SLU football picked 4th in Southland preseason poll

Press release from official SLU athletics website:

The Southeastern Louisiana football team was picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference in the league’s preseason poll that was released on Wednesday in conjunction with the 2020 Virtual Football Media Day.

Southeastern is coming off a 2019 campaign in which the Lions finished 8-5 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs. SLU, which finished ranked nationally in both the Stats Perform (No. 19) and AFCA Coaches (No. 18) polls, returns 31 letterwinners and 11 starters from last season’s squad.

Southeastern featured one of the FCS’ most prolific offenses a season ago, ranking among the national leaders in total offense (484.8 ypg, 2nd), passing offense (354.4 ypg, 2nd), first downs (322, 5th) and scoring offense (36.6 ppg, 12th). The Lions return several key contributors.

Cole Kelley returns under center, after finishing with a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns while throwing for 10 scores splitting time with 2019 senior Chason Virgil. Kelley and Cephus Johnson III, a transfer from South Alabama, are expected to be among the top quarterback options for SLU.

Kelley and Johnson will have plenty of options in the passing game. Southeastern was the only FCS team in the nation with five players with 500-plus receiving yards last season and three of those top pass catchers return. CJ Turner (78 catches, 963 yards, 7 TD), Austin Mitchell (57-896-8 TD) and Javon Conner (57-679-7 TD) provide SLU with one of the most experienced receiving corps in the FCS.

On the offensive line, a pair of senior returning starters are the veteran leaders. Preseason All-Southland center Drew Jones and right tackle Rendon Miles-Character both return up front for SLU.

The Lions also have key returnees on defense under first-year defensive coordinator Chris Lachney. 2019 All-American Ferlando Jordan (Southland-high five interceptions in 2019) leads a young secondary, as he and safety Donniel Ward-Magee (60 tackles, 2 INT) are the returning starters on the back end.

Both starters return at linebacker for Southeastern, as 2019 All-Southland selection Alexis Ramos (team-high 80 tackles) and Trae Drake (62 tackles) are both back. Preseason All-Southland defensive end Josh Carr Jr. (14.5 tackles for loss/six sacks) returns as the top pass rusher up front, while Ronald Cherry III (12.5 tackles for loss/5.5 sacks) is a returning force in the middle of the defensive line.

Central Arkansas was picked atop the poll, followed by Sam Houston State and Nicholls. SLU and McNeese rounded out the top five, with UIW, Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin, Houston Baptist, Northwestern State and Lamar rounding out the poll.

The league’s head coaches and sports information directors voted on the poll. The Lions will open the 2020 season at Tulane on Sept. 3.

2020 Southland Conference Football Preseason Poll:
Team (First-place votes) – Points
1. Central Arkansas (12) – 190
2. Sam Houston State (4) – 170
3. Nicholls (6) – 169
4. Southeastern Louisiana – 157
5. McNeese – 113
6. UIW – 104
7. Abilene Christian – 101
8. Stephen F. Austin – 60
9. Houston Baptist – 59
10. Northwestern State – 49
11. Lamar – 38

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