HAMMOND — For the third consecutive year since Ron Roberts has been at Southeastern Louisiana his Lions will visit a Football Bowl Subdivision team Sept. 13 when they face Tulane.
Based on the jump in competition, it’s always been a welcomed game for Roberts to get a pretty good yardstick of his team once it returns to Southland Conference play and beyond.
With recent legislation passed by the Division I Board of Directors, Roberts realizes the days of FBS schools cutting a sizeable check to host Football Championship Subdivision schools may become obsolete.
That governing board gave autonomy to Power 5 conferences — Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Big 10, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac 12 and Notre Dame — to create their own legislation and voting rights for athletes. One of the byproducts of the landmark ruling is that Power 5 conference schools have talked about playing only each other in non-conference games.
“Am I concerned, yeah,” Roberts said Saturday at SLU’s Media Day. “I’m not as concerned as our administration should be. I don’t think they even realize if those BCS conferences say they’re pulling away and going make their own rules. The No. 1 rule their coaches are saying, all out of conference games, they want to play BCS opponents.
“That’s not just us,” Roberts said. “That’s also your MAC (Mid-American Conference) and Sun Belt teams that get a lot of big pay days that may not be getting them. You’re going to see a lot of heavy hits on some athletic departments. There’s some concerns out there in the direction it’s going.”
Since the revival of its program in 2004, SLU has played 13 games against FBS opponents and six involving Power 5 schools, including last year’s 38-17 setback at TCU.
Roberts looks forward to the Tulane game for a variety of reasons. Not only does it provide the Lions with a barometer of his team, but it also gives the program exposure in the New Orleans area where they recruit heavily.
However, Roberts’ emotions were tempered after a reporter informed him that some Tulane observers, including some coaches, viewed their game with the Lions as one of their toughest of the season.
“I think he’s playing Georgia Tech the week before us,” Roberts said of Tulane’s Curtis Johnson. “That’s a heck of a compliment then.”
Tulane opens the season at Tulsa before hosting Georgia Tech and SLU in back-to-back weeks at Yulman Stadium.
Strength in numbers
SLU featured the SLC’s top-ranked defensive unit in total defense with the secondary second to Lamar in pass defense with 222.6 yards allowed.
With first team All-SLC cornerback Harlan Miller returning, along with honorable mention weak safety Marice Sutton, the Lions have all the qualities of being even better this season.
Miller, a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, tied for the league’s lead in interceptions with Sutton at four apiece, but Roberts said with the number of defensive backs the Lions can utilize there won’t be a drop off in production.
“I expect us to have one of the best secondaries in the conference if not the country,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of depth. We play five DBs, and we feel like we’ve got 10 that can come in and play on a pretty solid basis and play consistently.”
SLU welcomed four FBS transfers in the spring with three — Derrick Raymond, Micah Eugene and JQ Sandolph — coming from LSU and Jordan Batiste from Tulane.
Roberts said Batiste was the team’s starter at strong safety going into Saturday night’s scrimmage with Raymond, the starter at left cornerback, recently getting some valuable work in place of Miller, who missed time because of pulled groin. Junior Denzel Thompson is running with the second team behind Raymond.
Senior Tyler Stoddard has become the team’s starter at strong safety with help from junior Josh Dakin. Eugene is backing up Sutton at weak safety, while redshirt freshman Sigers is second team to Miller at right corner.