(STATS) - McNeese had its usual winning season in 2016, but the Cowboys must believe they can be one of the more improved teams in the Southland Conference, if not the entire FCS, this year.
When the Cowboys play their annual Blue-Gold spring game on Saturday, their experienced team will have an eye pointed toward the 2017 season.
The Cowboys went 6-5 last season to post their 12th straight winning record, but they want to get back to their conference championship level of 2015. They tied for fourth place last season.
Second-year coach Lance Guidry has reclaimed the defensive coordinator's duties to try to lift the unit, which ranked 11th in the FCS two years ago but slipped to 49th in 2016. The Cowboys' DWA (Defense With Attitude) returns its top seven tacklers, including Jammerio Gross and Chris Livings on the defensive line and Andre Fuller anchoring the secondary.
Behind quarterback James Tabary, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, McNeese returns 97 percent of its total offensive yards. Top receivers Darious Crawley and Kent Shelby and leading rusher Ryan Ross are back as seniors.
As an added bonus for the McNeese spring game, Bobby Keasler and Tommy Tate, who led the program to the 1997 and 2002 national championship games, respectively, will serve as the head coaches.