November 20, 2017

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Experienced SLU Linebackers Poised for Big 2017

HAMMOND, La. – The opening days of any preseason practice offers a steep learning curve for student-athletes and Southeastern Louisiana football fall camp is no different.

 

However, for one position grouping the confused looks and mental mistakes should be at a minimum. At linebacker, Southeastern returns a trio of seniors in Lee Spight, Sione Teuhema and Jake Jiannoni. All three are in their second year in the defensive scheme of head coach Ron Roberts, who also handles defensive coordinator duties for the Lions.

 

Roberts enters the fall with high hopes for his linebacker corps.

 

“Any time you can go in to a season with three senior starters at linebacker, it’s obviously a good thing,” Roberts commented. “What’s good about those three is that their contributions go beyond their talents on the football field. All three young men have embraced leadership roles for our football team. We want student-athletes that are accountable and we believe Lee, Sione and Jake are all players we can count on when the chips are down.

 

“The depth of our linebacker group is really exciting,” Roberts added. “We have some returners who are ready to step into more expanded roles and we’re encouraged with some of the new faces we’ve brought in. We expect stiff competition for playing time. We’re as deep at linebacker as any other positon on either side of the ball.”

 

For linebackers coach Aaron Schwanz, Spight, Teuhema and Jiannoni’s familiarity with the system and scheme has already been a benefit.

 

“A lot of things were new last year for those guys and now we’re able to build on that,” Schwanz commented. “We brought in some newer guys during the offseason and our veterans have done an excellent job of bringing them up to speed. So not only are our returners more familiar with the system, but they’ve played a huge role in the development of our new players.”

 

Perhaps the Lion linebacker who had the most conventional 2016 was Spight, who started all 11 games and recorded 62 tackles in his first season out of Hutchinson Community College. The Lexana, Kansas native was a consistently solid performer, recording five or more tackles in eight games last season.

 

“Prior to coming to Hammond, Lee was primarily a down lineman, but has really adjusted well to the role we want him to play,” Schwanz commented. “His experience playing at the line of scrimmage combined with his ability to be a swing linebacker gives us flexibility. Lee’s versatility makes him a plug-and-play linebacker in our scheme and a valuable part of what we do.”

 

Teuhema turned heads immediately when he arrived on campus after transferring from LSU. The Keller, Texas native was set to make an immediate impact but suffered an injury in the season opener at Oklahoma State that kept him out of the next three games.

 

Teuhema returned with a vengeance in the Lions’ 31-24 win over McNeese, recording 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in the victory. He helped the Lions to a 6-1 record down the stretch in the seven Southland games he appeared in, finishing the season with 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on the way to earning All-Southland Conference honors.

 

“Sione plays the game the way it’s meant to be played,” Schwanz said. “He’s violent at the point of attack, explosive in the pass rush and plays well in space, especially for a guy who is 6-4 and 260 pounds. He’s a tremendous athlete but what really stands out is his tempo. Whether it’s a game day or a Wednesday practice, Sione plays at full speed all of the time. We think his improved knowledge of our system to go with his athletic ability give him a chance to be special for us this season.”

 

Like Teuhema, Jiannoni missed time in the opening month of last season when he suffered an injury in fall camp after impressing the Lion staff in his first season out of Golden West College. But unlike his teammate, the Palm Springs, California native didn’t hit the ground running upon his return, as two-time All-Southland selection and 2016 senior Tre’ Bennett was firmly entrenched as the middle linebacker.

 

When Bennett went down with a late-season injury, Jiannoni made the most of his opportunity. He recorded seven tackles in a 31-19 victory over Abilene Christian, then made 11 stops in his first start – a wild 44-42 triumph at Nicholls in the season finale. With Bennett gone to graduation, Jiannoni has a chance to step in to a full-time starting role.

 

“One thing that’s obvious very quickly when you meet Jake is that he loves this game,” Schwanz said. “He’s always learning, asking questions and dedicating himself to his craft to be the best player he can be. Jake is always trying to get better and makes it fun to coach. Our mike linebacker has to be the quarterback of our defense and Jake has all the attributes of someone who fits that role.”

 

Like Roberts, Schwanz cited the depth at linebacker as a strength of the defense. Junior Sean Clavelle, sophomore Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, as well as junior college transfers Kenneth Steele and Tamarcus Russell were among the linebackers that Schwanz cited as having an opportunity to make a positive impact in the coming season.

 

The Lions hit the practice field for the first time Tuesday night and will return to the Strawberry Stadium turf Wednesday for a 7 p.m. practice. Southeastern will open the 2017 season on Sept. 2 with a 6 p.m. game at FBS in-state foe Louisiana-Lafayette.

 

2017 Southeastern Louisiana Football Fall Camp Schedule
Aug. 2 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 3 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 4 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 5 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 6 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 7 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 8 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 9 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 10 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 11 – Practice – 7 p.m.

Aug. 12 – Scrimmage – 7 p.m. | Kickoff Appreciation – 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Aug. 14 – Practice – 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 15 – Practice – 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 16 – Practice – 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 17 – Practice – 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 18 – Practice – 2:30 p.m.

Aug. 19 – Scrimmage – 7 p.m. | Media Day – 2 p.m.

Aug. 20 – Practice – 7 p.m.

About Andy Bryson 548 Articles
Founder of Louisiana Gridiron Football and football coach

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