HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana first-year running backs/passing game coordinator Kerry Joseph is no stranger to what it takes to be successful in the Southland Conference.
Joseph, who spent the past three seasons on the coaching staff at McNeese, was a multi-time All-Southland quarterback for the Cowboys from 1992-95, earning Southland Player of the Year honors as senior. A member of the Southland Hall of Honor, Joseph believes his running back group has what it takes to be among the league’s upper echelon.
“We believe we can be one of the top running back groups in this conference,” Joseph said. “We have a nice mix of veterans and newcomers and we’re really pleased with where we are from a depth standpoint. We expect that we can be dynamic out of the backfield this season.”
The most experienced members of the running back corps are senior Devonte Williams and redshirt sophomore Marcus Cooper. In 2018, Williams led SLU with four rushing touchdowns in his first season after transferring from Indiana. He also made an impact in the return game, averaging 14.2 yards per return on the way to earning All-Southland Conference notice.
Offseason surgery limited Cooper to just four contests during a redshirt season in 2018. However, the Altair, Texas native is back to full speed and rounding into the form that saw him earn All-Southland Conference honors in 2017 as a freshman, averaging a school-record 10.1 yards per carry.
“Both Devonte and Marcus have been good for us this fall,” Joseph said. “I coached against Coop when I was at McNeese and remember how dynamic he was and he’s back to that form. Devonte and Marcus are a joy to coach and are students of the game, constantly trying to learn more to become better players.”
One of the bright spots in fall camp has been sophomore Taron Jones, who saw limited action as a freshman out of Mandeville High School in 2018. After nagging injuries lingered during the spring, a fully healthy Jones has impressed the offensive staff this fall.
“We really couldn’t see what he had in Taron until this fall,” Joseph commented. “Taron’s a great young man, but I challenged him to leave the nice guy off the field and really bring it every day on the field and he’s done that through the first 15 days of camp. He’s still finding his footing as a pass catcher, but he’s really contributing well in the running game and pass protection.”
Rounding out the running back corps are freshman JoMari Becnel, who redshirted in 2018, as well as true freshman Elijah Karnjay and Kendall Collins Jr. The playmaking abilities of the newcomer trio increases the Lions options in the running game.
“One of the first things we talked about in our meeting room is how there’s only one football to share between six guys,” Joseph said. “Our guys have developed a brotherhood as a position group and everyone understands if one of us succeeds, we all share in that.
“Devonte and Marcus did a nice job over the summer and in the early part of camp helping to get those young guys comfortable with our scheme,” Joseph continued. “We have four guys back with a year in the system and both Elijah and Kendall have picked up things quickly. We feel very positive about where we are as a running back group heading into the season.”
The Lions will continue fall camp on Thursday with a 9 a.m. practice at Strawberry Stadium. Southeastern season ticket holders are invited to pick up their season tickets at the annual Season Ticket Party on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Victory Club. The event is open to SLU Football season ticket holders only.
2019 Fall Camp Schedule
Thursday, August 15 – 9 a.m.
Friday, August 16 – 9 a.m.
Saturday, August 17 – 9 a.m. / 11 a.m. – Season Ticket Party
Sunday, August 18 – 3:30 p.m.
Monday, August 19 – 9 a.m.
Tuesday, August 20 – 9 a.m.
Saturday, August 24 – 1 p.m. – Media Day