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Southland Conference Media Day 2022: What We Learned

Can someone de-throne UIW? Is Texas A&M-Commerce ready to compete? Who will replace Cole Kelley at SLU?

NCAA Football: Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday the Southland Conference held its annual football Media Day in Houston, TX with coaches and players representing the eight schools in the league. This summer has been a busy and productive one for the conference who is gaining a former member back as well as adding new team making its FCS jump. The Southland is also retaining its defending champion after it was thought they were departing mere months ago. Here’s what coaches and players from around the league had to say about the upcoming season.

Northwestern State Excited for Fresh Start

Brad Laird’s staff saw a lot of turnover this offseason. The Demons now have a new offensive coordinator (Cody Crill) and a new defensive coordinator (Weston Glaser) as well as four other fresh coaching faces. On top of the coaching changes, though, Northwestern State also welcomed in a new university president and athletic director this summer. All of that, Laird hopes, will usher his program into a new beginning.

“It’s just kind of a new day, you know,” the fifth year coach Laird said, “[There’s] a lot of excitement because you know fall camp is right around the corner... fall camp is going to be different.”

It certainly will be different for the Demons who now have 30 new incoming players on their roster. Last year NSU finished the season 3-8 but ended on a high note by winning two of their final three contests.

NSU kicks off their 2022 season September 3 at Montana.

(You can watch Northwestern State’s portion of the 2022 Southland Conference Media Day in its entirety here.)

Lamar Returns to Southland with Young Team

After only one year in the WAC, the Cardinals are back in the Southland and are happy to be in their old stomping grounds.

“We have established historical rivalries in the Southland, and our fans know these teams, and they enjoy these rivalries,” LU coach Blane Morgan said. “In addition to that, our fans and our students now have the opportunity to travel to away games for all of our teams that they probably didn’t have last year. That is huge.”

In their lone season in the WAC, Lamar went 2-9. Now back in familiar territory, the Cardinals are one of the youngest teams in the conference, returning only 12 starters on all sides of the ball.

Lamar begins their 2022 campaign on September 1 against Abilene Christian.

SLU Faces Questions at Quarterback

The Lions lost perhaps the best quarterback in school history to the NFL this offseason in Cole Kelley. The media, though, still thinks Southeastern is able to compete for a league title as they’ve picked the team to finish first in the conference this year. Still, Frank Scelfo knows his team must address the looming hole at QB.

“We might play two,” Scelfo admitted. “We’re not afraid to do that... it’ll be an interesting season for as at that position.”

It looks as though Kelley, who practically rewrote the program’s record books, will be replaced by either senior signal caller Cephus Johnson III or junior Colby Suits but perhaps by both as Scelfo alluded to.

In 2021 the Lions finished second in the conference with a 9-4 overall record, still good enough for a postseason berth. This year, though, the team is the preseason favorite to win the Southland despite the uncertainty at quarterback.

SLU’s 2022 season kicks off on September 3 against Louisiana.

Texas A&M-Commerce Gears Up for FCS Debut

Texas A&M-Commerce is one of three former DII programs making the jump to the FCS this fall and the Lions are eager for the new level of competition.

Head coach David Bailiff, the former head man at Rice, will be entering his fourth season with A&M-Commerce. The Lions, who have made the DII playoffs under Bailiff, will be ineligible for FCS postseason play for the next few seasons as they are beginning their transitionary period. They will be a full member in 2026.

Bailiff’s team will start their inaugural Division I campaign against Lincoln (CA) on September 1.

Grimes, Incarnate Word Hope for Repeat of 2021

It’s been a wild offseason for UIW. The Cardinals, who initially planned on leaving for the WAC, changed their mind and decided to stay put; big news as they are the defending conference champs. On top that, they'll also have a new coach in G.J. Kinne who will be making his head coaching debut.

The Cardinals may have the best receiver in the Southland Conference with Preseason First-Team All-Southland pick Taylor Grimes. Coming off a stellar year in 2021, Grimes is excited about what UIW’s offense can do again this time out.

“Our offense just really meshed well last year,” Grimes said. “We made a lot of big plays and we're hoping to continue to do that this year.”

The Cardinals won the Southland title in 2021 thanks in large part to Grimes’ career season in which he had 87 receptions for 1,145 yards and 15 touchdowns. UIW also won its first-ever playoff game last season. This year, though, they are picked to finish second behind Southeastern in the conference race.

They will begin their 2022 run against Southern Illinois on September 3.

HBU Looks to Turn Fortunes Around with Stout Defense

Houston Baptist had a rough go of things a year ago. The Huskies failed to win a single game on their slate, going 0-11. Vic Shealy, though, is a seasoned head coach and is confident that his team has brighter days ahead thanks in large part to the team’s defense.

“We’re excited [for the season],” Shealy stated. “What we feel we have is a program that has developed into ‘Linebacker University’”.

“Our defense, we have a different mentality, a savagery to us that we’re really excited about,” added senior linebacker Brennan Young.

HBU has a pair of Preseason Second-Team All-Conference DBs on their roster with sophomore Isaiah Cash and senior Coi Miller.

The Huskies open their season on the road at Northern Colorado on September 3.

Nicholls Eyes Return to Playoffs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Nicholls at Texas A&M
Tim Rebowe is entering his eighth season as Nicholls’ head coach.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colonels have missed out on the postseason the last two years but head coach Tim Rebowe believes his team has what it takes to get back this season.

“It’s been a good offseason,” he said. “I thought we were playing some good ball at the end of the year [last year]… we’ve been having over 90 players working out every day this summer. We’ll be ready to go on August 5.”

Nicholls won four of five games to wrap up their 2021 campaign but just missed out on the playoffs with a 6-5 record. The Colonels, however, have reason to be optimistic as they had five players named as Preseason All-Conference First-Team selections, four of which come on offense.

Nicholls will begin its 2022 season against South Alabama on September 3.

Gary Goff Era is Underway at McNeese

Gary Goff was hired this offseason and his task of leading the Cowboys has officially begun. For a team that 4-7 last fall, Goff expects different results in 2022 but understands that it may take some time for his vision to come to fruition.

“It’s a process,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight but [I’m] very proud of our players. They’ve done a phenomenal job of embracing what we’re doing.”

Goff, who is the fourth McNeese coach in the last five seasons, will operate an air raid-style offense with the Cowboys and cited the importance of depth on the offensive line. A pair of senior offensive playmakers... running back Deonta McMahon and lineman Caron Coleman... landed spots on the Preseason All-Conference First Team.

McNeese has not made the playoffs since 2015. They will begin their season on September 3 with a trip to Montana State.