HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Southeastern Louisiana.
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SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA (4-7 IN 2018)
Southland Conference (SELA was T-8th in 2018)
COACH: Frank Scelfo – At School: 2nd yr (4-7 record) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2014 (first-round loss to Sam Houston State)
2018 OFFENSE: 25.5 ppg. (79th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 33.5 ppg. (90th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 21 vs Lamar: Last year, Southeastern Louisiana beat Lamar early before it went on a rampage and qualified for the FCS Playoffs. This year, the Lions will emerge from non-conference play with two brutal games against FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State and the SEC's Ole Miss, along with an interesting trip to Daytona Beach, Fla. to play one of the MEAC's better 2018 teams, Bethune-Cookman. The Lions will be seasoned coming into this Lamar matchup, and they need a win here to set the Southland tone.
SUM IT UP: Let's just go ahead and state the obvious here — if there's a spoiler, a darkhorse candidate, an upstart just growling at the chance to jump into the upper echelon of the Southland Conference, it's this program. The Lions were perplexing last year. They had FBS Louisiana-Monroe on the ropes with under a minute remaining before ULM rallied to win. They also beat two dreaded in-state rivals (Northwestern State and McNeese) as well as an FCS Playoff team (Lamar), while also being blown out in other conference matchups. So what will we see this year? Which Lions team will we get?
To start with, the offense looks primed to be strong this year. Former 4-star QB recruit Chason Virgil has thrown for around 9,000 yards in his college career, split between Fresno State and Southeastern Louisiana. He has some serious weapons returning around him, both at WR and TE, along with do-everything back Devonte Williams. Five offensive linemen return with starting experience, so that's another big plus. If the program can improve on being No. 89 in the FCS in the run game, watch out — this team has some weapons. It's also worth noting that 6-foot-7 Jr./QB Cole Kelley has transferred in from Arkansas, and he's one of the highest rated transfers to come to the FCS ranks this year. He started six games for the Razorbacks and could be a factor this year or next.
The defense took its lumps in the offense-crazy Southland last year, but it has some bright spots to point to this year — and it'll be headed up by former McNeese head coach Lance Guidry, who has coached some good defenses in his day. The D-line and secondary are both in pretty good shape, returning a bunch of experience, but the linebacking situation is one the Lions will need to build up. If the defense can bring its scoring average down, that'll give this offensive juggernaut the room it needs to hang a ton of points up on the opposition. This could be the key to battling for a potential playoff spot. Oh … and when it comes to the return game within special teams? This program is one of the best in the nation when it comes to return men. Big-play potential abounds.
OUR TAKE: Four of the last six seasons have been winning ones for the Lions, and we could see that happening this year also if the run game gets going on offense and the defense knocks down the number of points it gave up (33.5 per game) in 2018. If those two things happen in conjunction with the firepower this program has on offense, the Southland had better watch out. The non-conference schedule doesn't provide any easy wins, but some of the tougher Southland games will be in Hammond, so that's a plus. Two predictions: This program will be above .500 in league play, and it'll knock somebody in the Southland out of a potential playoff spot.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./WR-RS Juwan Petit-Frere (1st Team All Southland at two positions – 49 catches, 796 yards, 5 TDs; 26.2 yards per kickoff return)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./QB Chason Virgil (3,034 yards passing, 17 TDs); Jr./DE-OLB Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund (63 tackles, 10 TFLs, 6 sacks, 7 hurries); Sr./DB Xavier Lewis (leading returning tackler – 66 tackles, 7.5 TFLs); Sr./LT Pat Allen (started all 11 games after transferring from Georgia); Sr./RS-RB Devonte Williams (13.9 yards per punt return; leading returning rusher, caught 20 balls out of backfield); Sr./TE Bransen Schwebel (1st Team All Southland – 30 catches, 484 yards, 3 TDs); Soph./CB Ferlando Jordan (53 tackles, 3 INTs, 7 PBUs); Jr./LG Drew Jones (started 6 games at LG, 2 at center); Soph./WR C.J. Turner (9 games, 422 yards receiving, 2 TDs); Jr./WR Austin Mitchell (21 catches, 352 yds, 3 TDs; 16.2 yards per punt return).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./WR Jordan Spurlock (Western Kentucky transfer – former 3-star recruit who held offers from Oregon State among others – was in spring drills with Lions)
COACH SAYS: "We had such an up-and-down season last year. The good teams don't have such high peaks and low valleys. The good teams are steady and consistently improve as the season moves forward. We think the growth we've made off the field is going to help us become one of the good teams." — SE Louisiana head coach Frank Scelfo said on July 18 at Southland Media Days
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Southeastern Louisiana Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Southland
Incarnate Word | Lamar | McNeese | Nicholls
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast