UL-Lafayette football coach Billy Napier promised to recruit Louisiana hard.
He started with his staff. On Friday, Napier fired a cannon shot with his 10th and final assistant coaching hire, bringing in Southeastern Louisiana head coach Ron Roberts to serve as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ defensive coordinator.
Roberts, who led Southeastern to two conference championships in six seasons, bid adieu to Hammond via Twitter, posting: “Thank you to the (SLU) Administration for giving me the opportunity! #LionNation #HammondAmerica I am forever #Grateful #LionUp”
Co-workers at SLU congratulated Roberts and wished him well at UL-Lafayette.
Roberts’ six-year run was easily the most successful stretch at Southeastern since the school reinstated football for the 2003 season. His Lions finished 42-29 overall with a .714 winning percentage in Southland Conference play (35-14), including two trips to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
After a 5-6 season in 2012, Roberts brought in a handful of difference-making transfers from other schools, including ex-Oregon quarterback Bryan Bennett.
In 2013, the Lions went undefeated in Southland play and finished 11-3 overall, earning a No. 4 seed in the FCS playoffs. They reached the quarterfinals before falling to New Hampshire 20-17 at Strawberry Stadium.
As for Roberts’ defense, it finished 64th nationally in total defense last season but had greater success earlier in Roberts’ tenure, ranking as high as seventh in 2014 and 34th in 2015.
Roberts’ greatest success story is cornerback Robert Alford, who was taken in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and just finished his fifth season with the Atlanta Falcons.
With Roberts’ hiring, eight of Napier’s 10 assistant coaches have worked at Louisiana colleges.
Napier, hired in December to replace Mark Hudspeth, has repeatedly told fans and reporters that his staff will recruit Louisiana first and hit it hard. Each assistant will have an in-state recruiting territory in addition to other assigned hot spots across the United States.
At Southeastern, offensive coordinator Greg Stevens will serve as the interim head coach during the university’s search for a long-term replacement, according to a statement from the school.
“We’re extremely thankful to Coach Roberts for his dedication in taking our football program to unprecedented heights,” athletic director Jay Artigues said in a statement. “He’s been a tremendous asset to our university and is leaving our program in great shape. We plan on moving swiftly, but thoroughly, in our search for our next head football coach.”
Stevens recently returned to Hammond after spending the past four seasons as offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois. He was Roberts’ offensive coordinator for his first two seasons in Hammond, and his 2013 unit set school records for total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense.
Earlier in the day Friday, Napier completed his offensive staff with the hiring of assistant offensive line coach D.J. Looney.
Looney spent last season as a tight ends coach at his alma mater, Mississippi State. Before that, he was an offensive graduate assistant at Georgia.