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From the Bird’s Nest: Nicholls State: Expecting Improvement

( This is the third in a series of twelve articles on Louisiana opponents for 2011.  Today:  Nicholls State

NICHOLLS STATE COLONELS

Location:  Thibodaux, LA

Stadium:  John L. Guidry (12,800)

2010 Record:  4-7 (3-4 Southland)

Coach:  Charlie Stubbs

Record:  (4-7) 2nd season

Last meeting with Louisiana: Sept 1, 2001.  Louisiana 20, Nicholls State 0

Charlie Stubbs was hired last year to change the fortunes at Nicholls State.  It was a growing experience.

Changing the offense entirely, Nicholls struggled for a good part of the season.  But the Colonels won their last two games, against rivals Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana, and that gives the boys in Thibodeaux hopes that year two will be a vast improvement over 2010.

That, and twenty returning starters.

Three all-Southland performers return for the Colonels and while Nicholls State struggled to score at times last year, a years’ experience running Stubbs’ offense should make that offense more potent than it was a year ago.

Junior LaQuintin Caston returns to lead the Nicholls offense.  Caston threw for 1141 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago with nine picks.  He was also the second leading rusher on the squad, with 577 net yards and ten touchdowns.  The Scotlandville native is expected to put up stronger numbers with a years’ experience.

Kenyod Blair and Joshua Warren, Nicholls’ top two receivers from a year ago, are back.  In fact, five of the top six pass catchers all return this year.

Nicholls’ ground game is anchored by junior Jesse Turner.  Turner led the Colonels with 638 yards rushing, a 5.7 average and eight touchdowns. He was a second-team all-Southland selection in 2010. His backup, Marcus Washington, also added 231 yards last year.

The offensive line returns four starters.  And, they need to get a lot better.  Nicholls allowed a frightening 46 sacks last season.  And, that was with a mobile quarterback.  Stubbs is hoping that a year’s experience will help.

The biggest problems for Nicholls on offense last year (besides the sacks) was their propensity to turn it over (28 giveaways) and a terrible third down conversion percentage (26%).  Those numbers have to improve if the Colonels are going to be a better offensive football team.

Defensively, the Colonels will switch to a 3-4 allignment this season.  Leading tackler Tabari Hicks is gone, but the rest of the defense returns intact.  Linebacker Jordan Piper played in only eight games last season but was third on the team in tackles and second on the squad in interceptions.  And, all conference first team defensive back Bobby Felder, who had four interceptions and seven pass breakups anchors the secondary.  Overall, Nicholls should be improved defensively.  Teams that didn’t throw the ball Felders’ way had success a year ago.

All-Conference punter Patrick Dolan is back after averaging 42 yards per punt a season ago.  The placekicking duties are handled by Andrew Dolan, who hit 6-12 field goal attempts as a freshman.

OUTLOOK:  It will be a surprise if Nicholls isn’t better in 2011.  The two wins at the end of the season give the Colonels a little momentum and confidence coming into the season.  And now, with a year under Stubbs, the Colonels should be better prepared.  But Nicholls still has a ways to go before they’re ready to challenge in the Southland Conference.  And, they’ll be pretty big underdogs when they come to Cajun Field for the Herbert Heymann Football Classic on September 17th.

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