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Sunday, December 10, 2023


Cougars coping with losses in spring practices

The Cougars only passed for 106 yards but dominated the Owls in the ground game. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The Cougars will have to deal with the loss of one of their key receivers, Demarcus Ayers, who declared for the NFL Draft following the 2015-16 season. | File photo/The Cougar

The Cougars went back to work this week looking to build on the winning tradition they established last season.

After a stellar season, the Cougars have a target on their backs, but they’re ready and willing to face the challenge and keep moving forward.

“It’s different now since you have a marker on your head in terms of doing something that was very unique,” defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “Obviously, we play a great team: Oklahoma, to open up the season. That’s what we’re battling, and it’s human nature to want to look at it and say ‘You know, I feel good about what we did,’ but hopefully the guys understand how hard they worked to put themselves in position to win a championship.”

The Cougars have lost some key pieces on both sides of the ball, including an important part of their high-powered offense, wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. With Ayers forgoing his senior year for a shot at the pros, the Cougars will now turn to senior Chance Allen, who just completed his first year as a Cougar after transferring from the University of Oregon.

Allen, who had over 700 receiving yards and six touchdowns, is ready to take on the added responsibility.

“It’s a lot of pressure on me,” Allen said. “Coming into this year I’m the oldest guy, so being in that receiver position I bring the guys with me. Demarcus welcomed me with open arms when I first got here, and that’s the same thing I’m doing to the young guys that come in. We’re having a good time so far.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars have lost their secondary and their leading tackler in linebacker Elandon Roberts, who Orlando called “the heart and soul of our defense last year.”

Replacing all of those pieces won’t happen overnight, but Orlando believes the team is making progress.

“One of our goals for the spring is to not only develop a starting unit but also some key backups who can play the level of those starters,” Orlando said. “These guys are brand new, but they’re really working their tails off and doing everything we ask them to do. So we just gotta keep working.”

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