Southeast Missouri State ranks tied at No. 11 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Redhawks lost 34-24 at Montana in the first round of the 2022 FCS playoffs, surrendering a 24-3 third-quarter lead. They finished 9-3 overall and 9-2 vs. the FCS.
Here’s a look at this year’s SEMO football squad.
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Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (9)
RB Geno Hess
WR Ryan Flournoy
OL Zack Gieg
LB Bryce Norman
S/NB Lawrence Johnson
KR Dalyn McDonald
PR Dalyn McDonald
DT Steven Lewis
LB Keandre Booker
CB Ty Leonard
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (6)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (4)
CJ Ogbonna (QB) to Buffalo
Phillip Wilder (OL) to Cincinnati
Tyler Nelome (DB) to Kansas State
Zach Haynes (P) to New Mexico State
Transfers Lost To The FCS (1)
Shamenski Rucker (RB) to Texas A&M-Commerce
Transfers Coming In From The FBS (3)
Mitchell Sellers (TE), Southern Miss
Adam Heston (P), Eastern Michigan
Jaylin Mines (DB), Toledo
Transfers Coming In From The FCS (1)
Sam Cook (OLB), Western Illinois
SEMO’s offense returns six starters from a unit that ranked No. 16 in FCS scoring last year, averaging 35.6 points per game. Those returners include the starting quarterback, an All-American RB, the No. 1 WR, and the best center in the FCS.
Six-foot-5 QB Paxton DeLaurent had a great debut season for the Redhawks as the Central Methodist University transfer went 210/344 passing for 2,684 yards, 19 touchdowns, and six interceptions. His leading receiver Ryan Flournoy returns (61 catches, 984 yards, 7 TDs) along with the No. 3 WR Damoriea Vick (43 catches, 416 yards, 4 TDs).
Flournoy is 6-foot-2, and Vick is 6-foot-3 causing problems on the outside. It’s a nice complement for a top-tier running back in the FCS.
Geno Hess enters his sixth season at SEMO. The 5-foot-8, 222-pounder is a three-time First Team All-OVC selection and a three-year All-American performer. Hess holds the SEMO record for career rushing yards (4,112) and career rushing touchdowns (53). Last season, he had 236 carries for 1,691 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and 21 TDs. Hess was named the OVC Offensive Player of the Year and finished fifth in Walter Payton Award voting.
The offensive line does lose two All-Conference players, but it returns Zack Gieg (6’1″ 287 lbs), the 2022 Rimington Award winner that goes to the top center in the FCS.
Kobe Sixkiller (6’2″ 300 lbs) also returns after starting all 11 games. Clive Truschel (6’3″ 291 lbs) is another experienced offensive lineman who saw action in eight games and made two starts.
SEMO should have a balanced offensive attack again. In 2022, the Redhawks owned the No. 13 FCS rushing offense (225.6 YPG) and the No. 39 passing offense (242.6 YPG).
SEMO returns nine players who started six or more games. Nine of the 11 top tacklers are back, including the top four.
The Redhawks allowed 22.6 points per game in 2022, ranking No. 32 in the FCS.
All-American selections Bryce Norman (LB) and Lawrence Johnson (S/NB) will lead the defense once again. Norman racked up 119 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, eight QB hurries, and five pass breakups last year. Johnson tallied 86 tackles, 10 TFLs, four sacks, and nine pass breakups.
LB Christian Fuhrman (65 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 3 sacks) and All-OVC CB Ty Leonard (50 tackles, 1 INT, 3 pass breakups) are back as the No. 3 and No. 4 tacklers.
Keandre Booker is another All-Conference selection as the outside linebacker had 24 tackles, seven TFLs, and four sacks. And LB Mali Walton has plenty of experience as well, starting six games in 2022.
Eric Ivory Jr. is a promising young player in the secondary. He played in 12 games with two starts as a freshman, finishing sixth on the team with 44 tackles while also recording five pass breakups
On the defensive line, DT Steven Lewis (6’1″ 289 lbs) plugged the middle as an All-Conference selection. LaWilliam Holmes (6’2″ 300 lbs) will be beside him after starting 11 games. Lunden Manuel (6’2″ 295 lbs) also adds beef up front and started nine games last year. Nasim Cairo (6’2″ 248 lbs) emerged as a young playmaker on the DL, totaling 25 tackles, seven TFLs, and tying for the team lead with four sacks as a true freshman.
Six-foot-4 OLB Sam Cook looks to make a big impact as a transfer from Western Illinois. Last season at WIU, he had 60 tackles, six TFLs, two sacks, and one interception.
SEMO was strong against the run in 2022, allowing 111.5 yards per game to rank No. 14 in the FCS. The d-line and linebackers are loaded with experience to be even better this fall. As for the passing defense, SEMO allowed 255.0 yards per game, ranking No. 104 in the subdivision.
9/2 at Kansas State
9/9 vs Lindenwood
9/16 vs RV Southern Illinois
9/23 at No. 21 Eastern Kentucky
10/7 at Central Arkansas
10/14 vs Eastern Illinois
10/21 at Tennessee Tech
10/28 at Nicholls
11/4 vs Robert Morris
11/11 at UT Martin
11/18 at Bryant
HERO Sports’ rankings
RV = Received Votes
Bold indicates Big South-OVC games