By Kent Schmidt
College Sporting News
The Southland Conference is going through changes.
Gone is Texas State, who is in the process of moving to the FBS Western Athletic Conference in 2012.
The Bobcats will be joined in the WAC by Texas-San Antonio, who currently plays all other sports besides football in the Southland, before it even plays a SLC football match-up.
Those two schools will compete as FCS independents this year.
While those two schools will not be playing in the conference this year, Lamar will join the conference as a full member in 2011 after playing as an independent a season ago to give the league a quantity of eight football schools.
Lamar will be playing again in the Southland Conference for the first time since the program dropped football in 1986.
A year ago, Stephen F. Austin won the league crown as was the lone representative to the FCS playoffs and also boasted the Payton Award winner in Jeremy Moses, who has, however, now graduated.
The Lumberjacks hosted their opening playoff matchup in the second-round against defending national champion Villanova last year but were ousted by the Wildcats.
SFA, and last year's second place team, McNeese State, see a number of key losses but both have some key backups ready to play and should still be in the SLC title hunt.
Those two schools, along with improving and experienced Northwestern State, Central Arkansas, and Sam Houston State should make for an interesting title chase this year.
McNeese State always seems to have one of the top Southland and 2011 should be no different even though the Cowboys need to replace a number of key players from last year, but in all return a total of 15 starters.
The 2010 Cowboy team finished 5-2 within conference play but were just 6-5 overall, including FBS loses to Louisiana State and Missouri.
The Cowboys won four of the their final five contests, so they are coming into the 2011 on a role and the two in-conference losses to SFA and Central Arkansas were both by under a touchdown.
This year's team will only play one FBS team, Kansas.
The team strength last year was the Cowboy defense after ranking second in the country in total defense after giving up just 343.0 yards/game and that likely will continue this year.
MSU returns four All-SLC honorees to be the team leader this year including senior defensive end Desmund Lighten, junior free safety Malcolm Bronson, senior safety Darrell Jenkins, and cornerback Seth Thomas.
Lighten was the top tackler among Cowboy defensive linemen with 65 stops and he also had 7.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks. Bronson recorded 58 tackles and intercepted a team best five passes.
Jenkins ranked second on the team in tackles with 78. Thomas tallied a team best eight pass breakups.
The Cowboy offense will be highlighted by senior running back Andre Anderson, who started the 2010 season as the third team back but emerged as the starter in the sixth game of the season.
Anderson went on to rush for 855 yards and a 5.0 per carry average. He led the SLC in rushing yardage for conference games only with a 101.1 game average and was named the SLC Newcomer of the Year after transferring from FBS Michigan State before last season.
Anderson will be running behind a strong offensive line that will be headed by senior guard Miguel Gauthreaux, who was named as an All-SLC first team performer, and will be joined by other SLC honorees in fellow guard junior Jonathan Landry and junior tackle Alec Savoie.
The Cowboy quarterback situation will be in flux coming into the season after the graduation loss of Jacob Bower. Looking to replace him is junior Blake Barousse and transfer Riley Dodge.
Dodge will be a junior for the Cowboys after starting 17 games in the past two seasons for FBS North Texas. He completed 311 of 479 passes for 3,187 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The receiver corps was also depleted by graduation but do return second leading team pass catcher in junior Damion Dixon, who tallied 21 catches for 289 yards and two scores.
Two transfers likely will be in the mix this year to catch passes, wide receiver Ernest Celestie from FBS Texas Tech and tight end Josh Jordan from FBS East Carolina.
The Cowboys also boast arguably the best kicker in the conference in Josh Lewis, who topped the league in scoring with 65 points on making 13-of-16 field goals attempts with a 52-yarder as his long.
Picking Northwestern State second may be a bit of a stretch in some experts eyes but the Demons have improved dramatically in the first two years of Coach Bradley Dale Peveto's tenor.
Peveto has gone from a winless 2009 opening season to 5-6 a year ago — the fourth best turnaround in all of FCS last year.
In fact, the Demons had a chance to win the 2010 SLC title in their last game against rival SFA.
This year"s NSU squad returns 16 starters and 10 other players that started at least once a year ago in the hopes to continue its rise and return to the postseason for the first time since 2004.
The Demons will, however, need to overcome a tough early schedule that features two FBS opponents, Louisiana State and Southern Methodist.
The Demon offense is the area of the team that has the most experience with nine starters back.
Leading the team will be junior quarterback Paul Harris after he threw for 1,821 yards, the seventh-best single-season total in school history a year ago.
Harris was also the Demons' second-leading rusher with 263 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground and threw for 13 more. His 2,084 yards of total offense is fourth-best all-time season at NSU.
His main receiving target from last year, Bradley Brown, has transferred to FBS Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Demons will have senior tight end Justin Aldredge as the leading returning pass catcher.
Brown led the Demons in receiving a year ago with 48 receptions and 454 receiving yards and caught three touchdown tosses.
Aldredge was third on the team with 22 receptions and led the squad with 4 touchdown grabs while snagging 289 yards in passes and was named to the All-SLC second team.
The leading returning wide out is junior Phillip Harvey, who caught 25 balls for 312 yards in just eight games played.
Senior center Zach Case will head the offensive line after being named to the All-SLC team.
A group of running back will be counted on to lead the running attack.
Four different backs including sophomore Rumeall Morris, sophomore D.J. Palmer, junior Sidney Riley, and senior Sterling Endsley saw significant game action a year ago.
The Demon defense hopes to garner more turnovers in 2011. NSU may have improved the five win turnaround even greater if they were not +15 in turnovers a year ago.
The defense only had four interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. Hoping to improve on this mark with seven starters back starts with All American junior linebacker Derek Rose, who led the SLC in tackles a year ago with 142 and also led the team in tackles for loss with 12.
Fellow junior safety Jamaal White should head the secondary with his hard hitting. He led the team in interceptions (3) and was fourth on the team in tackles (65).
NSU also has three other All-SLC honorable mention performers back, including junior defensive end Wade Williams, senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub, and junior safety Brashard Booker.
Williams contributed 46 tackles and 3.5 for loss. Elqutub was the team's third-leading tackler with 69, including 4.5 for loss.
Booker emerged as a starter in the conference season and still finished second on the team with 90 tackles, including three for loss.
The reigning, two-time defending Southland champion is Stephen F. Austin and the Lumberjacks will not go down without a fight.
The two championship seasons in a row are a first ever for SFA. The Lumberjacks, however, will need to do defend the titles without SLC player of the year and Payton Award-winning quarterback Jeremy Moses, who was lost to graduation.
SFA does return 20 players (16 on offense) to build another conference title contender.
A year ago, the Lumberjacks finished 8-4 overall and lost their opening playoff game in the second round against 2009 champion Villanova 54-24.
On offense, SFA hopes to replace Moses with junior Dalton Williams or sophomore Brady Attaway. Both of these quarterbacks have seen limited action in the past two seasons.
Whoever wins the starting nod will be surrounded by a talent-rich supporting cast as nine starters on this side of the ball are back.
The Jacks return their top four receivers from last year including All-American selections Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson.
Roberson led the nation with 16 touchdown receptions and finished second on the squad with 61 receptions but led the team 1,011 yards receiving.
Crawford finished second in the league and tops on the team with 74 catches for 981 yards and five touchdowns. He was also a key kick returner, with three kickoffs returned for touchdowns and one punt also for a score.
SFA also boasts two other receivers in the four-receiver starting lineup that Coach J.C. Harper employs that maybe the top two on any other team in junior Anthony Foster (52 recept, 528 yards, 4 TD) and sophomore Kris Lott (43 recept, 616 yards, 5 TD).
Upfront, the SFA offensive line is almost completely intact from where they were a year ago and will be headed by senior tackle George Bias, junior center John Steel, and junior tackle Corey Dickerson.
This group helped produce the nation's top passing attack, while surrendering only 13 sacks (601 pass attempts). SFA also returns its three of its top four running backs from last year, including junior Jeremy Barnes, who averaged nearly four yards per carry, and sophomore Keith Lawson, who is the leading ground gainer back this fall.
The Lumberjack defense must also replace a star performer in NFL-drafted Jabara Williams, who was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round.
But like the offense, all is not lost for this year's defense as seven starters return.
With the return of all-SLC senior linebackers Devin Ducote (team lead 114 tackles, 10 TFL) and Derrick Choice (84 tackles, 5.5 TFL), the Lumberjacks should be strong in this area.
The secondary should be another strength with the return of standouts senior Ben Wells (12 tackles, 3 pass breakups) and junior Josh Aubrey (77 tackles, 2 INT) at their cornerback positions and sophomore Caleb Nelson (66 tackles, 1 INT) and senior David Cato (62 tackles) back at their safety spots.
With only one returning starter on the line, SFA will be youthful up front with just sophomore Corey Hill (18 tackles) returning at his tackle spot.
SFA special teams has one of the nation's top punters in junior Drew Nelson, who averaged 41.6 yards per attempt a year ago.
Central Arkansas hopes to finally get to the top of the SLC standings after finishing near the top almost yearly since joining the league in 2006.
A year ago, the Bears finished 7-4 overall and were likely just a win away from their first FCS playoff spot after moving up from DII in 2005.
The biggest offseason news in Conway, AK. was following other Division I teams like Eastern Washington and Boise State with a new turf that matches the team's colors.
This summer, the Bears home field of Estes Stadium will get a striped purple and gray GeoGreen replicated grass surface from GeoSurfaces to replace their natural grass surface.
On the new field, Coach Clint Conque's team will return 17 starters this fall but will have to overcome two FBS foes in Louisiana Tech and in-state Arkansas State.
The Bears defense was the key member of the team last year as they led the SLC in scoring defense with just 21.2 points per game.
Seven starters return on this side of the ball and the Bears' secondary should be the strength on this side of the ball.
Sophomore safety Jestin Love was last year's SLC newcomer of the year after he led the league in interceptions with six, and returned two for touchdowns, including a 98-yarder against Nicholls State.
Love is joined by fellow safety junior Seth Allison, who tallied 47 tackles and four interceptions.
Two seniors should lead their defensive areas in end Trey Lippe and linebacker Frank Newsome. Lippe totaled 45 tackles and five of those for a loss, while Newsome led the team in tackles with 100, with 10 of those for a loss, and also added an interception.
While the defense had good numbers, the Bear offense also had some staggering statistics of their own.
Senior quarterback Nathan Dick ranked second in 2010 in the SLC in passing, total offense, and pass efficiency while throwing for 2,589 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He is joined in the backfield by fellow All-SLC running back in junior Terence Bobo, who was fourth in the SLC in scoring and rushed for 436 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
The Bears lose top receiver Ken Robey to graduation but second leading wide out Dominique Croom is back for his junior season after catching 41 passes for 446 yards and two scores in 2010.
The UCA offensive line will be headed by senior Matt Dickerson from his tackle spot.
Sam Houston State very well could be the dark horse in this year's SLC race.
The Bearkats last won the SLC title in 2004 and finished 2010 with a 6-5 but started the season 0-2 and won six of their last nine contests.
Three conference losses were decide by a total of only 14 points (losses by a field goal to SFA and Northwestern State and five points to McNeese State), leaving reasons for optimism in Huntsville, TX. in 2011.
SHSU returns 20 starters and has six home contests and one neutral site game — against SFA at Houston's Reliant Stadium for the Battle of the Piney Woods — to add more hopefulness for Coach Willie Fritz's team.
The offense returns much of the team that scored 26.8 points per game in 2010.
The group includes 2010 SLC co-freshman of the year running back Tim Flanders, who rushed for 948 yards (94.8 per game) and scored 13 rushing touchdowns.
Flanders broke the single-season school record for a freshman running back. He also set school records for most 100-yard rushing games in a season (7) and most consecutive 100-yard performances (6).
He is joined in the backfield by quarterback Brian Bell, who threw for 1,371 yards.
Bell will also have his leading receiver Seth Patterson back. Patterson caught 35 passes for 370 yards and three scores.
The offensive line will be headed by All-SLC senior Travis Watson from his center spot.
The SHSU defense will be led by junior All-SLC free safety Kenneth Jenkins, after he topped the team in interceptions with three and totaled 58 tackles including four for losses a season ago.
Junior defensive tackle J.T. Cleveland led the SHSU defensive line with 43 tackles including seven for losses and five quarterback sacks and helped SHSU lead the SLC and rank ninth in rushing defense (100.1 ypg) a year ago.
Senior linebacker Will Henry should lead that group after he led the Kat defense with 13 tackles for losses and five quarterback sacks, while totaling 48 tackles.
The special teams will be headed by All-SLC kick return specialist Brandon Closner who ranked second in the Southland in punt returns (11.52 yards per game) and third in the league in kickoff returns (25.82) and all-purpose yardage (126.45).
Like SHSU, Nicholls State may be another team that could be a dark horse in this year's SLC race.
The Colonels have 49 letter winners back this fall in coach Charlie Stubbs' second season in Thibodaux, LA.
Nicholls State finished the 2010 season at 4-7, but won its final two contests against Louisiana rivals Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana.
The Colonels, like several of their SLC rivals, will need to overcome two FBS opponents in Western Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Colonels offense is headed by All-SLC honorable mention junior quarterback LaQuintin Caston and All-SLC second team junior running back Jesse Turner.
Caston proved to be a dual-threat behind center for the Colonels after running for 577 yards, the sixth best mark in the league and the best for any SLC quarterback. He also ran for 10 touchdowns, the second best total in the league and the best of any SLC quarterback and also threw for 1,141 yards and eight scores last year.
Turner moved from defensive back during the preseason and totaled 630 yards on 111 attempts in nine games. Despite missing nearly three full games due to injury, Turner averaged 5.7 yards per carry, the best average in the conference.
Turner was also Nicholls' top receiver, making 18 catches for 308 yards, averaging a league-best 18.1 yard per catch average.
The Colonel defense switched to a 3-4 alignment this spring and will be anchored in the secondary by All-SLC senior cornerback Bobby Feldmer.
Feldmer ranked fourth in the conference and led the team with four interceptions and also recorded 33 tackles.
He will be joined in the secondary by sophomore safety Jordan Hanberry, who recorded 50 tackles, the third-best mark on the team.
The Colonel linebacker corps will be headed by junior Jordan Piper, who totaled 52 tackles and three interceptions in just the final eight games of the season after recovering from a broken leg to begin the year.
The Colonels special teams took a hit after the graduation loss of All-SLC punter Patrick Dolan but did sign JUCO All-American Cory Kemps from the College of DuPage (IL).
Kemps led the JUCO ranks in punting with a 44.2 yard average in 2010 and is also expected to compete for the place kicking duties for the Colonels.
Southeastern Louisiana has been close in many Southland games since it joined the league in 2005 following two years of independent play after restarting the football program in 2003.
The Lions in 2010 went just 2-9 but again had a number of close contests — losing six games by a touchdown or less.
Coach Mike Lucus' team will look to 11 starters returning this year in the hopes to turn around some of the close losses to wins this year.
The Lions offense loses quarterback Tyler Beatty, but junior Brian Young saw some significant playing time, passing for 1,012 yards with four touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Barnett and FBS Mississippi transfer junior Nathan Stanley will look to compete with Young for the signal caller duties this fall.
Whatever quarterback emerges will have an All-American caliber wide receiver as a target in senior Simmie Yarborough, who had 60 catches for 709 yards and nine scores a year ago.
Another weapon will be senior wide receiver Brandon Collins, who actually led the team with 875 yards on his 56 receptions to go with four touchdowns.
Running the ball should be returning starter junior Sam Fairley, who led the Lions in rushing a year ago with 579 yards and a touchdown.
Opening the holes for Fairley will be All-SLC Honorable Mention senior center Josh Penton.
The line will also see some help from FBS Tulane transfer senior Antoine Duplessis, who played two years and played in 22 career games (with 12 starts). He was the Green Wave's starting fullback in 2009 and averaged 5.8 yards per carry while catching eight passes and a touchdown.
The Lion defense will hope to improve on their 29.5 points allowed statistic and will have five starters back on this side to do just that.
The returning group will have a number of key performers back, including junior end Devan Walker (35 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 sacks), junior defensive back Robert Alford (missed entire 2010 season after 46 tackles in 2009), senior nose guard Devin Boutwell (23 tackles, 8 TFL), junior end Tramaine Lucas (missed last seven games, but still had 10 tackles).
The Lions will also look to sophomore FBS Memphis transfer Todd Washington for further help in the secondary. He played in nine games with six starts as a true freshman last year for the Memphis, totaling nine tackles and tying for the team-lead with two interceptions.
The newest team in the Southland is Lamar, which enters the league again after dropping football in 1986.
The Cardinals actually restarted their football program a season ago and went 5-6 as an independent and were 1-3 against SLC opponents with the lone win over Southeastern Louisiana.
The other D-I win was over South Dakota in Beaumont, TX.
Coach Ray Woodward's team will lose just one total starter this year and will play a full SLC slate but will play just two non-DI opponents as well after playing three such opponents last in 2010.
The Cardinal offense produced one its most prolific outputs in school history despite the 21-year absence of football at the school.
Now senior quarterback Andre Bevil set two records came in spectacular fashion in the Cardinals' season opener at McNeese State when he passed for 429 yards and accumulated 426 yards of total offense.
Bevill shattered another record two weeks later when he completed 34 passes in the stunning 29-28 upset of Southeastern Louisiana. In total, Bevil passed for 2,013 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He will be pressed, however, by FBS West Virginia transfer freshman Jeremy Johnson.
Whichever quarterback emerges, he will have two solid wide receivers to aim towards in seniors J.J. Hayes, who was the team's leading receiver with 52 catches for 745 yards and six touchdowns, and Marcus Jackson, who was second with 41 receptions for 727 yards and eight scores.
The rushing leader from a year ago is back is senior Octavious Logan (229 yards), who will see all five of the offensive line starters returning this fall in front of him.
Logan, along with junior sophomore Cody Hussey (217 yards), return but the second leading back in Kwabena Asante is lost to graduation. Sophomore Kyle Gillam should be the anchor on the offensive line from his center position.
The Lamar defense should be headed by senior linebacker Asim Hicks, who led the defense with 102 tackles, including 77 of the unassisted variety.
Fellow senior linebacker Jonathan Ekpe was second with 75 tackles, including 58 solos.
Defensive backs in senior Tim Hayter and sophomore Branden Thomas should be the secondary leaders after they shared the team interception lead with three each. Thomas also had team bests of three blocked kicks and nine pass breakups.
Southland Games of the Week
Western Illinois @ Sam Houston State, Sept. 1
This early test for the Bearkats should give us an idea of their potential.
Northern Iowa @ Stephen F. Austin, Sept. 10
The Lumberjacks defeated the Panthers on the road a year ago. Will they duplicate that effort at home this year?
Central Arkansas @ Sam Houston State, Sept. 17
The first conference game for these two should give us an early indication of which team will be in the SLC race.
Northwestern State @ Nicholls State, Sept. 24
These two Louisiana schools meet in Thibodaux. Can the Demons handle this early road test against the Colonels?
McNeese State @ Northwestern State, Oct. 1
This game just might decide the SLC winner this year between these two Louisiana rivals.
Sam Houston State vs. Stephen F. Austin, Oct. 8
This game will be played in Houston between these two Texas rivals in the Battle for Piney Woods. Who will have the bragging rights after this game?
McNeese State @ Central Arkansas, Oct. 15
The winner of this game between the Cowboys and Bears should sit atop of the SLC standings afterwards.
Central Arkansas @ Lamar, Oct. 22
The Bears canít overlook an upset minded Cardinals team in this one.
McNeese State @ Stephen F. Austin Oct. 29
These two teams were the top two a year ago. Who will come out better this year?
Nicholls State @ McNeese State, Nov. 5
These two rivals meet in Lake Charles this year. Can the Colonels upset the Cowboys?
Southeastern Louisiana @ Stephen F. Austin, Nov. 12
The Lions have not really been a title factor since rejoining the SLC a few seasons ago. Will this year be different in this late season battle against the Lumberjacks?
Stephen F. Austin @ Northwestern State, Nov. 19
The battle for the Chief Caddo trophy, the largest trophy in any division of football, is a fitting way to end the season for these two SLC title hopefuls.
Predicted Order of Finish
1. McNeese State
2. Northwestern State
3. Stephen F. Austin
4. Central Arkansas
5. Sam Houston State
6. Nicholls State
7. Southeastern Louisiana
Offensive Player of the Year:
Andre Anderson, RB, McNeese State, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Derek Rose, LB, Northwestern State, Jr.
Biggest Shoes to Fill:
QB Jeremy Moses, Stephen F. Austin
Central Arkansas Bears
Location: Conway, AR
Stadium: Estes Stadium (8,500 Capacity)
Head Coach: Clint Conque (87-51 @ UCA & Overall), 13th Season
Who's Gone: DE Markell Carter, OL Austin Emerson, K Eddie Carmona, WR Ken Rovey.
Who's Back: S Jestin Love, QB Nathan Dick, RB Terence Bobo, LB Matt Dickerson, S Seth Allison, DE Trey Lippe, LB Frank Newsome.
Historical Fact: UCA became FCS playoff eligible last year. The last time the Bears made the playoffs was in their last eligible year in Division II, a trip to the 2005 quarterfinals, where they lost to North Alabama.
Last Year: The Bears are coming off a 7-4 season in which they went 4-3 and tied for third in the Southland Conference, finishing the year by winning four of their last five contests.
This Year: The new turf in Estes Stadium might be a novalty but the team playing on the new purple and gray turf may find themselves in a SLC title race.
Location: Beaumont, TX
Stadium: Provost Umphrey Stadium (16,000 Capacity)
Head Coach: Ray Woodard (5-6 @ LU, 14-9 Overall), 2nd Season
Who's Gone: RB Kwabena Asante.
Who's Back: QB Andre Bevil, WR J.J. Hayes, WR Marcus Jackson, RB Octavious Logan, RB Cody Hussey, OC Kyle Gillam, LB Asim Hicks, LB Jonathan Ekpe, DB Tim Hayter, DB Branden Thomas.
Historical Fact: The Cardinals before last year last played football in 1989, also in the Southland Conference, and finished 5-5, including a season-ending win over rival McNeese State.
Last Year: Lamar finished their first season back with a 5-6 record, including two wins over fellow DI opponents.
This Year: The Cardinals reenter the SLC in the hopes to improve on the five win total from a season ago.
McNeese State Cowboys
Location: Lake Charles, LA.
Stadium: Cowboy Stadium (17,500)
Head Coach: Matt Viator (39-15 @ MSU & Overall), 6th Season
Who's Gone: TE Corday Clark, FB Drew Johnston, DE Josh Ellison, LB Deron Minor, S Devin Hoilland.
Who's Back: RB Andre Anderson, OG Miguel Gauthreaux, PK Josh Lewis, FS Malcolm Bronson, DT Desmund Lighten, S Darrell Jenkins, OT Alec Savoie, OG Jonathan Landry, CB Seth Thomas.
Historical Fact: McNeese State completed its 67th football season in 2010. It's actually been 70 years since McNeese fielded its first team. The Cowboys played a five game schedule in 1940 but then dropped the sport the following year because of World War II and resumed it in 1949.
Last Year: McNeese State finished at 6-5 overall and at 5-2 and in second place in the Southland Conference standings, the fifth straight year for the Cowboys to finish either first or second in the league race.
This Year: Coach Viator's team hopes to get back to the postseason again after missing last year but made them previously in 2009.
Nicholls State Colonels
Location: Thibodaux, LA
Stadium: Guidry Stadium (12,800 Capacity)
Head Coach: Charlie Stubbs (4-7 @ NSU & Overall), 2nd Season
Who's Gone: P Patrick Dolan, DB Tarbarris Hicks. DE Marquis Russell, LB Ed James.
Who's Back: QB LaQuintin Caston, RB Jesse Turner, CB Bobby Feldmer, DB Jordan Hanberry, LB Jordan Piper, DL Darrell Brown.
Historical Fact: The Colonels won their first-ever Southland Conference Championship in 2005 and went on to represent the conference in the playoffsóa narrow 14-12 loss to Furman.
Last Year: In coach Stubbs' first season with the Colonels, his team went 4-7 but did win their last two games to give hope into this upcoming season.
This Year: The last two games give hope for NSU to improve in a second season under Coach Stubbs.
Northwestern State Demons
Location: Natchitoches, LA
Stadium: Turpin Stadium (15,971)
Head Coach: Bradley Dale Peveto (5-17 @ NSU & Overall), 3rd Season
Who's Gone: OL Michael Booker, WR Bradley Brown.
Who's Back: OC Zach Case, LB Derek Rose, S Jamaal White, LB Yaser Elqutub, DE Wade Williams, S Brashard Booker, S Cortez Paige, TE Justin Aldredge, QB Paul Harris, WR T. C. Henry, WR Phillip Harvey, OL Larry Calcote, OL Destry Hesskew, PK John Shaughnessy.
Historical Fact: NSU has made the FCS playoffs six times in their history, most recently in 2004.
Last Year: The Demons were the nation's fourth-most improved team in Division I last season as they played for the Southland crown and an FCS playoff berth on the final Saturday of the season.
This Year: Northwestern State with 59 returning lettermen and 16 offensive and defensive starters, nine back on offense, from last season look poised to continue to improve.
Sam Houston State Bearkats
Location: Huntsville, TX
Stadium: Bowers Stadium (14,000)
Head Coach: Willie Fritz (6-5 @ SHSU, 142-57-1 overall), 2nd Season
Who's Gone: DB Brandon Bruce, DE Coty Gatewood, CB Jarvis Pippins.
Who's Back: RB Tim Flanders, FS Kenneth Jenkins, OC Travis Watson, DT J. T. Cleveland, LB Will Henry, RS Brandon Closner, PK Miguel Antonio, LB Darnell Taylor, DB Bookie Sneed, DB Dax Swanson.
Historical Fact: The crowd of 24,685 for the 84th Battle of the Piney Woods at Reliant Stadium last year in Houston was the largest in SHSU-SFA series history. It also was the largest crowd for a Bearkat game versus a FCS opponent.
Last Year: The first year for Coach Fritz's young team yielded a 5-6 overall mark but did win their last two games of the season.
This Year: Another year for the young team should yield some better results as SHSU had three of their losses by less than a touchdown last year.
Southeastern Louisiana Lions
Location: Hammond, LA
Stadium: Strawberry Stadium (7,408 Capacity)
Head Coach: Mike Lucas (16-32 @ SLU & Overall), 5th Season
Who's Gone: QB Tyler Beatty, LB Mark Newbill, DB Tommy Connors, OL Kevin Hughes.
Who's Back: WR Simmie Yarborough, WR Brandon Collins, OL Josh Penton, DE Devan Walker, DB Robert Alford, DL Devin Boutwell, DL Tramaine Lucas, DB Todd Washington.
Historical Fact: Southeastern has recorded two undefeated season in its history, with the 1954 squad that finished 9-0 under legendary Coach Stan Galloway regarded as the finest in the history of the program that had an 18 year hiatis of playóstarting again in 2003.
Last Year: The Lions slipped to just 2-9 after finishing 2009 at 6-5. Five of the losses, however, were be a touchdown or less.
This Year: This yearís team returns 14 starters to try to make the close games from a season ago into victories.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Location: Nacogdoches, TX
Stadium: Homer Bryce Stadium (14,575)
Head Coach: J.C. Harper (23-25 at SFA & Overall), 5th Season
Who's Gone: QB Jeremy Moses, LB Jabara Williams, OL Fitiseula Partsch, DE Kenneth Charles, DT Sean Warren, DE Rainey Sternes.
Who's Back: WR Cordell Roberson, WR Gralyn Crawford, OL George Bias, OC John Steel, P Drew Nelson, LB Devin Ducote, DB Josh Aubrey, WR Anthony Foster, OL Corey Dickerson, WR Kris Lott, LB Derrick Choice, DB Ben Wells, DB Caleb Nelson.
Historical Fact: The Lumberjacks' first postseason game was in 1973 when SFA played Gardner-Webb in the Poultry Bowl, played in Gainesville, GA. SFA won the contest 31-10.
Last Year: SFA won the program's first back-to-back SLC titles in their history but bowed out in the second round of the FCS playoffs against Villanova to finish 9-3 overall.
This Year: The Lumberjacks will need to replace All-American Jeremy Moses at quarterback but they have 20 total starters returning in the hopes of making it three SLC titles in a row.