Football gets started
Written by Jim Gazzolo
By Jim Gazzolo
LAKE CHARLES — Finally, after over a year, Frank Wilson will get to coach a meaningful football practice.
It has been a wild, strange and dramatic journey so far, but there are now games to get ready for and a season on the horizon.
Wilson, who was hired to restore McNeese State football to what he calls “its rightful place”, will coach his first official preseason practice Wednesday. It’s something he has been waiting for and is ready to get started.
“I’m excited, the staff is excited, the kids are excited,” Wilson said.
But what is the team looks like is still an unknown.
McNeese is slated to play seven games in this their first spring season every. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cowboys skipped last fall’s season and like most of the Football Championship Subdivision world will play a spring campaign followed by a return to the fall if all goes well.
Of course no other school in the nation has had to deal with a pair of hurricanes as well. That, along with the changing transfer rules leaves all to wonder what type of a year this is going to be.
Even the coach doesn’t know what he’s got yet.
Calling this camp “an open competition” at all positions, Wilson said he is looking forward to getting a close look at what he has got when it comes to talent.
“Want to see our personal and see what we do well,” he said. “We need to see what we do when we are stressed, when we get hit, how we tackle.”
It will be a different team than Wilson had when he was first hired. A total of 20 players have left the program, half of whom decided to hang up their cleats and move on with their lives. The rest entered the new and strange world of college free agency knowns as the transfer portal.
It wasn’t easy for those who stayed either. There were a lot of questions as to whether or not McNeese would have football at all this year let alone in the spring.
A damaged stadium that not long ago saw its playing field underwater didn’t help.
“You give credit to the kids who have stayed,” Wilson said. “The ones who are here want to be here.”
There will be much to do for McNeese, which unlike other schools didn’t really have a fall workout schedule and had players on their own for conditioning. Yet this is the time Wilson wants to establish the team’s personality.
“Identify who we are,” he said. “We have a season to play, to get ready for. Then we have a fall season to get ready to play.
“We have work to do.”
But don’t think for.a minute Wilson is overlooking the seven games coming up.
“We will play every game to win,” he said. “We are trying to develop our team to be a champion. You only do that one way, but playing to win.”
One thing Wilson doesn’t want to see is a team that is playing the role of victim despite what the players have been through.
“We don’t complain, we adjust,” Wilson said. “We move forward.
“We get to put a helmet on and go practice. We get to do what our sport does. It has bene a year since we got to play tackle football.”
That all changes Wednesday when McNeese football returns to the field.