A Different Sort Of Spring

admin Thursday, May 4, 2023 Comments Off on A Different Sort Of Spring
A Different Sort Of Spring

I imagined Gary Goff walking around Cowboy Stadium’s turf during his recently completed spring practice doing his own Easter egg hunt: searching for that just right player for a specific position. 

Of course his quest for the Golden Egg centered on quarterback, and he didn’t have to look very far. 

This spring, the second-year McNeese football coach had two legitimate candidates for the Cowboys’ most important assignment. 

What a difference a year makes. 

This spring practice was a complete 180 of Goff’s first session last March, when he barely had enough players for intra-squad scrimmages. He clearly saw his team was not big, strong or fast enough. 

Goff could not lie to himself, as he knew he didn’t have the quality and quantity of talent to be competitive in his first year and it was most evident at quarterback.

This spring brought not only nearly 100 players, but also two top-flight transfer quarterbacks in Nick Glantz and Tre Simmons. Talk about a breath of fresh air and optimism. 

“I am very, very encouraged by both of them right now. They both bring different elements to the team. Both are very capable leaders,” Goff said. 

Compared to Knox Kadum and Cam Ransom last year, the two new quarterbacks on the roster have real stats from real games in which they proved themselves on the field already. That is a key difference Goff has emphasized time and again. 

Glantz, an Iowa State transfer, was 18-2 over two seasons in Junior College, throwing for more than 3,900 yards and 41 touchdowns, while earning the JR-CO Offensive Player of the Year honor as a freshman at Iowa Western in 2020. 

Simmons transferred in from Division II Tusculum in Florida after he passed for nearly 2,400 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last season. He averaged an impressive 243 yards of total offense, both passing and running, per game last year.

Those are numbers that come from football games he started all season and from his performances under the lights no matter the level of competition. 

Goff has learned the hard way that the transfer portal can be a gamble, and it can be difficult to discern whether the players you bring in can actually produce in your team colors and in your system. 

He is confident he has his starting quarterback in either Glantz or Simmons. It will be decided between the two at some point in August camp. 

“They both are gunslingers and both have really strong arms,” said Goff. “Tre is probably a little more elusive and can fly. Nate is pretty athletic and has done some damage with his legs as well. We have a pretty good one-two punch right there.” 

In some respects, it would have been nice to have either Glantz or Simmons rise to the top over the spring and establish himself as the starter. But that would mean one is head over heels better than the other. 

That’s not the case and Goff is fine with that. “Honestly, I could not tell you who is ahead of the other. They have graded out very, very similar. If one goes 15 of 22 in a practice, the next day the other one is going 16 of 23. It’s been a back and forth battle and a healthy battle.” 

The decision about starting quarterback is the most important and sometimes the most difficult if the talent level is equal and the audition workouts have been similar. The coaches then have to factor in the intangibles, which adds another layer of dissection and evaluation. 

Goff has said, “I want a starter … I don’t want to play two quarterbacks … I don’t really believe in that.” But he may reconsider that stance if Glantz and Simmons continue their close competition through August camp. 

A critical part of winning and having consistent success in today’s college football is adapting and evolving as the game changes. 

Goff knows that, and just may end up devising a game plan with different packages and plays for Glantz and Simmons to use to attack defenses. 

His opinion of a two-quarterback system may have to change. Time and his two new passers may see to that. 

McNeese will need to upgrade the receiving position before Goff and his revamped offensive staff have any hope of running his Air Raid offense with a modicum of consistency and success. 

Clearly the receiving corps last year was a drag on the offense. Dropped passes, poor route running, no ability to get open, barely any yards after the catch and no clear No. 1 or No. 2 alpha at the position.

That’s why Goff recruited a slew of prep receivers who will arrive for August camp besides the ones who transferred in for spring. A couple of roster spots are being set aside this off-season as Goff says he will eye the portal again for a couple more veteran pass catchers. 

“That group overall (the receivers) has a lot of work to do.” That was Goff being as nice and diplomatic as he could. 

The receivers last season were bad and the few holdovers this spring didn’t do much better. It is the position group that is Goff’s biggest headache and concern this off-season. 

This is very ironic, as Goff played receiver in college and receivers are clearly the pistons of his offensive engine. 


Only one receiver made any consistent strides over spring, and that was Jalen Johnson, who Goff says was their go-to guy, very dependable and a hard worker. “We’ve had a lot of inconsistency. We just have. We signed seven receivers who are not on campus yet, and we will continue to recruit that room right there and we have to get better.”

This spring the offensive line shuffled a few players into different positions and plugged in a junior college addition at center.

The running backs are deep, with a mix of different skill sets and body types. Returning senior D’angelo Durham is back from a serious knee injury that had doctors worried about saving the leg. Complications from nerve damage and blood flow were overcome, and Durham is back with the mindset that Goff describes as “a man on a mission.”

The defensive line looks bigger and faster. It had flashes in intra-squad scrimmages as the unit replaced three starters from last year.

The next level at linebacker will miss Kordell Williams, a tackling machine from last year. But sophomore Micah Davey came on strong near the end of the season and has become the leader on defense. At 6 feet, 2 inches, 235 pounds, Davey will be a force at linebacker and my best bet as a preseason All Southland selection.

The clear winner of the spring was the defensive secondary.

New starters at cornerback and safety meant a complete overhaul from a defensive backfield that ended the season last year with freshmen and sophomores dodging bullets.

The new defensive backs had numerous interceptions and forced turnovers in those telling spring scrimmages. Goff says four of his mid-season transfers are odds-on starters this fall and bring much more physical play and sheer brute force to the field. “The secondary has had a really good spring, which we didn’t have a year ago.”

There was a day and night difference this spring compared to last March: from sheer roster numbers, to the upgrade at quarterback, the search for game-changing playmakers at receiver, the process of breaking in several new assistant coaches and just advancing this new culture and system with year two under Goff.

When it comes to the depth of talent, the players and their mindsets this program needed a drastic change. That mindset and urgency for vast improvement with every practice was the message Goff imposed on his team without fail.

“We stressed coming out here giving their best effort every day and learning how to play with an attitude with a chip on our shoulder. We have to earn these things; it’s not going to be given to us,” Goff said, with a chipper tone in his voice.

This head coach is quick to crack a smile and a laugh. But don’t be fooled by that. He has a serious approach and attitude toward success when he says “it’s not if we will win, but when.”

There is much more work to be done for the question of when to be answered.

Catch Rick Sarro’s commentary and latest opinions on Soundoff on CBS Lake Charles Tuesday and Thursday nights at 10:05 pm and again Saturday at 6 pm. Follow Rick on Twitter @rick_sarro.

Comments are closed.