Despite setbacks, Southeastern churns ahead toward scrimmage

HAMMOND — Losing a practice to rain, moving another indoors and the canceling the first scrimmage may appear a tall order to overcome in preparing for the start of a new season.

Given the recent rise of Southeastern Louisiana’s program — ranked No. 3 in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll — and the veteran makeup of this year’s team, it hasn’t been the deterrent most observers would expect.

“That’s good, because with a mature team, they’re going to have to handle the situations, because they should and bounce from one practice to the next,” third-year coach Ron Roberts said. “I’m pleased, but there are a lot of things we’ve got to continue to get better at to be where we want to be. I like our process going about our business.”

The Lions began its preseason Aug. 1 when players reported for the start of training camp.

The reigning Southland Conference champions and Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinalists, who went 11-3 a year ago, have done their best to work through the early obstacles that included the cancellation of a practice and the first scrimmage, with another workout being delayed by weather and later moved into the school’s gym.

Through it all, though, the Lions have gone about the task of getting ready to host Jacksonville at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in the season opener at Strawberry Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of guys returning, so we have a lot of guys that know how to get it done,” senior quarterback Bryan Bennett said. “We missed some time because of weather and haven’t been able to get in a scrimmage yet, so there’s still some things we have to clean up.

“We’re practicing hard, and you can tell guys know what they’re doing and how to practice,” Bennett said. “Any mistakes we’ve had hasn’t been something we can’t fix. I feel comfortable with where we’re at. I’m not satisfied. I feel you should never be satisfied.”

Southeastern went through an informal 45-minute walkthrough Tuesday morning and lifted weights afterward. The team will continue building toward its first scrimmage at 7 p.m. Saturday, which is open to the public.

The Lions’ first scheduled scrimmage last Saturday was canceled because of heavy thunderstorms.

“It’s really gone fairly well,” said Roberts, 16-9 in his first two years. “We have a lot of returners. We’re a veteran group, so that obviously leads to things going a little smoother and a little faster. Up until now, our work ethic and how we’ve handled our business has been good, but we’re not where we want to be by any means. The timing’s been off.”

Senior linebacker Isiah Corbett said when rain has hampered practice, the squad has tried to maximize its time watching film and making corrections before returning to the field.

The result has been to Corbett’s liking — a defense with six returning starters playing fast and with an aggressive attitude.

“First and foremost, we’re physical,” Corbett said. “We’ve kind of pride ourselves on being real physical this fall camp. We missed the scrimmage but we still haven’t missed a beat. When we’re on the field, everybody’s been in sync.”

Despite the return of 14 starters, including eight on offense, competition remains intense with the great majority of position battles being waged among reserves trying to work their way into talent-deep positions at running back, wide receiver, offensive line and secondary.

“There’s been a lot of competition across the board, and it’s way too early to say some things have been settled,” Roberts said. “As a whole, there’s quite a bit of competition.”

Roberts said three running backs, eight offensive linemen, eight wide receivers, six linebackers and as many as 10 defensive backs competing for playing time at those respective spots.

“I really like the way we’re working and practicing,” Roberts said. “I like the tempo we’re using, and we’re really getting after each other, and we’re doing it with a great attitude.”

Lagniappe

Roberts said Washington State transfer Pierson Villarubia of Mandeville, a sophomore, and Southern Mississippi junior transfer Aaron Reed are two newcomers pushing to get into the two-deep on the offensive line, while junior Da’Quan Smith of Hartdell College is trying to do the same at wide receiver … Defensively, linebacker Hebert Harris of Hinds (Miss.) Community College has emerged to bolster depth with LSU transfers Jerqwinick Sandolph, Micah Eugene and Derrick Raymond, along with Tulane transfer Jordan Batiste further solidifying the secondary’s depth. … Roberts said Ashton Henderson of Iowa Western CC, Tupou Aleamotua of College of San Mateo, Aaron Price of El Camino (Calif.) or Anthony Murphy of Los Angeles Southwest CC are in the hunt for a spot in the defensive line rotation. ... Senior place-kicker Ryan Adams and junior punter Tim Callian are the team’s current starters at their respective positions. ... Sophomore defensive lineman Taylor Cochran of St. Charles Catholic is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a back injury, Roberts said.