NATCHITOCHES – Defensive linemen Obinna Iheoma and Zak Krolczyk are the unquestioned veterans of Northwestern State’s Purple Swarm defense, a week before the season opener at Texas A&M.

They’re the only two defenders returning who started all 11 games in 2017. Otherwise, two more seniors, nose tackle Jalon Sangster and cornerback Dylan Wilson, and junior safety Nic Forde were part-time starters, opening a combined seven games.

NSU’s starting linebackers are all newcomers, something that was not unanticipated after graduation last year. Blake Stephenson and Quindarrius Whitley are doing what they were brought in from junior college to do, earning first-team status as the Demons went through a “mock game” workout Wednesday evening in Turpin Stadium.

There are three first-time starters in the secondary, including a pair who haven’t played a snap as Demons – junior Kevin Ratliff and true freshman Jordan Hester of Shreveport-Woodlawn.

A couple of lettermen, junior defensive end Desmond Prejean and sophomore cornerback Malik Sonnier, have worked their way atop the depth chart for the first time as Demons.

There’s actually much more starting experience in the secondary among the second-teamers, three who have started a combined 21 games: junior safety Ryan Reed (11), senior cornerback Rashaun Croney (7) and junior corner D’Ronne Littleton (3). Wilson started three of the last four games in 2017 and Forde got two starts.

Up front, the No. 2 defensive line includes sophomores Braylon Daigle (end) and Damian Thompson (nose tackle) along with redshirt freshmen Myles Mitchell (tackle) and Landon King (end).

Two-year letterwinner Brice Borgeson and true sophomore Isaiah Longino are the backups at linebacker.

Junior Ronald Malbrough ended preseason camp behind Hester in a rover position.

As the Demons lined up for their mock game Wednesday, head coach Brad Laird was pleased with what his team accomplished since reporting on July 31.

“We’ve had a good camp because of the young men who came to work each and every day. They’ve shown effort and attitude. The schematics are coming along,” he said.

Laird will speak at the NSU-Walk On’s Independence Bowl luncheon Thursday at 11:45 in Shreveport at the Superior’s Steakhouse on Line and Pierremont. He’ll return for afternoon workouts Thursday and Friday as the Demons begin installing the game plan for Texas A&M.