Southeastern football coach Ron Roberts wasn’t pleased with his defense last season.
For the first time since 2012, the Lions weren’t the best defense in the Southland Conference. And as a result, they went 4-7 and had a four-game losing streak to end the season.
So Roberts decided to do something he hadn’t done since 2009: He named himself defensive coordinator.
“The (coaches) that have all been in our system and underneath me who knew the system we ran, kind of ran out,” Roberts said. “After the year we had last year, I just wanted to get my hands all over it and get this thing back to where we want it.”
Fans will get their first look at a Roberts-led defense during the Lions’ spring game, set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium. The last time he called a defense was as head coach at Delta State.
Roberts won’t be making any drastic changes to the defensive schemes Southeastern runs, mainly because his primary objective has been to build more consistency within the unit.
Roberts is the fourth defensive coordinator in as many seasons for the Lions, forcing players to constantly adjust to new coaching styles and personalities.
But what senior defensive lineman Javari Nichols said is one of the biggest advantages of having Roberts take control of the defense is that players know exactly what to expect. Equally important, they know exactly what he expects.
“Ever since I found out, I’ve been happy about it,” Nichols said. “He’s the head coach; who is not going to listen to him? It’s not being down on any other coach, but I’m just more confident with him because I know how he is and I know he’ll do a good job.”
Roberts said the defense still has a ways to go before being ready for the season, but they’re still on track for where he expected by the end of spring.
Roberts won’t be the only Southeastern coach settling into a new position on Saturday: First-year offensive coordinator Matt Barrett is finishing up his first spring in Hammond.
Barrett makes the jump from wide receivers coach at Georgia Southern, where he helped the Eagles to a 58-27 victory over Bowling Green in the GoDaddy.com Bowl last season.
He isn’t completely unfamiliar with the Lions, having been offensive coordinator at Southland rival Sam Houston State for two years, including during the Bearkats’ run to the 2012 FCS national championship game.
“The kids have been very hungry, and they have improved very quickly,” Barrett said. “They have taken drills and put them on the field in scrimmages and are improving day after day.”
Barrett was reluctant to say exactly what changes he’ll make this season, but senior quarterback D’Shaie Landor said it’ll mostly be the same system as last season.
Landor is the presumed starter, but backup Donovan Isom isn’t far behind after getting his first chance to participate in spring drills since transferring from Utah just before the start of last season.
“We changed the scheme up a little bit, but the big thing that’s changed has just been the terminology,” Landor said. “It’s still the same thing that what we’ve done in the past. The big thing is learning the terminology and how to say things in a different way.”
The spring game is set to be a 60-minute scrimmage with a running clock.
On top of traditional scoring, the offense also receives points for first downs and big plays, such as a rush of 12 yards or more or a pass of 16 yards or more. The defense earns points for touchdowns, turnovers and three-and-outs.