of the past quarter century, Indianapolis has been home to two of the best quarterbacks of their generations – Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. That fact is not lost on Washington as he takes part in his second piece of continuing education this summer.

In June, Washington spent two days as a participant in the Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum and fifth annual Quarterback Coaching Summit.

“I vividly remember watching Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Edgerrin James and them light it up,” Washington said. “Peyton’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. To be able to walk those same hall and soak in all that stuff while learning is a great experience. Not too many people can say that.”

Washington said he wants to take a holistic approach to his 10-day stay in Indiana, which dovetails with his commitment to learning.

“There are different ideas for practice planning, for drill work, different ideas for installation,” he said. “There are a lot of different ideas to just plays and play calling. With any aspect of the game of football, there’s a lot to be learned and a lot to add to your toolbelt. (Colts quarterback) Matt Ryan is a veteran in this league who has played for a lot of different coordinators. It will be educational to see how he acts and works as a professional. I’m excited to learn from Marcus and Matt and the other coaches on the staff.

“I’ll have my notepad with me. It’s been filled up pretty good already. It’s all about learning, especially as young as I am in my career. You can never stop learning. I learned that quicky in this profession. I’m going up there in learning mode.”

Graphic courtesy NORTHWESTERN STATE


Grambling cans controversial volleyball coach; she snaps back

JOURNAL SPORTS

Grambling State has fired its volleyball coach a scant five months after hiring Chelsey Lucas, who created a firestorm by cutting virtually the entire team and revoking scholarships – with the initial support of athletic director Dr. Trayvean Scott.

She did not go quietly.

The announcement was made Tuesday by President Rick Gallot and Scott, who also has the title of vice president for intercollegiate athletics. Findings in an ongoing internal investigation sparked the firing, according to GSU’s press release, which noted that additional comment going forward “will be held until the conclusion of the investigation.”

“It is the responsibility of this institution to make sure that student-athletes are afforded opportunities in a manner compliant with all regulatory organizations,” Gallot said. “That applies to athletics as much as it does to academics.”

“The success of student-athletes and their ability to matriculate at Grambling State University is the top priority,” Scott said. “As we move forward in this transition and commence a national search for the next coach, all volleyball student-athletes who received scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year will keep their scholarships and remain on the team. Walk-ons will also continue to hold their roster spots.”

On Feb. 14, Scott hired Lucas, head coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the past three seasons and a former Grambling player who was the 2006 Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. It didn’t take long for trouble to surface and for media outlets nationally to pick up on the discord, forcing Lucas and Grambling’s Athletic Department to issue a statement.

“I met with my team, each student-athlete, individually to discuss my plans moving forward with the Grambling State University volleyball program. My decision was to not bring back some of the current student-athletes on the team. While student-athletes are granted athletic scholarships, a scholarship is not guaranteed and (is) not binding, per NCAA rules and regulations,” her statement said at the time.

Scott authorized another statement that stood behind Lucas and the highly-unusual decision.

Former player Sheila Borders used social media to criticize Scott, Lucas and other administrators for a “classless, vindictive and disrespectful act” of cutting players that “has (left) me drained, emotionally heartbroken, overwhelmed, stressed and sick to my stomach.”

A petition calling for scholarships to be reinstated has almost 3,800 signatures. However, Lucas apparently filled her 12 scholarship slots with new players, and while a few of the 2021 squad members, approaching graduation, chose to stay as walk-on, non-scholarship competitors, there is no NCAA recourse or waiver to permit their scholarships being renewed for 2022-23.

In early May, Grambling announced it hired “the national law office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith LLP to conduct an independent review of allegations involving the women’s volleyball program. The review will be led by counsel who are experienced in legal matters involving intercollegiate athletics and NCAA compliance. A final report will be presented to GSU President Rick Gallot. As appropriate, any findings will be shared publicly.”

Tuesday, almost exactly two months later, Grambling dismissed Lucas. She later shared her perspective in a statement sent to Shreveport’s KSLA-TV, saying since she was hired, she was ordered not to speak to the media.

“My voice has unfortunately been silenced despite the rumors and accusations about me. As a result, I have not been able to provide my side of the story …. I was told today, without notice or any opportunity for discussion, that I was being terminated …. The administration was not able to provide me any details about why they decided to fire me.

“This termination came just days after I had requested and then had a meeting with the President to discuss the way I had been treated in recent weeks by the Athletic Director. The AD, without me knowing in advance, was invited to this meeting with the President. The AD was visibly upset at my complaints during my meeting with the President, and today I was informed that he was the one who recommended my termination. I will be working with my attorney to prepare a response, and believe that my side of this story will demonstrate that what happened to me today was not right or just.”

Scott, hired just over a year ago on July 1, also fired veteran football coach and former Grambling player Broderick Fobbs in November, two weeks before the Bayou Classic that the Tigers won under an interim coach. Scott introduced former NFL head coach Hue Jackson as the new head football coach in December, but another controversy emerged early this year when Jackson hired — apparently with Scott’s approval — disgraced former Baylor coach Art Briles.

Four days after Briles was announced as offensive coordinator, reaction from outraged alumni — including former head coach and Hall of Fame quarterback Doug Williams — led to Briles’ resignation.

With reporting by the Lincoln Parish Journal

Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Parish Journal


ABOUT SUMMER CAMP: It’s ‘Back to the Future’ for Katie Cochran Hall

PRIORITY ON FUN:  Former Byrd and Louisiana Tech guard Katie Cochran Hall focuses on fun along with basketball instruction in her camps. One tips off today in Ruston. 

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

RUSTON — When the Hall of Hoops Basketball Camp gets underway today at the Lambright Sports Complex at Louisiana Tech, camp director Katie Cochran Hall will find herself, once again, sharing her love and knowledge of the game with young people. 

Hall, who starred at C.E. Byrd High School, helped the Lady Jackets to back-to-back state titles in 1993 and 1994 as a leader on a team which was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today,

Her experience with camps goes back to her days as a kid in north Caddo Parish and her time as a Yellow Jacket.

Every summer, her Byrd teammates gather for a reunion. When the team gets together, the talk is rarely of the games.

“We don’t say, ‘Remember that time we beat BTW?,’” Hall said. “We talk about the stories, the trips we went on, or some dance that somebody did that we all tried to do.”

However, Hall does remember a little bit about beating BTW for the LHSAA Class 5A state championship in a packed Hirsch Coliseum in 1993. Hall was the game’s MVP.

As she drove the lane for a layup, Hall remembers a post player from BTW saying, “Who is guarding that girl?” A clock malfunction disrupted the flow of the game, which went into overtime before Hall and her Yellow Jackets won 37-35.

Now, as a parent of four, it’s her children who are having those experiences playing for Cedar Creek School’s middle and high school teams. 

Hall’s daughter, Kennedy, is going into the eighth grade at Cedar Creek. Hall coached her team last year.

“I told her when I started coaching her team that it could get tricky,” Hall said. “It’s been great. Her attitude has been amazing. I think I’m tougher on her than I am the other players. I’m just glad her personality is receptive.”

When Hall started playing basketball, she was on the other end of the parent-coach equation.

“I was not as receptive,” laughed Hall, who was initially coached by her father, Kenny Cochran. “I didn’t always have the right personality. I was stubborn. There were some tough times with him pushing me, but I needed it.” 

It was as a Byrd Yellow Jacket when Hall’s love for basketball camps began.

“Playing for Coach Gay Nix, we always had a camp in the summer,” Hall said. “It really started with doing a devotion on the fly and grew into having the campers do skits. After that Coach Nix started giving me more responsibility. I loved it.” 

In college, she was a four-year letterman for the Lady Techsters and had the opportunity to play for two Basketball Hall of Fame coaches – head coach Leon Barmore and his assistant, former Techster great Kim Mulkey. She learned from both while working Lady Techster camps, which regularly hosted hundreds of young girls every summer.

“Coach Barmore was big on making sure we made every kid feel special,” Hall said. “A high five, or some other gesture, any incentive really. And he was big on announcing their name and making sure we announced their name correctly and loud enough for everyone to hear.”

Working for Mulkey, who is now the LSU coach, provided another permanent takeaway.

“She was really good at bringing enthusiasm every day,” Hall said. “She was also good at connecting with the many high school coaches we had working the camp.” 

After her playing days, Hall started coaching with stints at Tech and Ole Miss before putting the whistle aside in 2006 to raise a family.

“My husband, Lance, and I talked about it,” Cochran said. “It was a hard decision, but we both felt that it was the best thing to do for our kids. But I always knew I wanted to stay close to the game.”

In the time since, Hall started Hall of Hoops basketball services. It includes camps like the one she is directing today but also includes one-on-one and team sessions. Hall is especially excited about her camp this week because she is bringing in Tyler Coston, former director of Point Guard College.

“I went to his camp last year and selfishly wanted to bring him to Ruston to work with my team,” Hall said. “But I’m excited that it will be open to all players in the area.”

The hallofhoops.com website provides additional information on Hall of Hoops Basketball Services.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

Submitted photo