Southeastern Louisiana University ranks No. 15 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Lions lost 48-42 at Samford in the second round of the 2022 FCS playoffs after beating Idaho 45-42. They finished 9-4 overall and 9-2 vs. the FCS.
Here’s a look at this year’s SLU football squad.
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Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (8)
OL John Allen
P Austin Dunlap
TE/HB Ivan Drobocky
OL Jhy Orgeron
K Riley Callaghan
DE Arlen Williams
LB Donte’ Daniels
QB Zachary Clement (2022 All-Southland at Northwestern State)
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (2)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (5)
Dominic Serapiglia lll (OL) to Central Michigan
Zy Alexander (DB) to LSU
Gage Larvadain (WR) to Miami (OH)
Jack Henderson (DB) to Minnesota
Bryce Cage (DL) to Texas State
Transfers Lost To The FCS (4)
Cullan Scott (DL) to Alcorn State
Cherif Seye (DL) to Florida A&M
John Graves III (DL) to Jackson State
Darrius Harry (DL) to Southern
Transfers Coming In From The FBS (1)
Cammon Cooper (QB), Hawaii
Transfers Coming In From The FCS (3)
Zachary Clement (QB), Northwestern State
Victor Tademy (DB), Harvard
Xavier Hill (WR), Kennesaw
The Lions have had big quarterback names to replace over the last few seasons, yet they still put out one of the most explosive offenses in the FCS year after year. They averaged 35.3 points per game in 2022, ranking No. 17 in the FCS.
SLU will have a new starting QB this fall. And more than likely, the 2023 offense will be in good hands again.
There is a three-way battle between returning sophomore Eli Sawyer, junior transfer Zachary Clement from Northwestern State, and senior transfer Cammon Cooper from Hawaii.
Sawyer saw a lot of reps last year, playing in 10 games with one start. He attempted just as many passes as starter Cephus Johnson III, going 121/194 (62.37%) for 1,605 yards, 11 touchdowns, and one interception.
Clement transfers from within the Southland. Last year at Northwestern State, he was named to the All-Conference Second Team, going 222/410 (54.1%) for 2,498 yards, 19 TDs, and 13 interceptions while rushing for 303 yards and two scores.
Cooper was a four-star high school recruit and the Utah Gatorade Player of the Year. He started his collegiate career at Washington State before transferring to Hawaii in 2022, where he appeared in one game.
A leader at running back needs to emerge, too. SLU loses its top two RBs along with Johnson III, who was the No. 3 rusher. Rodeo Graham Jr. looks to step up after running for 334 yards and a touchdown on 78 carries.
The Lions also lost their No. 1 and No. 3 pass-catchers. Maurice Massey returns as a 6-foot-4 target. He caught 40 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last fall. Ivan Drobocky is now an experienced tight end. The 2022 HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and All-Southland selection recorded 14 catches for 234 yards and a team-high six receiving touchdowns.
An experienced offensive line is highlighted by three All-Conference performers. John Allen (6’1″ 310 lbs) was a 2022 All-American and the Southland Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year. Jhy Orgeron (6’4″ 285 lbs) was another All-Conference selection last year. And Jalen Bell (6’5″ 300 lbs) is also back. He suffered a season-ending injury in the 2022 opener after back-to-back All-Southland seasons.
Continuing to progress on defense is key for SLU to take another step nationally. The Lions have made three straight second-round playoff appearances in fall seasons, but have given up 73, 59, and 48 points in their exits.
The Lions went from 32.69 points allowed per game in 2021 to 26.0 points allowed per game last year, which ranked No. 49 in the FCS.
SLU brings back three of its five top tacklers from 2022 and six of its top 11.
Leading tackler Jack Henderson transferred to the Big Ten. The Nos. 2, 3, and 4 tacklers return, though. All-Southland linebacker Donte’ Daniels tallied 87 tackles, six TFLs, 1.5 sacks, one interception, and three pass breakups. LB Herman Christophe had 79 tackles and 6.5 TFLs. And LB Anthony Britton Jr. totaled 73 tackles and 4.5 TFLs.
The defensive line will be led by All-Conference defensive end Arlen Williams. He had 37 tackles, seven TFLs, and two sacks. Shemar Pearl, who is 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, should boost the d-line that lost multiple players to the transfer portal. Pearl missed 2022 due to an injury after transferring from Garden City Community College. Charles Hill is another defensive lineman that is expected to make an impact. He also missed all of last season with an injury after transferring from Kilgore College.
The secondary is a question mark, where the Lions need to replace four starters. SLU allowed 238.9 passing yards per game last fall, ranking No. 85 in the subdivision.
9/2 at Mississippi State
9/9 at South Alabama
9/16 at Eastern Washington
9/23 vs Houston Christian
9/30 vs Tarleton State
10/7 at No. 9 UIW
10/14 vs Lamar
10/21 at Northwestern State
11/4 vs McNeese
11/11 at Texas A&M-Commerce
11/16 vs Nicholls
HERO Sports’ rankings
Bold indicates Southland games