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Lions still king of Southland

Last Modified: Friday, August 15, 2014 11:00 AM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Looking back, it seems improbable that one year ago Southeastern Louisiana was in search of its first conference championship since the year John F. Kennedy vowed to put man on the moon.

Now the question is, Can anyone stop the Lions from doing it again?

Barring injuries or major declines in performance, fellow Southland Conference teams will have a difficult time shaking SLU from that pedestal.

The Lions return eight offensive starters, including Walter Payton Award candidate Bryan Bennett at quarterback.

Defensively SLU has six starters returning, three of whom are all-conference. Both of those descriptions fit defensive back Tyler Stoddard, a Westlake native.

Oh, and it’s not just starters who are back.

“We say we’ve got eight starters back on offense, well we have 14. We’ve got eight receivers that all played in a rotation last year,” said third-year coach Ron Roberts. “Our 1s and our 2s are all back. We’ve got eight offensive linemen back. We have 17 defensive players back that all played. It’s all about building the program for longevity, doing it year in and year out and not having a one-hit wonder.”

Considering SLU finished No. 1 in the league in scoring defense at 22.7 points per game and second in total offense with 483 yards per game, the high percentage of returners bodes well.

Thus it is no surprise Southeastern heads into the year ranked third in the country in both the FCS Coaches and Sports Network preseason polls.

Perhaps the key for the Lions is making sure their heads don’t get as big as the conference championship rings they wore during Southland media day.

“We feel going into this season we’re a better team on paper than we were last year,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to take care of business, remain humble, work and stay dedicated on all phases.”

Even in preaching humility, Roberts has large expectations.

“It’ll be very disappointing not to win 10 games this year,” Roberts said.

HICKEY’S PICK: 11-1, 8-0 in Southland.

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