NATCHITOCHES — Northwestern State has 23 newcomers in preseason camp, but perhaps none with as big a shoes to fill as freshman punter Andy Wickman.
The Houston native is the heir apparent to Bradley Russon, who ended a three-year run as Demons punter last fall by averaging 41 yards per punt (18th nationally).
“It’s a unique situation for him to be in, being a true freshman and in less than a month having the possibility of not only playing in a Division I game, but starting that game,” said Brendan Farrell, the Demons’ special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.
“Getting him used to get-off time and the other elements that change going from high school to college is key.”
The specialists were honing their skills in Saturday practices, the third day of workouts at Turpin Stadium before a day off Sunday.
The Demons resume practice with a veterans session at 9:40 a.m. Monday and a newcomers workout in the afternoon at 4:40 p.m. before the team unites for the first time in practice Tuesday.
COWBOYS PUT ON PADS: In Lake Charles, the Cowboys worked out in shorts, helmet and shoulder pads for the first time in August camp.
Tailback Marcus Wiltz, a sophomore from Cecilia, was one of the happiest to practice. Wiltz went down with an injury in the fifth game of 2010. At the time of his injury, Wiltz was had 317 yards including a career-high 160 yards rushing in the opener against Lamar.
I’m glad to be back and back on the field,” said Wiltz, who was in rehab for nine months.
Wiltz is one of a stable of four standouts at tailback. The other three vying for playing time are Andre Anderson, Donaldsonville’s Champlain Babin and Javaris Murray.
McNeese will have afternoon workouts on Sunday and Monday in full gear.
WARHAWKS OPEN CAMP: In Monroe, ULM opened preseason camp Saturday afternoon with a two-hour session on the grass practice fields.
The team battled scorching temperatures with the heat index reaching 110 degrees during practice.
“All the guys that played last year — all the returning guys — have got the right mentality,” coach Todd Berry said. “I think everyone came back ready to play. We’ll find out which ones are going to play, and that’s kind of what the preseason camp is about. I expected everybody to come back, be sharp, be in shape, and we did that.”
The Warhawks began practice with stretching drills that were led by strength and conditioning coach John Grieco before splitting up into groups and working on 1-on-1 drills. The practice was contact-free as the players were only allowed to wear helmets because of NCAA rules.
“There’s a lot of trash talk right now (without pads), everybody is running free,” senior safety Nate Brown said. “When we put the pads on, it will expose who each person is, and who we can depend on and trust.”
The Warhawks will return to the practice fields 4:30 p.m. Sunday before splitting up into two groups on Monday for four days.
The varsity group will practice for two hours in the morning beginning at 9:15 and the newcomers will hit the fields for two hours beginning at 4:30 in the afternoon. The team will converge as one unit again on Friday as they will begin two-a-day practice sessions.
Season tickets for ULM’s five home games can be purchased by calling 318-342-3ULM, by visiting the ticket office in Malone Stadium or by logging on to ulmwarhawks.com.
SINGLE-GAME TICKETS ON SALE MONDAY: In Monroe, the University of Louisiana at Monroe ticket office will begin selling single-game tickets for the season on Monday. The home schedule features games against Grambling, defending Sun Belt Champion FIU and league rivals Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
Fans can purchase tickets by calling (318) 342-3ULM or by visiting the ticket office from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. inside Malone Stadium.