HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana football team is going through its first week of fall camp with one of its youngest rosters in recent memory in terms of snaps taken with the Lions. However, one position group that lack of experience will not be an issue is up front on defense, as SLU head coach Ron Roberts’ team boasts a wealth of experience and talent along the defensive line.
Roberts, who will assume defensive coordinator duties in 2016, believes his defensive line rotation is the deepest its been since he took over the program. The entire two-deep is made up of seniors as camp begins. Javari Nichols, Miki Fangatua, Solomon Parker and Trent Williams all return for their final seasons. Anthony Murphy also returns after missing 2015 with an injury, while newcomer Jon Taylor is expected to make an immediate impact along the front line.
“We’re going to be big and physical up front,” Roberts said. “We obviously have a lot of proven experience in that area, where we’re a little more inexperienced in the back end. We’re going to be leaning heavily on the defensive line, especially early, and we expect that group can meet our expectations to perform at a high level.”
Eighth-year defensive line coach Brandon Lacy, who also carries the title of assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, was quick to tout the talent behind the Senior Six. Redshirt freshman Kurrell Vaughn, as well as junior college transfers Anthony Davis and Greg Hardaway provide added depth up front.
“We feel really comfortable with our six seniors and we feel like any of those guys can start for us,” Lacy commented. “Kurrell’s one of the most talented freshmen defensive lineman we’ve signed here and we’re very confident that Anthony and Greg can come in and be productive right away.
“We really think we have nine guys that are capable of starting for us in game one,” Lacy added. “We’re going to be able to rotate guys in and out without sacrificing any production, which is a great luxury to have. All of our guys take pride in being versatile and being able to play both inside and outside.”
Nichols, a Kentwood, Louisiana native, is the lone player entering his fourth year at SLU on the talented defensive line. The veteran believes he’s a part of a special group.
“We’re excited about the season and what we can be as a defense,” Nichols said. “The defensive line is our most experienced group and we have to be the ones that helps keep everyone on our defense going. It’s early in camp, but our challenge is when it gets to practice 15 or 16, we have to have the will and energy to help pick everyone up.”
Lacy wants even more from his talented defensive line corps and the Lion defense as a whole.
“We want to be the top-rated defense in the Southland Conference,” Lacy said. “We want to strive for perfection and settle for excellence. That’s the mentality we practice and prepare with every day.”
The Lions, who dodged inclement weather to get Thursday’s workout in, will return to the practice field on Friday at 7 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium. Practices are open to Touchdown Club members only.
The 2016 season officially kicks off on Sept. 3, when the Lions travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face OSU at 2:30 p.m.
The Lions’ five-game home schedule opens on Sept. 24, when they welcome league rival Northwestern State for a 6 p.m. contest. Season tickets are available by contacting the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visiting LionSports.net and LionUp.com.