HOUSTON Southland Football Media Day returned to an in-person event at the Houston Hilton Post Oak for the first time since the 2019 season as the official kick-off of the football season kicked off with the six league teams participating.
McNeese sophomore head coach Frank Wilson was joined by quarterback Cody Orgeron and All-American defensive end Isaiah Chambers in the case with a live question and answer session on ESPN+, one-on-one media interviews, a social media session and an SLC Car Wash.
Earlier in the day, the league released its preseason poll, with the Cowboys selected fourth. Southeast Louisiana topped the poll, followed by Nicholls and UIW. Northwestern State and HBU followed McNeese to complete the poll.
The Cowboys, 3-4 in the spring, return most of their starters from that squad, including 95 percent of their offensive output. McNeese is looking for its first league title since 2015 and its first post-season win since the 2002 season.
“We are eager to be able to play a fall season and compete for a conference championship,” Wilson said. “Our players have trained diligently and the staff have worked very hard.”
During the spring, the Cowboys won two of their last three games and finished the season with one of the best defenses in the country.
“Playing in the spring was a big deal,” Wilson said. “We couldn’t do anything in the fall because we were in a unique situation because some of our boys were in shelters and living in other parts of the region because of the hurricanes (Laura and Delta).
“It was important for us to be able to play in the spring to give us some sort of normalcy and to play for our fans and our community.
“In over 20 years of coaching it was probably the toughest job I’ve had to endure. We had to let the players know that we will prevail and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The spring season had arrived and we started our best to play football at the end of the season. We came closer together than ever before.”
Chambers was named a consensus All-American after the spring slate after being named to the organization’s five different first-team units. The graduate student also earned SLC and Louisiana Defensive Player of the Year honors, and placed fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award presented to the best defensive player in the FCS. He was named National Defender of the Year by Phil Steele.
“I’m excited to be back and playing in the fall,” Chambers said. “I feel like when I play at my best we do our best defense. I try to stay positive and lead by example. I don’t talk much, but I try to lead our guys and show them that if they do their best, great things will come.”
Orgeron has climbed most college career records lists and will enter the season rankings ninth all-time with 4,336 passing yards and tied for sixth with 35 TD passes.
“I have every confidence that my teammates will be heading into the fall,” Orgeon said. “It was important for us to be able to play in the spring to build that connection and also off-season in the weight room and with conditioning.”
Wilson said there is no ceiling for this team.
“We played a good game against the national champion in Sam Houston,” he said. “We had our chances to win that game and were really happy with the progress we made. If we can pick up where we left off I think we have a chance for a very special season.”
“Our short-term goal is to position ourselves to win the Southland Conference, and we know the champion of this league is in a good position to win the national championship.”
The Cowboys open the season on September 4 against West Florida, the defending NCAA Division II National Champion. After that, McNeese will visit LSU on September 11 in what will be a father-son match-up in Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron and the McNeese QB.
“I’m looking forward to that game,” Orgeron said. “It’s really a blessing. It’s going to be a hostile environment, so I’m preparing for it now.”
The Cowboys will wrap up an eight-week off-season schedule on Friday and take next week off before reporting for fall camp on August 4.
“In June, we started an eight-week regiment of strength and conditioning and also our schoolwork,” Wilson said. “We came out better, got bigger, faster and stronger, while also excelling in class. The summer was excellent for us.”
McNeese also bolstered his roster with several Division I transfers, most notably Cee Jay Powell (Louisiana Tech), defensive back Corione Harris (Kansas), run back Stephen Huderson (Tulane), linebacker Ge’Mon Eaford (Oregon), offensive linemen Romelo Tarver (Central Michigan) and Trey Winters (Iowa), just to name a few.
“For every man who entered the transfer portal, we replaced with an all-conference player,” said Wilson. “And for the guys who have finished eligibility, we’ve added some quality players who will have an immediate impact now and in the future.”
“We want to bring a conference championship to Lake Charles,” Orgeron said. “There is so much resilience from the people of southwest Louisiana. We play for the city and want them to take home a championship.”
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