LAKE CHARLES – National Championship game coaches Bobby Keasler and Tommy Tate will headline McNeese Football’s 2017 Spring Game by each coaching a squad, head coach Lance Guidry announced on Thursday in conjunction with the release of his 2017 spring schedule
The spring slate will kick off on Friday, March 17 with the first of 15 practices, leading up to the April 8 spring game.
Keasler is tied with Matt Viator as the winning coach in school history with 78 victories. He guided the Cowboys to four Southland Conference championships from 1990-98. He compiled a 78-34-2 career record at McNeese and led the Cowboys to the 1997 National Championship game. In his nine years, he led the Cowboys to seven playoff appearances, compiling an 8-7 postseason record.
In six seasons (2000-2005), Tate coached McNeese to three conference titles and a 49-26 record. His three-peat conference championship teams (2001-2003) became the first trifecta in conference history and led McNeese to the 2002 FCS National Championship game.
Two scrimmages are scheduled for Saturday, April 1 at 10 a.m. with the second being the spring game, on Saturday, April 8, at a time yet to be determined.
The Cowboys return 19 full-time starters – eight on offense, nine defense and both kickers – and 14 additional players that saw starting action last year as well. A total of 69 lettermen return.
Offensively, the Cowboys return 97 percent of its total offensive yards production (4,695 yards out of 4,854) that includes Southland Conference and Louisiana Newcomer of the Year, quarterback James Tabary who threw for 3,036 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
Also returning are the team’s top three rushers in Ryan Ross (601 yards, 5 TDs), Justin Pratt (457, 5 TDs), and Lawayne Ross (218, 2 TDs), while David Hamm, who missed the 2016 season, will rejoin the team. Hamm rushed for 251 yards and a touchdown in 2015.
McNeese will return the bulk of its receiving corps including the top five on the leaderboard Darious Crawley (41 catches, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Kent Shelby (40-509, 5 TDs), Kylon Highshaw (31-421, 3 TDs), Parker Orgeron (29-373, TD), and Tavarious Battiste (15-289, TD in five games played).
Defensively, the top seven tacklers from 2016 all return, including defensive linemen Jammerio Gross (59 tackles) and Chris Livings (47 tackles). Those two led the team in sacks (15 ½ combined) and tackles for a loss (27).
Returning safeties Andre Fuller (second on team with 58 tackles with one interception) and Damion Morgan (2 INTs and 49 tackles), along with Jermaine Antoine (team-high three INTs) accounted for six of the Cowboys’ eight interceptions last season.
Both of McNeese’s starting linebackers also return – Ashari Goins (57 tackles, 5 TFL) and Christian Jacobs (42 tackles, 2 ½ TFL).
2017 Spring Football Practice Schedule
March 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25, 28, 29, 31
April 1 (scrimmage), 4, 5, 7, 8 (spring game), 11