Southeastern Louisiana ready to roar again _lowres

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southeastern advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last season for the first time in school history.

HAMMOND — Competition and camaraderie have been at the core of a budding relationship that’s galvanized a bond between Southeastern Louisiana’s junior running back trio of Rasheed Harrell, Kody Sutton and Darrius Guy.

It’s become commonplace during their two years together at SLU to find any of the triumvirate enjoying a spirited evening of video games or fellowship over breakfast or dinner.

“We act like brothers on and off the field,” Guy said. “That’s where most of the unselfishness comes from.”

Their unique relationship off the field has served as a catalyst in their on-field production where Harrell, Sutton and Guy all helped SLU snap a 59-year-old school record with 3,271 yards rushing last season.

While senior quarterback Bryan Bennett led the team with 1,046 rushing yards, the overall contributions from Harrell, Sutton and Guy — both rushing, receiving and in pass protection — were of paramount importance in enabling the Lions to flourish on offense.

“We never come in thinking we’re going to be the guy here,” Harrell said. “I feel like any three of us can go to any other school in the (Southland) conference and be that one back. They tell us they want three good backs to hand it to and when they put us in they can feel good whether it’s to pass block, catch the ball out the backfield or run.”

When No. 3 SLU opens its season at home at 7 p.m. Saturday against Jacksonville, the Lions have all of the players responsible for last year’s single-season rushing mark that eclipsed the 1954 record of 2,985 yards back for another run this season.

The one change, though, is junior Xavier Robertson, the team’s third-leading rusher with 538 yards and six touchdowns, has moved to slot receiver.

“That’s kind of a situation for us more like riding that guy that game,” SLU football coach Ron Roberts said. “There may be a game where one of them really separates from the pack. It’s still going to be hard not to play the other two. They’re all three talented guys that can all carry the ball and can carry the football team on their back.”

With similar skill sets to be every-down backs, down and distance, the success rate of certain formations and personnel groupings, also impact which of the three backs will be on the field.

“That’s one of the requirements to play running back for Southeastern,” Guy said. “You have to be able to run, block and catch the football. All of us are good at those attributes.”

Harrell, a 5-foot-10, 195-pounder, was the team’s top rusher among running backs and is the team’s No. 1 back after being voted first team preseason All-Southland Conference.

The Miami, Fla., native carried 134 times for 640 yards and eight touchdowns and has 206 attempts for 1,016 yards and 11 TDs in his career.

Harrell, who averaged 9.6 carries per game, enjoyed a season-high 119 yards with a TD in a 41-7 win over McNeese State and added two scores in a 56-34 victory over Lamar.

“We try not to worry about the carries,” said Harrell, who also caught 15 passes for 97 yards. “We worry about picking up our pass protections, catching balls out of the backfield. Just do your role for the team and play your part, and everything else takes care of itself.”

At 5-8, 200, Sutton is a change-of-pace runner, finishing with 99 carries for 391 yards and 6 TDs. The Wyoming transfer tied a school record last season with 25 attempts in a 34-31 win over Samford to go with 100 yards with 2 scores.

Guy, the biggest of the group at 6-1, 202, made the most of his 3.2 attempts per game with 45 rushes for 224 yards and two TDs. During a 51-27 win over Nicholls, the former Copiah-Lincoln Community College transfer carried 10 times for 70 yards and had 49 and 45 yards in wins over Lamar and Stephen F. Austin.

“We look at each other as brothers,” Harrell said. “We want to see each other succeed. When one of us does well, it pumps up the others to get out there and make another good play. We feed off each other.”