The Southeastern Louisiana football program has made great strides in just three years under coach Ron Roberts.
Yet as impressive as a 14-1 record in the Southland Conference the past two seasons, two league titles and back-to-back appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs have been, Roberts hopes there’s more out there for his Lions.
As a result, repeating and making a deeper postseason run would be another step in the right direction heading into Roberts’ fourth year.
“Our goal every year is to win a Southland Conference championship and get in the playoffs,” said Roberts, whose biggest task is replacing record-setting quarterback Bryan Bennett. “At that point, you want to make a run for a national championship. But other things have to happen, too.”
One of them is bringing back a solid group of players who were part of SLU’s two-year run that produced a 20-7 overall mark after Roberts went 5-6 in his first season in 2012.
Having a large group of players who were there last year, learning first-hand about being targeted because of their successful 2013 campaign, should be beneficial to his team, Roberts said.
“Winning brings another set of problems, and there was a transition part of that last year,” he said. “It was a new experience. They won a championship and had to come back and try to repeat. That’s not the easiest thing to do.
“This year, we have a core of veterans that have been there and done that. They’ve won and know how to handle it, and the things that come out of it. Hopefully, every year we’ll need to do it and just get better at it.”
That could happen this year even though SLU was predicted to finish second and third in the preseason polls, with Sam Houston State tabbed to win the title.
Roberts returns a strong defense that led the SLC in fewest yards and fewest points allowed the past two seasons even though the unit may have been overshadowed a bit by Bennett and Co.
“I think most coaches in the conference understand what we were (on defense),” Roberts said. “I think our players understand what we were.”
The Lions have two first-team preseason picks in cornerbacks Harlan Miller and Denzel Thompson and four more second-teamers on defense among eight players who earned all-league recognition.
Offensively, SLU will have a new quarterback after Bennett, the SLC’s Player of the Year in 2013 and Offensive Player of the Year last season, departed.
Junior D’Shaie Landor, a transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, had the upper hand coming out of spring practice after getting quality snaps when Bennett was banged up late last season.
Helping Landor in the transition will be eight offensive starters among 46 returning letter-winners.
“We have eight starters back, but a lot of people are questioning our offense because one of those eight is not our quarterback,” Roberts said. “I’ve got a tremendous amount of faith in D’Shaie. He’s athletic, he can throw it, he’s a competitor, and he’s got great leadership skills.”
While there are a few unknowns, Roberts said three league titles in a row is attainable.
“We have a lot of players back, a great group of players back, and things are in place for that,” he said.
“We just have to take care of our business now.”