NATCHITOCHES — Newcomer Kevin Shief has won the job as Northwestern State’s punt returner while three-year backup Nic Russo has earned the starting punter’s role for Thursday’s season opener in Turpin Stadium against Delta State, coach Bradley Dale Peveto said Saturday.
Shief, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound walk-on sophomore receiver from West Jefferson, has impressed coaches catching passes and fielding punts from the outset of preseason camp.
Russo, a junior, has a leg up on true freshman signee Andy Wickman, Peveto said.
“Russo has been the most consistent punter in camp and he’s been through it before, and he’s earned it with a lot of hard work this summer and in camp,” said Peveto, who said he OK’d the recommendation of special teams coordinator Brendan Farrell. “Wickman has a great leg and will be very good for us, but he’s like most true freshmen, he’s not quite ready yet. He’s still battling to be our punter.”
Shief will get first shot at the punt return role, where nobody is back for 2011 who returned a punt last season.
“Two things you want back there is the ability to make the first guy miss, and, of course, good hands to catch the ball. Shief’s had the best hands of anyone we’ve got in camp, and he can run. He’s earned this shot,” said Peveto.
Junior receiver Phillip Harvey, Shief and junior safety Jamaal White will be the Demons’ three kickoff returners. Harvey has handled that role for two years and has a career 21.4 average on 47 returns, 23 shy of the school record 70 by Dennis Smith from 1986-89. Smith also holds the career yardage record with 1,642 on kick runbacks.
White, the Demons’ starting safety, will be making his debut returning kicks.
Junior place-kicker John Shaughnessy will retain his kickoff duties as well as handing field goals and extra points. He did all three last season.
LUCAS SHOW TO START: The weekly “Mike Lucas Coaches Show” will make its 2011 debut on Monday beginning at 7 p.m. at Tope La’ Restaurant in downtown Hammond.
The one-hour show, which is hosted by Allen Waddell, will air on KSLU-FM (90.9) and will also be available on the internet at www.LionSports.net. Lucas and Waddell will preview the season that begins Saturday against Tulane in the Superdome.
One SLU assistant coach will also be live on each episode.
Fans can send in their questions online via www.LionSports.net during the weekly “Ask the Coach” segment.